Protecting freedom of expression should be a political priority, a free speech advocate has told the Tory leadership candidates.

Writing in the Express, journalist and campaigner Toby Young warned Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak that free speech was “under attack” and charged them to defend it.

Young, Founder and Director of The Free Speech Union and associate editor of The Spectator, recently spoke to The Institute’s Simon Calvert about ‘woke intolerance’ and the freedom to disagree.

Online Safety Bill

In an ‘open letter’ to the political hopefuls, Young highlighted free speech concerns in relation to the Government’s Online Safety Bill, policing and education.

“The most urgent issue”, he argued, was the need “to have a major rethink of the Online Safety Bill”, which he described as posing “the greatest threat to free speech in a generation”.

The campaigner continued: “I welcome the fact that you have both said you’ll look again at clause 13 of the Bill, which relates to legal content that is supposedly harmful to adults.

“It is quite wrong for the Government to try to protect grown-ups from seeing or saying something online which isn’t unlawful offline”.

Human right

On policing, Young welcomed statements by both candidates in opposing officers spending time investigating “non-crime hate incidents”, describing them as “a colossal waste of police time”.

He also called for more to be done to protect schools from ideological “indoctrination” — such as “telling five-year-olds there are 100 different genders” — and said free speech should be “added to the list of ‘British values’ schools are obliged to promote”.

Young concluded: “You shouldn’t just stand up for free speech because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it enjoys overwhelming public support.

“I hope that whichever of you succeeds will make it a priority to defend this essential human right.”