Pompey player Christian Burgess brands UKIP candidate’s plans for ‘free speech area’ as ‘bizarre’

A CANDIDATE standing for UKIP in the city elections has vowed to create a ‘free speech area’ in Portsmouth if he gets into office – but it already exists.

Thursday, 18th April 2019, 7:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th April 2019, 8:02 pm
Christian Burgess (left) and Mike Nawrot

Mike Nawrot, 52, hopes people of all backgrounds would unite to set the world to rights at a Southsea equivalent of Hyde Park’s Speakers' Corner in London. 

The hotspot could be at Southsea Common or along the seafront – away from pubs and the potential of rowdiness.

But a senior councillor has pointed out one already exists at the sheltered concrete area outside the Southsea Rock Garden, along Clarence Esplanade.

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When told it already exists, Mr Nawrot said: ‘I have lived here all my life and would like to ask where are the signs? When was the last time it was used as such?’

Mr Nawrot’s campaign promise has drawn criticism from Pompey centre-back Christian Burgess who took to Twitter to call it ‘one of the most bizarre promises I’ve ever seen on a campaign leaflet’. 

He added: ‘I forgot Southsea prohibited free speech. 

‘Better watch what I say when I’m in the Wine Vaults (other public houses available in the area).’ 

Christian Burgess (left) and Mike Nawrot

Mr Nawrot, who will stand in Central Southsea, said: ‘If an area was set up where people weren’t made to listen, but were allowed to listen, and they realised what that was all about, then hopefully we could take the aggression out of debates – and the misconceptions.’ 

The UKIP candidate, who has changed his campaign aim to get signs for the existing site, will be facing off against Ruben Virumbrales-Bell (Conservative), Eloise Shavelar (Green), Charlotte Gerada (Labour), and incumbent Suzy Horton (Lib Dem) at the election on May 2.

Mr Nawrot, a self-confessed newbie to politics and a collector and labourer by trade, said free speech means being ‘as near to the knuckle as possible without being threatening’. 

As society wrestles with a ‘tiny undercurrent of hatred’, he said everyone would be safe at the free speech area – which would not be used to manifest hate, but ‘draw it out’. 

UKIP candidate for Central Southsea, Mike Nawrot, who has vowed to deliver a 'free speech area' on Southsea Common or the seafront if he gets elected on May 2. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I don’t even know how long Hyde Park’s been going, but I should think it’s been going for a few hundred years – and I don’t see mass battles there, or reported mass battles there every week,' he said. 

‘If you don’t draw out hatred it bubbles under the surface and that's when it becomes a problem.

‘I’d rather address hate out in the open than have it festering underneath, where none of us know where it’s gonna come from.

‘That’s the hate that’s more dangerous than exposing it in a free speech sense.’ 

Speaker's Corner, Clarence Esplanade. Picture: Google Maps

His idea, which went out on Facebook and election literature delivered to an estimated 2,000 homes, has picked up some flak however.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrat leader of Portsmouth City Council, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said Mr Nawrot was trying to invent something that already exists.

‘There’s a Speakers’ Corner on the seafront and it’s been known as that for as long as I can remember,’ he said. 

‘It’s surprising someone would look for something that’s been around for years and I worry people don’t know enough about the city in which they wish to stand.’ 

The landmark, which is not regularly used by speakers, is located at the sheltered concrete area outside the Southsea Rock Garden, along Clarence Esplanade.

 

Speaker's Corner, Clarence Esplanade. Picture: Google Street View