Winamp Logo
That's Debatable! Cover
That's Debatable! Profile

That's Debatable!

English, Social, 1 season, 24 episodes, 20 hours, 2 minutes
The Free Speech Union stands for freedom of speech, of conscience, and of intellectual enquiry, which we regard as the essential pillars of a free society—the foundational freedoms on which all others depend. We believe that human beings cannot flourish outside a free society, which means they cannot flourish in the absence of free speech. Free speech is how knowledge is developed and shared, as well as our views about morality, religion and politics. Robust debate—appealing to reason, evidence and our shared values—is also the best way to resolve disagreements about issues big and small without descending to violence or intimidation. The Free Speech Union believes that if society doesn’t uphold the right to express controversial, eccentric, heretical, provocative or unwelcome opinions, then it doesn’t uphold free speech. As George Orwell put it, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Episode Artwork

In Conversation with Sibyl Ruth

In early 2022, Sibyl Ruth was working for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy as one of their ‘core editors’. Odd things began to happen in May when she was informed that her client no longer required her services. Sibyl then found out that her profile had been removed from the Cornerstones Editors’ page. The next thing she knew, the company had halted any work that Sibyl was doing for them and had effectively terminated her. Ultimately a Subject Access Request revealed that a member of staff had objected to Sibyl’s gender critical views as expressed on Twitter. This was a total shock for Sibyl since, although she is a principled and proud feminist, she has always been open to discussion, debate and compromise; but her termination by Cornerstones was sudden and brutal. On the advice of friends, Sibyl contact the Free Speech Union where she quickly realised that that she wasn’t alone and that this was part of a larger pattern; what listeners will recognise immediately as cancel culture or, in this case, the new ‘purification’ of the publishing world. Towards the end of our conversation, and following the controversy at Calderdale library services, we touch on the latest trend of certain local authorities hiding books that don’t align with current ideology. Sibyl provides some helpful context to the phenomenon, explaining how library workers are often caught in a bind (pun intended!) where customer facing staff may be left to cope with little to no relevant training. If any listeners would like to support Sibyl, then do visit her crowd funder. As Sibyl emphasises during the episode, she is hugely grateful to every single person who has helped her in this campaign.
8/23/202355 minutes, 14 seconds
Episode Artwork

Woke, Ltd

Woke privilege” is a phrase coined by a listener to describe ‘those who follow the woke orthodoxy and experience all the privileges of not being cancelled’. People with Woke Privilege are free to express their woke opinions, they’re lauded online, and work promotions generally come easily to them. We would posit that Woke Privilege has certainly found a comfortable home within the B Corp movement, which features in today’s episode following the publication of the FSU’s latest report, Woke, Ltd. We discuss our motivation for writing the report and why we are so concerned that the proliferation of B Corps could have some very deleterious effects on freedom of expression, especially if the so-called Better Business Act reaches the statute books. This week, a video of West Yorkshire police arresting a 16-year-old autistic girl has caused profound discomfort across the nation. We discuss how it can be that the police can have reached a place where a child’s exclamation that an officer ‘looks like my lesbian nana’ can trigger such an apparently disproportionate response (though we concede that the video may not provide a complete picture). Over the last two years or so, West Yorkshire police has featured in at least another four public incidents relating to freedom of expression. It would seem that we have found a very good candidate for some of that training we discussed in the FSU’s previous report.
8/16/202341 minutes, 52 seconds
Episode Artwork

In Conversation With Sharron Davies

It’s a cliché, but Sharron Davies MBE really needs no introduction. One of Britain’s greatest Olympic medallists, she dominated women’s swimming throughout the 1980s. As Sharron makes clear during this discussion, her new book, Unfair Play: The Battle for Women’s Sport  was written to give people the knowledge and power to fight back against the incredible level of unfairness that women and girls are facing across the sporting world. Having experienced the injustice of competing against the doped-up East German swimmers in the 1970s and 80s, Sharron understands first-hand what it means to operate at the most elite level possible yet face a profoundly unfair field. She quickly discerned the disastrous decisions that were being made in the 2000s by sporting authorities, starting with the removal of sex screening by the IOC (International Olympic Committee). In our discussion, we explore the major themes explored in the book, including the emergence of a new incarnation of virtue-signalling misogyny, the fundamental importance of empiricism, and the heart-breaking effect that today’s unfairness is having on women and girls. Sharron passionately believes in the life-affirming impact of sport and that it should be for all; we simply need to define our categories in a way that makes participation fair. Both Sharron and the Free Speech Union were delighted that the generosity of one of our Founder Members, Alan Hearne, has made it possible for copies of the book to be sent to over 80 national and international sporting bodies. The accompanying letters either congratulate those which have already taken notice of the evidence and taken steps to protect the female competitive category or urged them to read the book and re-open debate if they have yet to do so.
8/10/202351 minutes, 28 seconds
Episode Artwork

Gillian Philip stands with JK Rowling

#IstandwithJKRowling. When Gillian Philip, a successful children’s author, added that statement to her twitter handle in June 2020, she soon found herself subject to a twitter pile on. The mob accused Gillian of being “transphobic” and a “TERF” (standing for trans-exclusionary radical feminist) – the latter a familiar slur so easily thrown around by transgender activists. Soon afterwards, her publishers, Working Partners and Harper Collins, cancelled their contract with her. Inevitably, this experience of cancel culture took a huge personal toll on Gillian, but she was determined to fight back! As so often happens, the activists didn’t fully appreciate the risk of going up against such a focused, tenacious, and strong woman as Gillian. ----more---- The Free Speech Union has been supporting Gillian's legal battle and listeners can contribute to her Employment Tribunal appeal via the latest crowd justice fundraiser. ----more---- In this fascinating discussion, Gillian talks about her original experience, her journey over the last three years, as well as providing us with insight into the state of children’s publishing in 2023. Finally, if you’re looking for a non-woke children’s book, Gillian recommends the latest rhyming picture book from Rachel Rooney, “My Body is Me!“  
8/1/202350 minutes, 43 seconds
Episode Artwork

The Bankers Go Woke (Say it carefully)

We open our episode with the encouraging thought that the UK’s free speech woes repeatedly drive us back to hear and be inspired by the voice (and music!) of past genius. Then the big news item of the week is the FSU’s ‘de-banking’ victory. As many listeners already know, the government will now be tightening up the Payment Services Regulations to make it impossible for banks and payment processors to cancel people’s accounts just because they disagree with their perfectly lawful political belief. During our conversation, we focus on the elements of this very public discussion that have most intrigued us. Why do some commentators seem unable to appreciate the threat that de-banking represents to all UK citizens across the political spectrum? Ben introduces the idea of cognitive decoupling, which may go some way to explain the alternative reactions. The principle of Chesterton’s Fence is another helpful tool with which to interpret some of the more disastrous applications of woke ideology. As we wonder whether all this de-banking publicity will lead to a retreat or advance of woke ideology, we touch on Lord Frost’s recent article in the Telegraph that describes an ominous new state ideology.  
7/26/202350 minutes, 26 seconds
Episode Artwork

The fight for free speech in Ireland

There is a fierce battle for free speech taking place in the Republic of Ireland, where the proposed Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred or Hate Offences) Bill (‘CJB’) is expected to radically extend the scope of hate crime. In that context, we are delighted to welcome Sarah Hardiman, spokesperson for Free Speech Ireland (FSI), to this week’s episode of ‘That’s Debatable’. Top of the list of the FSI’s concerns is the lack of clarity around essential definitions within the CJB, such as the definition of ‘hate‘ itself!  Our discussion touches on several areas that will be familiar to our listeners such as the practical problems of policing hate laws, the tension between lobby groups and individual citizens, and what appears to be the ubiquitous inadequacy of state education systems in relaying the vital importance of free expression in a free society. A significant motivator for Sarah and the FSI is the demonstrable support from individual Irish citizens who, following more thorough reporting in the national and international press, are clearly quite horrified at the more perverse implications of the bill as currently drafted; dawn raids for possession of wrong think documents being a good example. If you would like to support the FSI in this essential fight, then please do visit their website at and follow the FSI across their social media channels.
7/19/202352 minutes, 19 seconds
Episode Artwork

In conversation with Denise Fahmy

Direct from her recent win at a Leeds Employment Tribunal, we are very excited to welcome Denise Fahmy to this episode of ‘That’s Debatable’. Denise worked at Arts Council England for 15 years but, as you will hear, was subjected to some quite appalling harassment from other council employees when she spoke up for LGB Alliance during an internal staff meeting. After discussing what happened to her, Denise goes on to talk about how the side-lining of gender critical content doesn’t always lead to overt cancellation, but instead causes a general chill in which gender critical output is simply missing from arts shortlists and events. Combined with weak organisational leadership, this frostiness explains why art funding decisions often fail to be impartial and can be so influenced by ideological employee groups. We also explore the general state of the arts in the current woke cultural environment. Denise offers fascinating and measured insight into the arts world including the rise of the art curator, who now operates as the gatekeeper between creator and end consumer. We also wonder whether some interesting art may arise from contemplation of cancel culture itself, a planned July staged reading of the recent Mermaids vs LGB Alliance court battle being a case in point: 
7/11/202347 minutes
Episode Artwork

Banking on Silence: How the Chinese Social Credit System Creeps In

If, in Cher’s immortal words, we could turn back time five years, say, and describe the essence of today’s episode to a group of level-headed UK citizens, we are pretty sure they would label us fantasists and loons. But the fact is that we are now living in a society where a British colonel with an impeccable service record can be forced out of the army for supporting the idea that men can’t be women and women can’t be men. Who runs the British army? Stonewall’s enthusiastic commissars, it seems. We also report back on some headline statistics from the FSU’s cancel culture survey. Cancel culture does affect people’s well-being (at least 75% of those cancelled), it is rarely a surprise to the person being cancelled, and it really isn’t just a right-wing myth. For their next treat, those 2018 Cher fans can hear how the Chinese social credit system is taking root across our banking system, with high street names happily shutting down the accounts of all those pesky customers who think wrong thoughts. Finally, we head back to rather less familiar territory, 2023, and report back on a day out at Pride London. We reflect on the importance of discernment and wisdom when trying to work out what might really be going on.
7/4/202346 minutes, 47 seconds
Episode Artwork

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!

Sadly, recent events at both Rye College and the NSPCC demonstrate that the UK’s free speech woes are affecting the lives of the most impressionable members of society, our children. We discuss how we’ve reached this place and why it is proving so hard to dislodge the controversial philosophies behind Stonewall, Mermaids, and other activist organisations. There are glimmers of hope, though, not least the undeniable fact that parents will not easily accept or tolerate the ideological capture of their own children. We move on to the fact-checking industry and ask ourselves a deeper question behind the phenomenon: what does it take to change minds? In our conversation, we refer to Konstantin Kisin’s Oxford Union address from January 2023 as a great case study in how to speak persuasively:  We only manage to scratch the surface of this important question, however, and will most certainly come back to it in future episodes!   
6/29/20231 hour, 1 minute, 23 seconds
Episode Artwork

A Touch of Civic Pride

We were delighted to welcome Angela Kilmartin, a former conservative district councillor for Witham Town and Braintree, to this week’s That’s Debatable podcast. In this refreshingly frank discussion, Angela eloquently recounts the story of how she was formally investigated for expressing on her private Facebook account, her opposition to the flying of pride flags . At the end of the process, the district council’s monitoring officer advised Angela to go undergo Equality Act and ‘emotional intelligence’ training.  As you will hear, Angela is not exactly the sort of person willing to be pushed around in this manner. Far from caving in and subjecting herself to Maoist emotional re-education, she continues to exercise her political voice to great effect from the public gallery at council meetings. After the discussion with Angela, in part two, Ben and Tom round-off the episode by pulling together their own thoughts on the themes covered.
6/21/202331 minutes, 8 seconds
Episode Artwork

Oxfam & The New Elite

Oxfam is back in the free speech news, for all the wrong reasons. We begin today’s episode wondering why the charity keeps tripping over itself in the culture wars and highlight the deleterious effect these clumsy moves have had on numbers of volunteers and donors, as well as the charity’s finances. The case of an Oxfam employee who felt she had no choice but to resign due to the hostile environment she faced after expressing perfectly reasonable support for JK Rowling leads us into more general discussion of employee speech codes. There is now hardly a workplace without a speech code (often disguised as an EDI policy), and we ponder how a single individual can now be subject to several codes at the same time, yet none of them ever seems to be applied in an even-handed way. It is also very rare to stumble upon a speech code that differs from the new orthodoxy.  We briefly discuss how HSBC has shut down three accounts of the League of Social Democrats, one of the few remaining pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong that dares to protest China’s draconian security law and free speech crackdown.  Finally, we share thoughts following last week’s FSU panel event centred around Matt Goodwin’s new book on the new elite. It was a great discussion, and we were particularly happy to take Matt’s final word to be sure to keep the debate going in the bar afterwards.      
6/13/202351 minutes, 14 seconds
Episode Artwork

The Dissent of Man

This week we celebrate Anna Thomas’s well-publicised victory over the DWP and Civil Service.  This important win for free speech, which was spear-headed by the FSU, should be a source of great succour to employees in both the private and public sectors who are grappling with some of the more radical diversity, equity and inclusion agendas that have crept into the workplace; a classic case of politics extending its tentacles far too deeply into civic life.  We move on to discuss the origins of what seems to be a stark authoritarianism permeating contemporary youth culture.  The younger generation has always been radical, but is there something different happening today?  We also explore the news that broke over the weekend concerning the government’s counter-disinformation unit. This was deployed to monitor the UK population during Covid-19.  A liberal democracy survives and thrives on dissent, but there appears to have been a tendency to label traditional dissenting voices as dangerous misinformation.  Finally, we remind our listeners of the wealth of support material that is available on the FSU website to manage specific free speech issues. These briefings and FAQ (frequently asked questions) have proved very useful to individual FSU members seeking out help in real life situations.
6/6/202342 minutes, 16 seconds
Episode Artwork

The Rise of Low Liberalism

This week we are very excited to talk with Dr Thomas Prosser from Cardiff University on the topic of “low liberalism”.  Dr Prosser coined the term low liberalism in a March 2023 piece for his sub stack ‘the path not taken’: start by clarifying our definitions before trying to fit the idea of low liberalism into the mosaic of other contemporary cultural concepts, such as woke, social justice, authoritarianism, and the limits of politics. We also think about the role social media has played in allowing low liberalism to emerge and thrive.  We then ponder some of the potentially catastrophic consequences of low liberalism and what all of this means for free speech, including the fostering of a chilling atmosphere that forces people to self-censor. Dr Prosser leaves listeners with a final thought on the many similar ideas that are being discussed, and how it is quite possible for them to co-exist, even where they might contradict.
5/30/202351 minutes, 20 seconds
Episode Artwork

A Free Speech Tsar is Born

This week we celebrate the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023, which has now received Royal Assent. This new piece of law, brought in following a considerable amount of lobbying by the FSU, will strengthen the statutory protection available to academics and students exercising their free speech rights at university.  At a more micro level, the FSU’s new Mactaggart Programme is already enabling individual groups to fight back against the multiple flavours of ‘pocket veto’ that are deployed both by protesters and university authorities (such as handing on the bill for event security). Salman Rushdie enters the chat with his damning verdict on modern censorship and we discuss how authoritative voices like his underline the fact that cancel culture is a serious problem.  Finally, we ponder a case with echoes of the FSU’s own PayPal troubles last year. Yet another financial institution, this time Tide bank, appears to have shut down its services to TRIGGERnometry, a free speech platform that invites on speakers from across the political spectrum.
5/24/202353 minutes, 2 seconds
Episode Artwork

How Hitchens Can Save The Left

In this week's episode, we are delighted to be joined by special guest and author, Matt Johnson. We discuss his debut book, "How Hitchens Can Save the Left: Rediscovering Fearless Liberalism in an Age of Counter-Enlightenment". This deep dive into Hitchens' work unearths the nuances of his exploration into fearless liberalism.Join us as we discuss the enduring impact of Hitchens on contemporary liberal thought and how his intellectual courage can rejuvenate the left in today's age of counter-enlightenment. Whether you're a long-time admirer of Hitchens or new to his work, this episode promises to engage and challenge, offering fresh perspectives on the role of liberalism in our society.
5/16/20231 hour, 1 minute
Episode Artwork

The Coronation Plodcast

This week’s episode was recorded in the midst of the media storm around the allegedly heavy-handed policing of King Charles III’s coronation, and so we took the opportunity to speak with Tim Cruddas who is both an experienced police officer and a member of the FSU staff. Tim always makes us think about what it’s really like on the front line of policing and provides some very necessary balance to our debates around policing and free speech. Today’s ‘plodcast’ ranges from the inescapable tension between the right to protest and the right to freedom of expression, the practicalities of policing large public events, through to a historical perspective on successful (and some less successful) protests.  We also touch on why it’s so important to get to your local pharmacy before the Prince & Princess of Wales trigger a pesky road closure.
5/10/202345 minutes, 49 seconds
Episode Artwork

Be Kind…Or Else!

This week we celebrate the FSU’s first use of the Mactaggart Programme to support Bristol University’s “Women Talk Back” event. We then discuss the quite overwhelming number of transgender related cancellations that have taken place over the last seven days, from outrage at Professor Stock in Oxford to a rather predictable reaction from the Irish Eurovision band ‘Wild Youth’.  There is victory for Christian employee, Maureen Martin, as her tribunal outcome brings some balance to the tension between two sets of protected characteristics: sexual orientation and religious belief. Finally, we dive into the FSU’s ‘naughty lists’, highlighting the UK institutions that appear most frequently in our case data.   
5/3/202350 minutes, 4 seconds
Episode Artwork

Live Not by Lies

Hello Possums! We start our episode with a fond farewell to the unmatched Dame Edna, before exploring more deeply the impact of the relentless relabelling of our cultural landmarks, from the Brecon Beacons in Wales to Respect Way in Birmingham.  We seriously propose the idea that DEI officers are sorely underpaid, before pondering the frightening effects of Confucius Institutes in UK universities.  There’s some encouraging PayPal news from the US, where the SEC appears to have sided with free speech loving shareholders. But today’s over-arching theme is Solzhenitsyn’s instruction from 1974: those who cherish freedom must “live not by lies”.
4/25/202358 minutes, 2 seconds
Episode Artwork

The Speech Code of The Woosters

Our weekly dive into the free speech world.  We hike through the mountain range formerly known as Brecon Beacons (no BBQ allowed), stop off in Northern Ireland to bemoan proposed hate speech legislation, before ending at the pub where large numbers of Essex police like to come and arrest toy dolls.  Our big positive news is the halting of the Worker Protection Bill, though naturally disappointing for any among us keen to join the thought police.  And, finally, might Shakespeare hold the key to everything?
4/17/202339 minutes, 29 seconds
Episode Artwork

Little Britain, Big State – An Easter special

Hold on to your Easter bonnets! In this week's episode we cover everything from egg hunts and Fawlty Towers, to The Death of Stalin and the Canadian Government's response to anyone supporting the truckers' "Freedom convoy".
4/11/202336 minutes, 35 seconds
Episode Artwork

Je suis Charlie

In this week's episode,  Tom and Ben chat discuss April Fools' Day, The Workers' Protection Bill, Dangerous data, Students turning into snowflakes and our upcoming blasphemy event.
4/3/202348 minutes, 45 seconds
Episode Artwork

Murder On The Orient. Express Outrage!

In this week's episode we discuss the furore surrounding Posie Parker's visit to New Zealand, Agatha Christie, the cancellation of Baroness Claire Fox, centralised banking and the dangers TikTok poses to the future of literacy. Whether you're a casual listener or a passionate advocate, you won't want to miss this episode of That's Debatable!
3/28/20231 hour, 10 minutes, 44 seconds
Episode Artwork

Embrace Your Inner Alpaca

In this week’s episode, we explore a variety of hot topics, from our latest police report to Oxfam's 92 page inclusivity guide, our plans for the podcast and how we're turning the tide in the fight for free speech. Join us as we delve into the origins of the term 'Woke' and revisit the topic of eBooks. We'll also explore the challenges of dealing with misinformation and disinformation, and the potential impact of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. So, sit back, relax, and embrace your inner alpaca as we tackle these important issues and stimulate some healthy debate. Tune in to "That's Debatable" and join the conversation on the future of free speech.
3/20/202350 minutes, 52 seconds
Episode Artwork

Pitchforks and Pronouns

3/17/202355 minutes, 19 seconds