Monday, April 15, 2013

Libel reform: Nick Clegg lets down another group he previously courted

Nick Clegg on libel reform in January 2010:
"Libel tourism is making a mockery of British justice," Mr Clegg will say. In one case, a US academic was successfully sued for £130,000 by a Saudi businessman in an English court, even though the defamatory book sold just 23 copies in Britain over the internet. 
"I am deeply concerned about the stifling effect English libel laws are having on scientific debate," Mr Clegg will say. "Scientists must be allowed to question claims fearlessly – especially those that relate to medical care, environmental damage and public safety – if we are to protect ourselves against poor research, phoney treatments and vested corporate interests."
From the Independent website this evening:
The Government is to block plans to reform Britain’s “chilling” libel laws and to prevent large companies from silencing their critics with the threat of being sued.
The attempt by ministers to water down the Defamation Bill when it returns to the House of Commons tomorrow was condemned by academics, scientists and libel reformers. They warned it would allow big companies to continue to “hound” their critics with the threat of crippling libel fees and cement Britain’s reputation as the defamation capital of the world... 
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said the party would be instructing their MPs to vote with the Government. “Unfortunately we are in a Coalition and this was one of those areas where we could not get our Conservative colleagues to agree with us,” he said.
This pattern seems all too well established. Nick courts an interest group with almost exaggerated language - think students or civil libertarians who oppose secret courts - only to let them down when he gets the chance to do something about it in government.

I do not think people would mind being let down quite so much if Nick had not originally been so good at convincing them of his support for their cause.


David said...

"Unfortunately we are in a Coalition and this was one of those areas where we could not get our Conservative colleagues to agree with us"

Its not in the coalition agreement, so why can't they vote against the Tories? Its just like one of the weak and pointless arguments they wheeled out in defence of the secret court vote.

Really. I despair.

Anonymous said...

Oh well - that was one of the very few good policies I thought the Liberal Democrats actually had. Now Labour is taking advantage and trying to present themselves as defenders of free speech. All three parties are as bad and as corrupt as each other. I do not know why intelligent people belong to or support political parties.