[Alex Sobel: Although I was stuck getting here, I have listened to a number of speeches. It is entirely normal for me to disagree with speakers and to find what they say objectionable, but I have to say that I heard a couple of speeches – not by the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) but by other Members who spoke before her – that I felt were verging on hate speech themselves and were objectionable to a number of minority groups in this country. I felt that the quality of some of this debate was demeaning to this House.]
Dr Julian Lewis: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Alex Sobel: I will give way, although I might not agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has to say.
Dr Lewis: Indeed, and that surely is the point. What really worries people on the Conservative Benches is that what starts off with the justified condemnation of hate speech ends up by saying that people speaking in a free Parliament are verging on hate speech themselves. Can the hon. Gentleman not see the slippery slope of the argument he is putting forward?
Alex Sobel: I will make an argument about the slippery slope. I think there are Government Members, and maybe even some Opposition Members, who feel that supporting the Bill [Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill] will settle some old scores, make a dog whistle to people who want to hear it and give a nod and a wink to a certain sort of constituent.
As somebody of Jewish descent whose family members came from the war generation in eastern Europe, I feel strongly that the slippery slope we are going down is one that Government Members may not be able to control. I am not saying that they are like this themselves, but other forces in society will take advantage of and utilise this type of legislation in a way that the Government will cease to have control over. It will create a runaway train effect. I do not want that to happen in this country; people like me and others in this Chamber would find it a difficult country to live in. ...