Police have asked a blogger to remove tweets criticising Ukip policies after receiving a complaint from one of the party’s councillors.
Michael Abberton disclosed on his blog that he was visited by two Cambridgeshire police officers on Saturday. He was told he had not committed any crimes, but was asked to delete some of his tweets, particularly a retweet of a faked poster giving 10 reasons to vote for Ukip, such as scrapping paid maternity leave and raising income tax for the poorest 88% of Britons.
Abberton, a Green party member who writes a blog on science and green politics, described the incident on his Axe of Reason blog.”The police explained that I hadn’t broken any law – there was no charge to answer and it really wasn’t a police matter.
“They asked me to ‘take it down’ but I said I couldn’t as it had already been retweeted and appropriated, copied, many times and I no longer had any control of it (I had to explain to one of the officers what Twitter was and how it worked). They said that they couldn’t force me to take it down anyway.”
The police said they made inquiries “as to whether any offences had been committed under the Representation of the People Act but none were revealed and no further action was taken.” The complaint from Ukip was that Abberton was impersonating and misrepresenting the party.
A Cambridgeshire police spokesman said: “A Ukip councillor came across a tweet which he took exception to. The name of the person on the tweet was identified and that individual was spoken to. We looked at this for offences and there was nothing we could actually identify that required police intervention. Clearly, the councillor was unhappy about the tweets. If every political person was unhappy about what somebody else said about their views, we would have no politics.” Abberton had not been told to delete tweets.
Abberton said the police asked him not to tweet about the visit, but the spokesman said: “I don’t know if he’d have been told that. It’s certainly not the advice I would have given him. A gentleman has a right to free speech – absolute total right to free speech – we can’t tell people what they can and can’t say on the internet, as long as it’s within the law. We certainly don’t go to people’s houses and say: ‘You can’t tweet about this’. This is not 1930s Germany.”
On his blog, Abberton made it clear that the two police officers were extremely professional and polite, but he did wonder why they had visited him.
“It wasn’t until after they left that I questioned why they had visited me in the first place. A complaint had been made but with no legal basis. Not a police matter. So why did they come to my home in the middle of a Saturday afternoon? Also, seeing as my profile doesn’t have my location – how did they know my address, or even the town I live in? … Why would a political party, so close to an election, seek to stop people finding out what their policies are or their past voting record? And is it not a matter for concern that a political party would seek to silence dissent and debate in such a manner?”