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Wednesday
Aug072013

Tories censor Forest fringe event with Nigel Farage on lifestyle freedoms

I am currently on holiday in California. Work, however, has a habit of intruding, wherever I am.

Last week, for example, days after launching the No Thank EU campaign, Forest was embroiled in another issue that required a little management.

A few weeks ago, as readers of this blog know, we invited UKIP leader Nigel Farage to take part in a fringe event at the Conservative conference in Manchester.

The title of the meeting – A Beer and a Fag with Farage – was inspired by Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston.

An outspoken supporter of plain packaging of tobacco and minimum pricing of alcohol, Wollaston had warned the Tories not to outflank UKIP by becoming the party of "booze and fags".

It seemed a perfect subject for the Conservative conference so I asked Farage if he would take part in a meeting chaired by Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs.

He agreed and we added it to our Liberty Lounge event, paying the Conservative party £250 to list it in the conference brochure.

We also booked a full colour half page advertisement in the same publication. Designed to promote the Liberty Lounge as a whole, it listed all three events including A Beer and a Fag with Farage.

That was four weeks ago.

On July 28 the Observer broke the story that Farage had been "showered with invites" to speak on the Conservative conference fringe.

The paper reported that he had accepted an invitation to address a "rally of the Thatcherite Bruges Group", adding:

He will also speak at events run by the Freedom Association and the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco.

The following day the Telegraph claimed that the UKIP leader had been banned from attending the conference:

Mr Farage will not be granted a security pass for the conference after accepting several invitations to speak at fringe events.

Well, it seems the party decided that denying Farage a security pass (understandable, I think) didn't go far enough because last Thursday I was told that the fringe listing for A Beer and a Fag with Farage, which takes place outside the security zone, had been removed from the conference brochure and our £250 had been refunded.

Curiously, though, the party chose not to reject the £3,600 it will cost Forest to place a half page ad in the same publication.

Instead, and without any discussion, we were told the party's typesetters would cut all reference to A Beer and a Fag with Farage leaving a gaping hole where the meeting should be.

Unhappy with this heavy-handed bowdlerisation of an ad that is costing Forest a substantial amount of money, I offered to omit Farage's name and retitle the event Taking Liberties with Freedom (a discussion about lifestyle freedoms chaired by the IEA's Mark Littlewood).

A day later that suggestion was also rejected.

At that point I could have pulled the ad completely but it would have hit our other events.

Instead the Liberty Lounge ad will run with no mention of the fact that Forest and the IEA are co-hosting a meeting about lifestyle freedoms.

The good news is the meeting is most definitely on. It's still called A Beer and a Fag with Farage and it still features Nigel Farage in conversation with Mark Littlewood.

How we're going to promote it is another matter. (A full page ad in the Manchester Evening News?)

In the meantime here's the ad the Tories rejected, followed by the 'amended' (ie censored) version we re-submitted for their approval.

Spot the difference.

Above: The original advertisement featuring A Beer and a Fag with Farage. Below: the revised ad with the Farage meeting deleted.

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Reader Comments (5)

TBH, I'm surprised the Tory Party has accepted payment of any kind from Forest. It seems they're more frightened of UKIP (which has no UK MPs) than of being accused of indirectly promoting Big Tobacco (which allegedly kills half of its customers).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 9:08 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Very frustrating, but I can fully understand the organisers pulling this.

How would we feel if ASH decided to take out an ad in a Forest publication and set up a "fringe event" at the annual Boisdale Freedom Dinner or the Smoke on the Water event?

I most certainly wouldn't like it or approve of it and if we are to be honest about this, I cannot see anyone else approving of it either.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 9:42 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

But the Tories are not ASH, though this does make one wonder whether they are one of its incarnations.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 16:43 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

I think you have read it round the wrong way Norman

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 18:23 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Apologies. Perhaps I have. I see that the analogy relates to the Tories and Farage, not the Tories and Forest. I hope this doesn't complicate things.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 18:59 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

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