Charles, the most unfortunate thing about this whole U.K. press regulation farrago is that it remains unabashedly popular. Take a look at the support YouGov found for the measure. Only 23 percent of those responding would support a paper refusing to agree to be regulated as standing up for free speech. How different this is from the view of John Wilkes in 1752:
The liberty of the press is the birth-right of Britons, and is justly esteemed the firmest bulwark of the liberties of this country. It has been the terror of all bad ministers; for their dark and dangerous designs, or their weakness, inability and duplicity, have thus been detected and shown to the public, generally in too strong and just colours for them long to bear up against the odium of mankind. Can we then be surpriz’d, that so various and infinite arts have been employed at one time entirely to set aside, at another to take off the force, and blunt the edge, of this most sacred weapon, given for the defence of truth and liberty? A wicked and corrupt administration must naturally dread this appeal to the world; and will be for keeping all the means of information equally from the prince, parliament and the people. Every method will then by try’d, and all arts put into practice to check the spirit of knowledge and inquiry. Even the courts of justice have in the most dangerous way, because under sanction of law, been drawn into the dark views of an arbitrary ministry, and to stifle in the birth all infant virtue.
The loss of these birthrights and the demise of civic virtues such as free speech in the U.K. was actually the subject of my speech at CPAC, which you can see here (I start about 23 minutes in).
One of those bad ministers that Wilkes talked about is Jim Sheridan MP, who held a government office at the Ministry of Defence in Tony Blair’s government. He has called for lèse-majesté regulations to protect MPs from ridicule. So I’d like to use this platform to call him a pompous oaf.