One of our problems with Jeremy Corbyn is that it’s difficult to know whether he actually means what he says. Our own supposition is that he doesn’t understand what he says himself – he doesn’t think through to second and third order consequences. Not a good chess player in other words. So it is with this, which looks like a call for some sort of political censorship of the press:
Jeremy Corbyn has warned the media that “change is coming” if he becomes prime minister as he described disclosures about his meetings with a Communist spy as “lies and smears”.
The Labour leader suggested newspapers including the Telegraph had investigated his links to former Czechoslovakian agent Jan Sarkocy because they are “worried” by the prospect of a Labour government.
But Conservative MPs accused him of wanting to “muzzle” the press, which had investigated “a matter of public interest”.
It’s entirely true that people have been saying nasty things about Corbyn. That he met with Czech intelligence agents (no, that is not the same as intelligent Czech agents) and passed on information, perhaps and maybe of a lightly confidential kind. Our own opinion is that he might well have done under a strict interpretation of such rules. But then under such a strict interpretation we ourselves could well be thought of as beholden to the intelligence agencies of at least three countries, entirely voluntarily and even righteously and legally. We’re also not in the running to be Prime Minister.
But one of the things about being British is that you’ve just got to put up with that. Subject to the laws of libel (and or slander) and the immediate incitement to violence, people get to say pretty much what they want. We even have a large get out clause in those libel laws, “mere vulgar abuse” isn’t and cannot be libel. So this whining about people being nasty, sorry, just have to suck it up Comrade.
The much more worrying part than being UnBritish about it all is that those second and third order effects aren’t being considered. Any system which says we can’t say nasty things about Corbyn will also limit what can be said about anyone else. Even what can be said by Corbyn. For example, a system which insists that only the truth can be said about Jeremy would also state that Jeremy can only say what is true. So, bang goes most of the election rhetoric then.
Unless, and here’s the third order effect, the rules would only apply to and not from. Which runs straight into Kip Esquire’s Law, that those who would be the planners always, but always, assume that they will be the people doing the planning. Would be censors assume that they will be doing the censoring. But that real world out there doesn’t quite work that way, does it?