Hacked Off: Unwitting support for self-censorship?

There was some controversy last month surrounding free speech group Index on Censorship.  They’ve appointed Steve Coogan as a patron, but he is famously a part of the Hacked Off campaign which supports press regulation policies that Index does not.  Both Nick Cohen in the Spectator and Richard Pendlebury in the Daily Mail have written angry responses to the manoevre.

I’ve heard a couple of people express dismay that Hacked Off are being described in such reports as a “pro-censorship lobby”.  Through my work at English PEN 1, I’ve met three of the people who run the group—Brian Cathcart, Martin Moore, and Dr Evan Harris.  If you have read their countless articles, heard any their speeches, or read their tweets on the issue, I do not think one can seriously suggest that they are in favour of “censorship” as the word is commonly understood.  They are at pains to point out that they do not endorse any kind of pre-publication curbs on the press.

Continue reading

Canaries down the free speech mine

On Tuesday I was quoted in a Belfast Telegraph report on the rise of super-injunctions in Northern Ireland.  Super-injunctions, you will recall, are those special types of gagging-order where the judge not only stops you from reporting certain facts, but also bars you from even telling anyone you’ve been censored.  As a rule of thumb, this tends to be a bad thing. Continue reading

Photo by ElBidule on Flickr

(0,0) featured on Pornokitsch Weekly Fiction

To tie in with the announcement about The Good Shabti, my story (0,0) has been published on the Hugo-nominated Pornokitsch website, in their weekly fiction slot.  The story, you may recall, was originally published in the Crossroads anthology.

The story begins

Hi there, friend. Is this seat taken?

Click over to the Pornokitsch website to read the entire thing.

Announcing… The Good Shabti

Exciting news: Jurassic London have just announced the forthcoming publication of my novella, The Good Shabti. Here’s the beuatiful and incredibly scary cover art by award winning artist Jeffrey Alan Love.

shabti-frontFrom the publisher’s description:

The Good Shabti is a story that spans thousands of years. In the twilight days of Pharoah Mentuhotep, a slave stumbles into the path of imperial ambitions. And in contemporary times, a brilliant scientist and her ruthless companions come close to achieving the impossible: the revivification of an ancient mummy. The two stories weave together in a tale that combines science and myth, anticipation and horror…

I will almost certainly post some commentary and little nuggets of extra information about Pharaoh Mentuhotep IV or the writing process or something, between now and the launch in September.  You know, to create a buzz…

Those who have been really paying attention will recall that Jurassic London published a short story by me a little while ago.  if you wanted to read that story for free, well, if you subscribed to the Pornokitsch Weekly Fiction mailing list, then maybe , just maybe, something to your advantage will materialise in your inbox tomorrow morning.

How British values influence the European Court of Human Rights

In the past few months, I’ve given over a couple of posts to the Labour Party and human rights. See my report of Yvette Cooper’s speech, or Sadiq Khan’s speech, for example. As such, its worth bookmarking a recent Daily Telegraph piece by Khan, on the Human Rights Act, and Britain’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.

The lay-reader may appreciate a quick overview of these human rights mechanisms. First, the European Convention on Human Rights incorporates basic protections into a Europe-wide treaty. The UK government must protect human rights because it has signed a treaty saying it shall do so—the rights have not been ‘imposed’ on us by European bureaucrats. The convention also establishes a court (at Strasbourg) to hear cases of human rights abuses. We in UK and the other signatory states are bound by the rulings of the court because we chose to sign the treaty. Continue reading

If you abdicate, that should be game over for the monarchy

King Juan Carlos is to abdicate. I love this simple poster design, campaigning for a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

BpHmLEwIUAAvdOX

The abdication reminds me of the point I made in last week’s post about MP recalls, where I said:

If the electorate cannot get rid of their representative outside of election time … I think its is only fair that the representatives cannot rid themselves of their electorate either.

I think a similar principle holds for monarchies.  If the hereditary principle means that people cannot choose their head of state, then its inconsistent and wrong for the monarch to be able to choose whether or not they serve as head of state!  If we allow blood-lines to play a part in our constitution then we have to accept whatever gaffe-prone idiot that genetics throws up… and that idiot is stuck with the populous too.

To my mind, a single abication undermines the whole idea of hereditary monarchy.  Any country where that happens should transition to a full democracy with an elected or legislature-appointed head of state (I prefer democracies with a nominal, not executive president but I’m sure there are arguments for and against both models).  I hope that the abdication of the Spanish King triggers a referendum that ends the anacronism.

 

Cite Bite – Filling the online citation gap

One of my bugbears is the widespread failure of website creators to construct their code (well, technically markup) properly. Back in 2005, Creative Review awarded me ‘Star Letter‘ for my critique of the pretty but entirely inaccessible websites that were being held up as the pinnacle of design. “The web is a medium in itself, not a metaphor for print.”

In particular, I am continually dismayed by sites that present long screeds of text without anchor links that allow linking to a specific part of the text. I wrote a WordPress plugin that adds these invisible bookmarks to the underlying markup.

That’s all very well for my site, but what about other sites? You cannot edit someone else’s content to add the links you want. Continue reading

clegg-take-back-parliament

Against recalls

It’s rare that I’m at odds with that über efficient mass progressive campaigning movement, 38 Degrees, but today I am.

Their latest campaign is in favour of an MP ‘recall’ system.

MPs can be sent to prison, can fiddle their expenses or break their promises and we can only get rid of them on election day.

The answer, they say, is a ‘recall’ law by which 10% of the electorate could sign a petition that forces a by-election.

I disagree with this idea for reasons of pragmatism and principle.  First, a recall law could used to hack and disrupt the political system. Continue reading

2010 General Election campaign Apr 15th

In defence of partisan party politics, mendacious politicians and the Westminster bubble

The European and local elections are just one day away and there are plenty of pre-mortems around about the rise of UKIP, the disintegration of the Liberal Democrats and the failure of both the Conservative and Labour parties to build public support.

There are also lots of anti-political sentiments around too. On the Today Programme at the beginning of the week, we heard from some British voters who were lamenting the poor quality of our politicians. They’re duplicitous and lazy, apparently.

What’s lazy is that attitude.
Continue reading