Daniel (in comments below) reckons that there’s a general urge towards authoritarianism out there. It seems to me to be more a matter of general public hypocirisy something along the lines of “you need to be restrained in order that I can exercise my freedom.” As Jarndyce pointed out, a lot of religious opposition to the law is an intellectual property dispute by people who specifically wanted religious speech to be privileged. It’s probably quite hopeful that people who do want repressive laws can’t look beyond their own grudges and that this makes it harder for the government to knit something systematic out of a general mulch of resentment.
But it’s a moot point now, because the dream of the libertarians has arrived. We now have a government that cannot pass a law when it’s under the slightest bit of pressure.
The government last night suffered a chaotic defeat over its bill to combat religious hatred when a lethal mixture of Labour rebels, abstentions and absentees from Westminster delivered an unexpected triumph to the combined Opposition in both Lords and Commons.
Though the racial and religious hatred bill came from Charles Clarke's Home Office team, and some MPs predicted that chief whip, Hilary Armstrong will today offer her resignation, Tony Blair contributed personally to the defeat by missing the night's second key vote - which was lost by just one vote, his own.
OK, there’s a revolt in the offing and a three line whip laid down, so 24 MP’s vanish into the West of Scotland to help fight a by-election in a safe seat. The Prime Minister gets a casual thumbs up from the Whips Office and just wanders off somewhere. Back in the seventies Labour MPs were dragged into the House from their deathbeds to vote. But that’s always been a curious thing about New Labour: a government obsessed with an ideology of competence can’t seem to get to grips with basic political tradecraft. According to Paul Goggins the law they tried to pass last night wasn’t even a law as such, since according to him it left the definition of what recklessness should be to guidance from the CPA to be produced at some later date. I suppose you could argue that this looks disturbingly like an attempt to pass an enabling law, but given last night’s clown show I’m quite happy to put it down to incompetence.
I think Daniel’s right about this: “And some - not all - of those cartoons were just fucking disgraceful sub Julius Streicher stuff.”
It’s like the guff about Theo Van Gogh being a hero of free speech we got last year, when in reality he was a semi-professional Jew baiter – amongst other things - who decided that Muslim-baiting would be a more profitable line of business after 9/11, and who found out that greater rewards come with greater risks. Freedom of expression applies to shitheads too. It also means that they can be identified as such, even when assassinated.
Maybe the government could clear this up with a Free Speech and its Application to Shitheads Act, 2006. I’d like to see them try and pass that one. It’d be like watching grandfather paper the parlour.