According to reports on a number of political websites, Leeds City Council has sacked Chris Knowles of the International Civil Liberties Alliance, after a long campaign against him by various left-wing groups. Those calling for his removal alleged that Mr Knowles was a leading member of the English Defence League and had links with far-right groups around the world. In a statement, Mr Knowles said that he was fired without due process and without a proper explanation of his alleged misconduct. He intends to take the case to an employment tribunal.
It’s difficult to get any objective information about this because it has only been reported on sites which are either very pro or very anti Mr Knowles. As yet, Leeds City Council has not made a statement.
If the facts are as stated by Chris Knowles then Leeds City Council is on very dodgy ground. Dismissals without due process are automatically unfair. On top of that, there is no cap on compensation for illegal discrimination, so if Mr Knowles manages to prove discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, as covered by the Equality Act 2010, Leeds could be facing a considerable payout.
I find it difficult to believe that a large council like Leeds, with access to expert legal and HR advice, would leave itself open to a legal challenge by failing to follow a proper process. That said, councils have been bounced into illegal dismissals by political pressure before.
If the statement by Chris Knowles is an accurate reflection of the facts and the case comes to court, I hope he wins. This is not because I hold any brief for the ICLA or any of the other organisations Mr Knowles is involved with, but because it will highlight the absurdity of the Blair government’s laws on religious protection. Furthermore, it will be amusing to see Labour councillors shafted by their own party’s discrimination legislation.
The Stupid Left and the Stupid Right need to understand that when you give legal rights to people you like, you also give them to people you don’t like. If it was up to me, all the religious protection laws of the last decade would be repealed. Given that the current government seems intent on extending these rights, that is probably a vain hope. But if we must have laws protecting religion and belief, they should be applied to everybody. If Chris Knowles really was sacked simply for his views on Islam, rather than any specific misconduct, then he deserves the law’s protection just as much as anyone else.