Is it ok to interrupt a speech?

A political party speech is an opportunity for party leaders to talk about their views and policies. It gives politicians a platform to rally their supporters and inform the public. It is therefore an important part of our political process and indeed of democracy.

The Prime Minister yesterday was speaking in a hall with thousands of people who wanted to hear what she has to say. Her colleagues in Brussels wanted to hear what she had to say. People across the United Kingdom wanted to hear what she had to say.

It is for that reason that I am not entirely comfortable with Simon Brodkin’s stunt to hand Theresa May a P45 document during the middle of her speech. People have told me that protest is part of the democratic process, and I would completely agree. However, there are proper and appropriate ways to protest that don’t interfere with the public’s right to be informed.

First of all, we should question whether this was a genuine political protest or simply one clown’s attempt to increase his twitter following. If it was the latter it was completely unacceptable, it if was the former, it was probably also unacceptable.

Not all speakers deserve to be heard, it is true. However, all of the thousands of people listening to the Prime Minister’s speech had a right to listen. They had a right to listen and it was important that they were given the chance to listen. Democracy doesn’t work if people aren’t given the opportunity to inform themselves to understand what they are voting for. Brodkin’s stunt wasn’t just an insult to Theresa May’s right to be heard, more seriously, it was an insult to the public’s right to be informed.

Fortunately, his prank took up less than a minute of her speaking time. But it also made news headlines which would have otherwise been filled with genuine policy (and perhaps some talk about her cold and how the ‘F’ fell down).

When it comes to heckling, it is not always a bad thing; in ancient Greece it was seen as a legitimate way of expressing disagreement with a speaker. Some speeches are racist, some speeches promote hatred and violence, and some speeches are outright rubbish. If that’s the case, by all means heckle away! However, if it is a speech that is of direct relevance to the nation, has thousands of people across the world sitting on the edge of their seats, and is part of our democratic political framework then it is not the time or the place to pull a prank.

Whether you agree with Theresa May or not, you have to accept that her speech was important to both her followers and the nation. Yes, heckling and protesting are important, however, as with most things there is a time and a place.

 

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