That’s Debatable!

That’s Debatable!

Welcome to ‘That’s Debatable!’, the weekly podcast of the Free Speech Union. Hosts Tom Harris and Ben Jones – both staffers at the FSU – talk about the free speech controversies that have erupted in the past week and interview some of the main protagonists in those dramas. Edited by Jason Clift. Please like, subscribe and share. Thank you.


July 9, 2024 43 mins

While the FSU persists in its mission to remain politically non-partisan, we are worried that the new government could bring in laws that criminalise vast swathes of speech. Freddie Attenborough highlights these concerns in an article for our website and we begin today with a discussion around the five primary free expression issues that he identifies: the APPG definition of Islamophobia, Labour’s proposed Race Equality Act, a tran...

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In January 2024, Amelia Sparrow (not her real name) was dismissed by a Liberal Democrat MP after only three full days in her role of Parliamentary Researcher. She believes this happened because of pressure from the Liberal Democrat Party after she gave voice to her belief that sex is real, immutable and important. Amelia has submitted a claim to the employment tribunal arguing that she was discriminated against and harassed by the ...

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June 25, 2024 44 mins

The FSU has reviewed each of the main party manifestos (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Reform) for what they have to say about the five freedoms that we defend: freedom of speech, academic freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. In today’s episode, we compare and contrast the results of our review. Free expression topics covered include Leveson Part 2, conversion therapy, EDI and the m...

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The Free Speech Fates have woven a Greek thread through today’s episode, starting with the Olympic Games. A 33-page ‘Portrayal Guidelines’ document, published ahead of this summer’s Paris Games, states that a person’s sex is not assigned based on genetics alone. As reported by the Telegraph, the International Olympic Committee has been accused by Martina Navratilova of waging a 1984 version of war on women after asking journalists ...

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June 11, 2024 38 mins

As reported in the Mail, Durham university last week postponed a debate on whether “Palestinian Leadership is the Biggest Barrier to Peace”. According to the article, a 'mob' of pro-Palestine protesters locked students inside a chamber for more than two hours and created a human chain around the building. Mohab Ramadan, a speaker for the opposition and founder of the university’s Israeli-Palestinian Resolution Society also received...

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June 4, 2024 45 mins

The Free Speech Union has responded to the Office for Students’ (OfS) consultation on its proposed new guidance for English universities on how best to uphold academic freedom and free speech on campus. Realistically, the OfS’s approach to freedom of speech is likely to be unpopular with universities and, as a result, could face legal challenge. Our response sets out why we think the OfS’s position is legally defensible and how it ...

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May 28, 2024 39 mins

The first quarter of 2024 was the FSU’s busiest yet for free speech case work and we begin by reflecting on what insight this gives us into the state of cancel culture in the UK. Moving to the global scale, The Guardian last week revealed the headlines from Article 19’s Global Expression Report 2024. According to the analysis, more than half of the world’s population cannot speak freely. We dig into the statistics for the UK and fo...

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May 21, 2024 47 mins

Ben spoke at the launch of SEEN (Sex Equality and Equity Network) in Parliament last week and made the point that the FSU has handled over 700 cases relating to gender critical beliefs. It’s perhaps not surprising, therefore, that sex and gender feature in our first main item. The Telegraph reports how civil servant and FSU member Eleanor Frances is crowdfunding to pay for an employment tribunal against two government departments o...

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May 14, 2024 39 mins

Today we take a slightly different tack and explore the 1999 film ‘The Matrix’, which imparts a deep well-spring of metaphors for describing cancel culture. In addition to being an action-packed blockbuster, the movie touches on philosophical ideas from such luminaries as Lewis Carroll, René Descartes, Plato and Immanuel Kant. Moving on to looming free speech battles, we were concerned to see Ali Milani, national chair of Labour Mu...

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May 7, 2024 40 mins

FSU General Secretary, Toby Young, was nearly abducted last week by the infamous Hate Monster during a visit to Scotland. Video footage shows Toby finally triumphing over the beast, which he describes as “a cartoon creature that looks like a hairy pepperoni”. The Pepperoni of Hate would doubtless approve of VisitBritain’s latest language guide. As reported in the Mail and by the FSU’s Communications Officer, Freddie Attenborough, t...

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April 30, 2024 38 mins

We whizz through a couple of this week’s free speech headlines today before providing listeners with an update on Linzi Smith’s case against Newcastle United and the Premier League, a story which has now been picked up by the BBC. Linzi is crowdfunding to assist with her next legal stage under the relevant pre-action protocol. This is a David and Goliath situation as both organisations are well-funded and will have strong legal rep...

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April 23, 2024 37 mins

Toby Young has written a sobering piece in this week’s Spectator, surveying speech-restricting laws in the works across the world, from Poland to Canada – the latter threatening to establish a form of speech precrime. While it is troubling to see how far free expression has dropped down the priority list of governments, Toby ends with a call to practical action, “I think the time has come to set up a Ca...

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One of our recurring bugbears is the imperious messaging that has seeped into all corners of British society, lecturing us on what to think and say as we go about our business. A current TV advertising campaign against ageism is a case in point. No-one wants people of different ages to be excluded from society, but it is rather galling to be slapped on the wrist for using harmless phrases like, “you can’t teach an old dog new trick...

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April 9, 2024 50 mins

As Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order Act comes to the end of its first week, the number of ‘hate crimes’ reported to Police Scotland has ticked over the 8,000 mark. This was entirely predictable and no doubt reflects a combination of reporting by those keen to make use of the act’s censorious powers and mischievous attempts at exposing its almost comically authoritarian intent. What's also clear is how the new Act has quickly ...

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April 1, 2024 45 mins

By the time this episode of ‘That’s Debatable!’ is released, the not-so-new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act will have come into force. We mark the occasion with a dive into an excellent piece by a concerned Scot, writing under the pseudonym C.J. Strachan. The article reaches back to 17th century Scottish history – the case of Thomas Aikenhead – and includes the powerful words that the 20 year-old wrote on the morning of ...

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March 26, 2024 47 mins

We’re in Jules Verne’s hands today as we travel around the woke world, from East Sussex in England to Scotland, the USA, the EU, China and beyond. We begin, though, with some research from Finland that was cited on X by Rolf Degen. He remarks on two large studies that suggest high critical social justice attitude scales are linked to anxiety, depression and a lack of happiness. Could this also explain why the silent majority on the...

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March 19, 2024 42 mins

It's the first birthday of ‘That’s Debatable!’. We hope listeners will indulge us as we take a moment at the beginning of today's episode to look back over one or two of the segments from the last twelve months that have particularly resonated. First up on today’s main menu, however, is the ‘Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act’, which will now be activated on April Fool’s Day, nearly three years after it first received Royal...

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March 12, 2024 48 mins

As reported in the Telegraph and in detail on our website, University College London (UCL) has now launched an investigation into its decision to ban academic and FSU member Michelle Shipworth from teaching a “provocative” course involving China in order to protect its commercial interests. The twists and turns in the story are quite breathtaking and include the startling moment when a UCL professor admits, “I have no idea who J.S....

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The FSU has published an essay by Tim Dieppe (Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern) with a Foreword by Professor Richard Dawkins. Tim argues that any attempt to define ‘Islamophobia’ will have a chilling effect on free speech – and we agree. The dystopian graphic at the top of the paper underlines the point that if society were to accept the APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’, and then do its best to eradicate it, we’d have ...

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February 27, 2024 51 mins

Many listeners will already be familiar with the name of Freddie Attenborough, the FSU’s Communications Officer, who joins us for today’s episode. Freddie writes our weekly newsletter, pens numerous free speech related articles and stoically mans the FSU’s social media fort twenty-four hours a day. It was great to have him with us, particularly in light of the astonishing scenes last week both inside and outside Parliament. The dra...

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