phil woolas don't geddit

i got a reply today to a letter i wrote last august - only nine months late. and the reply basically says "since letter is so late, do you still want an answer"! woolas no longer minister so i sent it to him for him to reply to in a personal capacity, i'll post the response when i get it -

In The Guardian edition of 3rd August, I read, regarding comments made
by Immigration Minister Mr. Woolas;

"However, those who fail to integrate into "the British way of life" by
engaging in criminal or antisocial behaviour could face having points
deducted or other penalties. The paper says this includes
"circumstances where an active disregard for UK values is

The Home Office would not rule out the possibility that this would
include protesting at the return of British soldiers from Afghanistan
or Iraq.

Woolas said: "As a point of principle ... if you don't break the law
and you are a citizen, that's fine. But if someone is applying to be a
citizen to our country we do think that you should not only obey the
law but show you are committed to our country. This is what America
does, it is what France does it's what other countries do and we think
we should do the same."

Extract from -

I apologise for the length of the extract but I want you to be clear
about the matter at hand.

Mr. Woolas appears to be suggesting that utilising the lawful right of
protest is somehow unpatriotic and symptomatic of a lack of
"commit[ment] to our country".

Would you be kind enough to ask him if this is the case? And ask him
also to further clarify his remarks as he sees fit, in the light of my
further remarks?

Mr. Woolas does not, of course, have a monopoly on what he describes as
"UK values", anymore than you or I, or anyone else.

In these circumstances, our fellow citizens' right to protest is not,
and should not, be open to censure or punishment by anyone - and
particularly not by the Government; who might be thought responsible
for protecting our rights rather than eroding them by seeking to impose
a prejudicial view of what "commitment" to this country might entail.

If protesting illustrates such "disregard", does he therefore regard
the actions of the Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Suffragettes,
the Levellers and so on as a contradiction of our values?

I might add that I am not at all in sympathy with protests regarding
the return of British soldiers. This makes no difference to my view of
their right to protest and neither should it affect Mr. Woolas's.

I should be as quick to stand up for Mr. Woolas right to protest, were
anyone to attempt to deny it him, regardless of what I thought of the
substance of that protest.

It is a shame that he appears not to feel the same way about opinions
that differ from his own, illustrating to my mind an awkward
understanding of "UK values" - that or an attempt to re-interpret them.

I naturally agree with him as regards the criminal behaviour of
immigrants, it does not seem unreasonable this should count to their
detriment. I suspect it would not be lawful to suspend or remove
someone's asylum status in the event that their return would endanger
their lives however.

Yours sincerely,

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