With democracy comes responsibility.

Westminster in London is the center of the UK’s parliament. It’s where the Houses of Parliament are located and where our parliamentarians work. It is also where the worlds media have a semi-permanent presence, particularly at times of big news stories.

At the moment, the UK is struggling with the biggest issue in awhile; Brexit. There’s a lot opposing views, and a lot of people willing to voice their right to speak out. This applies equally to politicians speaking to the media, and members of the public talking to their politicians. This is a sign of a healthy functioning democracy.

Trouble is, some seem to have forgotten that free speech doesn’t mean hate speech. It’s a fine line admittedly. But when that line is crossed, it ceases to become speaking out, and becomes a threat to the very act of free speech.

Yesterday one of our politicians was being interviewed by the BBC who has strong views on Brexit. I may not agree politically with everything she says,  but I’ll listen to what she has to say. However a growing and vocal number of protesters are attempting to sabotage such interviews by standing close by and shouting. Most of the vocalisation is just words, but there have been occasions where it has become very personal.

Some may argue that being called a liar is par for the course for a politician. After all they often find themselves having to avoid answering a direct question, even if they personally want to give a direct answer. A politician should be able to rise about that abuse. Being called a Nazi on the other hand is something else.

Over the last few years the rise in such rhetoric has been noticeable. We saw it in the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014. We’re definitely seeing it now both during and after the Brexit referendum.

As responsible individuals, we must remember that our right to free speech brings with it a responsibility that we treat lightly at our peril. Speak out, yes, but do it with respect for the other side. The irony for those calling our politicians Nazis may be lost on them, as this is exactly how the Nazis came to power. If that happens, there won’t be a lot of opportunity for protesting.

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