Right of Reply: Jack Ashley

The peer and disabled rights campaigner responds to a leading article on Glenn Hoddle
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The Independent Culture
GLENN HODDLE'S admission of serious error of judgement was overdue, but his dismissal had less to do with that than with the aggressive media campaign it provoked. Never was so much righteous indignation expressed on behalf of disabled people.

The end of Hoddle should be the beginning of a reassessment of our tolerance. The concerted attack on him was because he was thought to have committed the cardinal sin of offending disabled people. Had this always been the prevailing attitude, the lives of disabled people would have been immeasurably enriched. But offending disabled people has been one of the most persistent and despicable aspects of our history.

Although they are no longer put to death, as in early days, disabled people have not exactly been acclaimed in the last few hundred years. Patronising them, disregarding their problems and generally ignoring them has been the norm. Now, suddenly, because of Hoddle's outburst, they are inviolable and he was forced out - despite the practical help he had given them.

The media campaign against Hoddle, based - apparently - on the sense of outrage on disabled people, was astonishing in its intensity. Many of those who jumped on the bandwagon had never given a thought to disability, but they apparently became distraught at hearing Hoddle express his religious views.

But where, in all this, are our values regarding the individual and our tolerance of their behaviour? If, as we claim, we believe in the freedom of speech, that freedom is of little value if it is confined to the expression of popular views. The real test is how we react when people express unpopular opinions - such as those articulated by Glenn Hoddle.

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