Whilst sipping on a pint of Courage’s Best Bitter in the Knights Templar I discovered that the man sitting next to me was the person who wrote up the amendment in the Lords that, as of two days ago, changed the very nature of free speech in the UK. It was quite the insight into UK politics and rather emphasised the difference between history-as-what-happened and history-as-what-is-reported. The story of the anti-religious slurring leglislation will be relayed as the fault of a certain whip and the fact that Tony Blair did not vote. Some mention will be made that the Lib Dems actually voted in a bloc and certain commentators might reference Rowan Atkinson as a major force.
Virtually no one, however, will mention the envelope or the Lord who so consistently bucked the system. Yet those two facts are the important ones. None of the primary actors in this drama ever thought that the amendment would become law, especially as what they essentially did was change something from indefensible to defensible; it was really more a measure intended to so divide the Parliament that the whole debate could start over again. That it passed is a glorious thing; of that I have no doubt (although, as my source admitted, there is a very real problem now for the treatment of people’s with alternative sexualities as it isn’t clear that you can abuse such sexualities without abusing the person themself).
I’m not a libertarian. I’m not even a liberal, truth be told, although I’d like to be. Like a lot of left-wing academics I can see that in a fully mature society that libertarianism (once excised of the Randian connotations that it seems steeped in) is the political ideal. But, as even a lot of people on the Right will admit, human society has yet to leave the terrible twos in respect to maturity so we can expect government interference in our lives for quite some time more. Yet the new bill excites me; once it gets Royal Ascent it will now be defensible to say ‘I was only being abusive, not threatening’ when you critique religious practices you find distasteful. This is a very fine distinction and the problem with fine distinctions is that not many people can make them. If the British can make this dictinction work then, maybe, we might reach the tiresome threes in a few years. Maturity might well be in the reach of cour children’s children’s children.
Which is exciting in its own right.