I have never advised anyone to use the English libel laws. I spent years helping the campaign to reform them, and am proud of the liberalisation I and many, many others helped bring. I have to admit, though, our achievement was modest.
Libel in England remains sinister in intent – the defendant has to prove he or she was telling the truth – and oppressive in practice. Parliament and the asinine Leveson inquiry into the press failed to tackle the horrendous costs, and kept libel as the preserve of the rich and the reckless. You can risk spending £1 million before a case comes to court. Despite reform, libel courts remain the place oligarchs and charlatans go to suppress the truth.
Last night, however, I found myself advising the anti-fascist campaigner Maajid Nawaz to sue in the London courts. I even gave him the names of lawyers who would be happy to help. The attack he is facing is so grotesque, ferocious remedies seem the only response.
Nawaz’s enemy is not the usual user of the libel law: a Putin frontman or multinational. It is an organisation that ought to share Nawaz’s values, but because of the crisis in left-wing values does the dirty work of the misogynists, the racists, the homophobes, the censors, and the murderers it was founded to oppose. It does it with a straight face because, as I am sure you will have guessed, the fascism in question is not white but Islamic. And once that subject is raised all notions of universal human rights, and indeed basic moral and intellectual decency, are drowned in a sea of bad faith.
Nawaz is from Essex. He has fought and been beaten up by white British neo-Nazis. He fell in with Hizb ut-Tahrir while he was young. When he ended up in a torture chamber in an Egyptian jail, he abandoned Islamism for liberalism.