Friday, 23 October 2009

Free Speech:Areopagitica

'And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter'

It is good to start the day with a bit of Milton. The Areopagitica-from which the quote above is taken -was the symbol of office for Presidents of the Liberal Party.

We had a full council last night and not surprisingly the Question Time broadcast came up. Sir Ron Watson ( Conservative Dukes Ward) asserted the right of free speech even when it meant fools and vagabonds were published. I paraphrase because of the noise and the distance from the Conservative benches (they are the smallest party and sit at the far end of the chamber) I didn't catch every word. Sir Ron went on to thank me on behalf of himself and David Pearson for continuing the tradition and recognising that it could be a 'nutters charter'

Let us leave on one side for today Sir Ron's politically incorrect use of 'nutters' . You cannot fail to grasp what he meant.

I have never believed that championing free speech means that you allow to go unchallenged vile and dishonest misrepresentations . The point about free speech is that debate reveals the truth. I look forward to Sir Ron helping bringing to book those who abuse free speech in the BNP and elsewhere.

All in all I thought Question Time was positive. I could have criticisms of the structure of the programme. I thought that Griffin did badly when he answered the question about the gay pop singer. He was certainly out of sympathy with the audience who -like British people generally- do not share his homophobia. It follows that more question away from race/immigration could have served to illustrate the vile nature politics.

Jack Straw was a bit of a windbag which was sad as he made some good points early. I was especially impressed by his recounting of the contribution made by soldiers from the Indian sub continent along lads from Lancashire at the battles of WW1.

Chris Huhne was combative as you would expect and very effective. For me the star of the show was Ms Greer whose gentle put downs were the highlight of the evening.

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