Mark Andrews on Saturday: Sinking into the Swamp, and why it's time to send Captain Mainwaring on a diversity course

As a rule of thumb, I hate demos.

Invariably hijacked by loud-mouthed agitators, I can't think of a single one in this country that has ever achieved anything worthwhile.

More often than not, my instinctive reaction is to rally behind the other side.

For instance, I was pretty ambivalent about HS2 until I learned veteran crusty Daniel 'Swampy' Hooper had buried himself beneath the route. All of a sudden, I wanted to see HS2 up and running right now, zooming above his head at 225mph. Preferably without any track.

However, something happened this week which caused me to reconsider. On Tuesday night, at one of those demos-against-new-rules-to-control-demos, a very attractive young brunette decided to get her message across by standing stark naked.

And having studied the pictures in great detail, I think she makes a valid point. What about, I've no idea, but I would definitely like to see more of that kind of protest.

* * *

Opponents of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill insist everyone has a right to free speech, although I wonder how committed these Wolfie Smith wannabes are to free speech when it comes to those they disagree with. That's woke culture for you.

The thing is, though, I can't see anything in the new police bill that prevents peaceful protest. On the contrary, by giving police powers to impose noise limits and stop demonstrators playing loud music, the bill is very much in favour of quiet protests.

And if someone genuinely has a valid point to make, it is not unreasonable to ask them to do so without bringing traffic to a standstill, gluing themselves to public transport, obstructing emergency services or keeping people awake at night. That is not curtailing freedom of expression, it is requiring them to show a small bit of consideration for others.

And if they can't argue their point without causing misery, they can't have much of a case to begin with.

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If you ever needed an example of why demonstrations are the surest way of discrediting a legitimate point, look at the disgraceful scenes outside Batley Grammar School in Yorkshire. There, an angry mob has assembled on the school gates and death threats have been issued after a teacher showed pupils a picture of Mohammed in an RE lesson.

Yet while there is no excuse for violence or intimidation, I'm struggling to find too much sympathy for the teacher either. Since when has showing kids contentious cartoons been part of the school curriculum?

I suspect he knew exactly how much offence he would cause, but thought he was being 'edgy' or making some kind of stand.

It is one thing to defend people's right to be offensive. It doesn't mean we should support them when they exercise it.

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Hertfordshire councillor Michael McMullen has been ordered to attend diversity training after being overheard mumbling the words 'silly girl' about a fellow councillor during an online meeting.

One wonders what they will teach him on this course. How to use the mute button, maybe?

Incidentally, the comment was made at a meeting to approve an inflation-busting council-tax rise and a raft of new charges for residents. Diversity training doesn't come cheap you know.

Maybe it's time for a new episode of Dad's Army, where Captain Mainwaring is sent on a diversity course led by Warden Hodges.

"Oi! You can't go around calling Private Pike a stupid boy."

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