The new year has barely begun and the Electoral Commission is already flexing its new Government-given muscles, warning website creator Andy Moore that if he doesn't heed their warning over his attack website Don't Vote Labour that "he is not complying" with provisions of the Electoral Finance Act, then trouble will be a-coming his way.
Moore correctly says that the Commission's demand that he include his name and address on the site "is a breach of freedom of speech," and at this stage he has no plans to knuckle under. Good on him, I say.
But there are others who are less supportive of free speech. Martin Bradbury for instance, who says "you want to be an attack dog for the right, you gotta be registered" -- which to translate from oaf-ese means "Register with the government in order to criticise the Government." Brilliant! Or: "Disagree with me, and I will defend to to the death the necessity for you to be muzzled." With 'allies' like that, free speech hardly needs enemies.
Perhaps protagonists here should be reminded again of some of life's verities. That, as Salman Rushdie points out, without the freedom to offend, then freedom of expression ceases to exist. And those still left defending the Electoral Finance Act might like to be reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said that "it is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."
Free speech is a precious and delicate flower. As Saudi blogger Fouad al-Fahran has discovered in being arrested for violating Shari'ah laws on free speech (“everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah”) it is a flower all too easily pruned.