Friday, October 28, 2005

Putting it kindly, Blunkett is mad

Bloggers lack the benefit of the news media's specialised lawyers. Many seem to assume that it's safe to be outrageous, but some public figures are notably litigious. Defamation is an untrue statement about another which is likely to lower their reputation among "right thinking" members of the public. The best defence is "justification"; i.e. that the statement is true. Against politicians, the fallback defence is that, if untrue, the statement was "fair comment on a matter of public interest".

Even with constant legal advice on tap, the media lose a number of libel cases every year. They reserve funds for the purpose (in the case of Private Eye, that must be a major part of the budget), but bloggers could face losing their homes if they are sued successfully. They are publishing globally, so they may be liable under laws they don't know in countries they have never even visited. The pseudonyms under which many write would be no protection. ISPs or the companies providing their blog accounts could be ordered to disclose. Some are therefore notably brave, rather rash or - always the best defence in litigation - too poor to be worth suing.

David Blunkett is not a man averse to the courts. In clearing Tom Utley's opinion piece today the Telegraph's lawyers have shown courage and I respect them for it. I am not qualified to comment on David Blunkett's sanity, but feel free to state he is a man of little political judgement and less understanding. As Home Secretary, he was a threat to the nation's liberties, for which he appears to have little or no respect.

I liked Utley's word "mentionitis"; the need of a lover to mention his beloved. In my opinion, Blunkett's main beloved is Blunkett. Despite his protests against invasion of his privacy, the examples Tom Utley cites suggest to me that Blunkett's main psychological objective is to be noticed, rather than be ignored as his mediocrity so richly deserves.

Telegraph | Opinion | Putting it kindly, Blunkett is mad


Anonymous said...

Blunkett should have resigned as Home Secretary much earlier, when Beverly Hughes did, over the incompetence shown by the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate over the Romanian and Bulgarian visa scandals revealed by the whistleblowers Steve Moxon and James Cameron.

When the new Terrorism Bill 2005 becomes law, with the weak Opposition concentrating on the controversial 90 days detention without charge, the other provisions of the Bill involving "indirect incitement to terrorism", "terrorist training" or the "catch all" life sentence for "preparation of terrorist acts", which will all go through on the nod,
could make censorship of bloggers, anywhere in the world, even more likley.

Can you recommend any decent web hosting companies in Moscow, which is looking increasingly to be a bastion of democracy and liberty compared with London ?

Deogolwulf said...

Watching them, Watching us, if I might be permitted to quibble with your otherwise commendable comment, I should like to say that a bastion of democracy is not only not necessarily a bastion of liberty, but also it can be strongly argued that democracy is incompatible with the maintenance of liberty. Britain is becoming thoroughly imbued with the democratic ideology, and I strongly suspect that this is why we are seeing a concommitant decline in liberty.

Tom Paine said...

Our democracy has mainly been important to us as a protector of our liberties. The idea that the people can express their will in detail on as many subjects as the British State now controls is ridiculous. To think we can do so by a 5-yearly choice between 3 parties with a large overlap in their policy Venn diagrams is beyond ridiculous.

Historically, we elected a Parliament to STOP the Executive from extending its powers over us. That's what Cromwell's Parliament did, when the King was the Executive. Of course our "chief of men" subsequently spoiled things by abolishing Christmas and generally being an early Blairite!

We have no effective Constitution to limit the powers of the Executive. Parliament - subverted as it has been by party discipline - has ceased to protect us from the Executive. Hence we are in deep trouble.

I don't comment on Russian politics because I am a guest in Moscow and that would be rude. It is a matter for Russian citizens how Russia is governed and, until asked for suggestions, I will behave as a good guest should. Britain, however, is mine - and yours - and Blair, Brown and Blunkett have no more right to dictate her future than any of us.