Friday, 26 July 2013

An Englishman in England might go to prison for calling an MP a coward

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This story deserves as much coverage as possible.

Think about it. A man called Alex Cline is being prosecuted simply for calling an MP a coward.

I am not blaming the MP whose complaint led to this grotesque prosecution, though I hope even his party faithful refuse in disgust to vote for him at the next election. No, he did not decide that Mr. Cline should be prosecuted. In any case, I am grateful for this prosecution - because we now know how authoritarian English law has become. Except only readers of the Brighton and Hove local press do. The news may have travelled as far
as Eastbourne or Worthing and it also reached someone who put it on on Facebook, where I came across it. 

It is the law I criticise, but much more the culture and thinking from which the law springs. Rod Liddle a few months ago wrote with characteristic brilliance about this law here.

Liddle is witty but there is nothing light-hearted about the subject of freedom of speech, which is far more important than sex equality or the state of Britain's hospitals. I wrote about the threats to freedom of speech a few days ago here, but I am no longer sure that threats is the right word. In many ways freedom of speech no longer exists in the UK, though it flourishes in the former Communist countries, such as Romania, for the time being.

What an increasingly fascist society England now is. Not just a fascist state, but a fascist society, that goes along with this kind of thing. The suggestion that the police and the courts  are not justified in preventing people being offended is very alien to the spirit of modern day England. The idea that the state can run businesses has been debunked but not the idea that it can tell people how they should live. The idea that extensions of state power limit freedom does not make a lot of sense to most English people any more, provided that the state's intentions are supposedly benign. Mussolini's definition of fascism is largely true of English society:

“Everything in the state, nothing outside the state.”

William Pitt the Elder famously said that the poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. Why don't Prime Ministers say things like this any more instead of talking about schools and hospitals and economic growth?

Partly because there are all sorts of reasons why the forces of the Crown or other authorities can enter the poor man's cottage without a warrant or process of law or tap his telephone or read his correspondence. They can demolish his cottage and they certainly insist that it is fitted with fire alarms that go off continually if the poor man leaves the kitchen door open while cooking his meagre breakfast. 

Actually, the poor man left his cottage long ago and it was bought by a rich stockbroker who only spends the occasional weekend there, but this is beside the point. The poor man does not repine. He no longer goes to his local public house, where he discussed politics with his pals, because it was closed due to the ban on smoking, so he sits at home drinking lager from the supermarket, which will soon become more expensive when minimum alcohol pricing becomes law. He spends his evenings watching propaganda on television or pornography on the internet. He is content.

31 comments:

  1. God help us all
    Andrew Fear

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  2. It's a good day to be an expat

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  3. Coward he obviously is.

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  4. Except that 'Englishman is...

    "Mr Cline of Wenlock House, North Street, Brighton, is a former University of Sussex postgraduate student who graduated from the university in September. He now lectures at the Angela Ruskin University, teaching “Video Game Contextual Studies” and “Architectural Gaming”.

    If that isn't worth six months a five grand fine, I don't know what is.

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  5. Order is Heaven's first law; and this confess,
    Some are and must be greater than the rest.
    Alexander Pope

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  6. Andrew Schrader I find it very hard to believe that calling Mr Weatherley "a coward" is the only charge being levelled against it. One suspects that Mr Cline is on a media charm offensive. It does sound like he and some of his cohorts got rather physical and nasty with Mr Weatherley.

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    1. I thought you were a Tory, Andrew?

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  7. Very true. Have you ever seen a mob of leftwing busybodies who just stood by and politely called out: 'Coward'? I say: Get the yeomanry to ride them down. People make a lot of fuss about Peterloo but they forget that it showed our homegrown Jacobins just how quickly they'd be sabred if they tried to pull off some of their foreign folderols on our green and pleasant land.

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  8. To be fair Paul, he is guilty of a far more heinous crime:
    "He now lectures at the Angela Ruskin University, teaching “Video Game Contextual Studies” and “Architectural Gaming”."
    He's only been charged.

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  9. What ever next?

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  10. There seems to be some confusion in this country at the moment, between 'free speech' and 'say whatever the hell you like about somebody'. If you call somebody a coward - even if he is an MP and therefore fair game (irony) your comments must hold water - if they don't you're not allowed to say it. It has been thus for a very long time. Being called a coward in public would upset me - are we allowed to insult people and expect them to take it. The MP was brave enough to object to being insulted though.

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    1. With respect, what you said is simply not true. Certain allegations must be proven true if they are considered libellous but insults are not and never have been. If they were, we'd all be in court and where would it stop? Jail for calling someone a "coward"? Parole for calling someone a "wally"? 10 pound fine for calling Rodney in Only Fools and Horses a "plonker"? It's nonsense and does not happen.
      In any case, an MP subjects himself to extra scrutiny and criticism when he stands for election. He should be defend from libel and slander like anyone else but to object to being called coward makes him, ironically, a coward.

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    2. What you said is appalling and is certainly not true. The MP can sue for defamation but has no chance because mere abuse is no libel. The freedom to cause offence is the most important freedom of all - no other kind of freedom of expression matters. I was so sad reading your comment and see freedom is shockingly unvalued - the 'right' to privacy or 'right'to family life or anti-discrimination red tape are what British people value. It is in part due to the EU and the import of continental law with its slight respect fro freedom but a lot of it is to do with women and the feminisation of our society. The victory of feminine lower middle class gentility. Why should an Englishman or woman gives a fig if someone was offended by being called a coward? But this is law as therapy.

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    3. charles Fitzgerald16 November 2013 at 19:23

      now that says all I agree with long time this feminisation of society was highlighted..i used to think I was alone in propounding hat.....meantime " the majority of MPs these days seem to me to be cowards....there Are exceptions but in the minority! go on lads and lasses complain bitterly..it merely emphasis what a load of over- privileged wankers ye all are. (grounds for a
      class action?)

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    4. The original comment was indeed made by a woman and - worryingly - a conservative woman. Terrifying that conservatives say things like that.

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  11. You haven't yet realised why we live here :)? Ian

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    1. Romania is still a free country thank God.

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    2. For the time being. I fear it will not last too long :)

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    3. Ian, you are right unfortunately. Already I meet young Romanian Marxists and leftists educated abroad.

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  12. This MP wanted to force churches to perfrom gay "marriages".

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  13. If this report is true and important parts aren't being omitted, it is farcical, a waste of the court's time and the Right Honorable is neither right nor honorable

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  14. If you call someone a coward, it is an opinion. It may be rude, it may be inaccurate and it even may say more about the person who said it. Most of us don't like critical opinions, but tough sausages. Man up. In any case calling someone a coward could never be libel and I doubt it could be proved as "slander" either

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    1. It is what lawyers call mere abuse and not actionable.

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  15. Ion Ratiu, presidential candidate 1990 (a Romanian lawyer and businessman who spent his adult life in England. "I will die for you to have the right to disagree with me."

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  16. The End is mournful.

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    1. I am specifically speaking of your last paragraph of your Post. It is so sadly telling.

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  17. I sent a letter to Reform Section 5, telling them that contrary to their public pronouncements, at present their campaign had clearly failed. If I had Rowan Atkinson's email or a way of gleaning it, I would have done the same. His speech on the subject was very aware of what freedoms we had lost.

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  18. In the US we have a somewhat battered bill of rights we could let you crib.

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    1. The sad thing is you cribbed it from us in the first place. What a way to run a country.

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  19. http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/call-your-mp-a-coward-face-jail/

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  20. When untruthful and insulting things are said or written you can actually grit your teeth, TAKE THE HIGH ROAD and think of what Ratiu said. Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy. It's not always pleasant to be on the receiving end, but it's vitally important to our freedom. Alison

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