Sean Gabb, speaking very carefully to avoid saying things he could be arrested for, tell us:
Without thinking very hard, I can remember how Nick Griffin of the British National Party stood trial for having called Islam “a wicked vicious faith”. I can remember how a drunken student was arrested and fined for telling a policeman that his horse looked “gay”. I can remember how a man was arrested and charged and fined for standing beside the Cenotaph and reading out the names of the British war dead in Iraq. I remember a case from this year where a pacifist unfurled a banner outside an army cadet training base. “Stop training murderers”, it said. His home was promptly raided by police with dogs, while a helicopter hovered overhead.He was arrested and cautioned. If I started mentioning the cases where Christian street preachers have been arrested for quoting the Bible, or where Moslems have set the police on people for alleged words or displays, or if I even alluded to the Public Order Act or the various racial and sexual hate speech laws, this article would swell immensely. It is enough to say that anything said in public is now illegal if someone complains to the police, or if the police themselves take against it. And, when something is not illegal, we are all getting used to the idea – second nature in most other countries – that we should “watch ourselves”. Even I find that, if I discuss politics in a coffee bar, I sometimes drop my voice. A few weeks ago, I found myself looking round to see who might be within earshot.