House Matters with Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood
WHERE are the limits to free speech?
In the UK, The Sun's 'free press' excuse for publishing nude photos of Prince Harry was widely condemned and we're now congratulating British papers for protecting Kate's modesty. She can use strict French privacy laws which qualify freedom of the press. We're considering similar laws here.
The First Amendment to the American constitution gives more absolute protection to free speech.
So the hate-filled American film which has provoked violence across the Muslim world will doubtless remain legal there. Here it might have broken Labour's law against religious hatred if civil liberties campaigners hadn't won key safeguards.
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Arab moderates are watching the deadly mob attacks with horror, just as they're framing their own constitutions.
Egypt's new Islamist Prime Minister begged "Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims...to reflect the true identity of Muslims, how peaceful they are" but still called on the US to silence the filmmaker.
The freedom to watch or read things we might hate or condemn is a tricky concept even here when it comes to sensitive subjects like royalty and religion, but a wholly new one in countries just emerging from dictatorship.
Highlights of the week: Monday: The Commons debated the bill enabling the Eurozone to set up its colossal new bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. As a non-Eurozone country, we won't sign the ESM Treaty itself (the one that David Cameron supposedly vetoed last November) which will mean less exposure to European debt for Britain than the existing bailout mechanism.
Wednesday: Gloucestershire Libraries were the topic of my ' "adjournment debate" – the traditional way for MPs to air individual concerns. I recounted the threat to Hester's Way Library in Cheltenham (now safe) from the county council's ill-thought-out strategy which was eventually declared illegal in the courts, and encouraged ministers to use supervisory powers.
Gloucester's Tory MP interrupted the debate five times protesting the Conservative administration's innocence and accusing me of party politics.
Are Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries – foclibrary.wordpress.com – just a Lib Dem front? You decide.
Thursday: Joined Cheltenham arts and culture supremo Cllr Rowena Hay on the roof for her 'topping out' of what will next year be the magnificent new lottery-backed Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, with galleries capable of taking major fine art exhibitions.
Apparently the ceremony originally appeased Pagan tree gods for the use of timber in Norse lodgings. Rowena had to appease the gods of concrete instead.