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Free Speech Must Be Just That

There are many positives to Nadine Dorries. For one, she had a career in the real world before entering politics, having founded Company Kids Ltd, a child day-care service for working parents. Dorries eventually sold the business to Bupa, the private healthcare company, in 1998, and it was then that she set her sights on politics, and became an MP in 2005.

An unwavering devotion to Boris Johnson, coupled with a determined, individual nature, has seen her climb the ranks, culminating in a ministerial promotion in mid-September, one of the results of a particularly brutal cull at what was once known as the Ministry of Fun.

However, the new force at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has her own ideas of what is fun. The first introduction sounded promising. “This Government said it would legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while enshrining free speech, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.”

But it’s only in the wake of the Jimmy Carr furore that her true thoughts have emerged. His Dark Material show begins with a trigger warning, telling the audience "tonight's show contains jokes about terrible things", explaining that "these are just jokes, not the terrible things", then continues an hour-long routine that includes subjects such as paedophiles, ugly women, rape, disability and veganism.

While his fans clearly adore his near-the-knuckle humour, many would find these jokes offensive. To those people, I’d say don’t watch him. Personally, I don’t like him, never have, I find some of his material abhorent, so I don’t watch him. But he doesn’t harm me, so I have no issue with him.

Nadine Dorries called it "abhorrent" and said new legislation would ensure companies like Netflix would be held to account. Will she also want to throw Jimmy Carr in the Tower or some such prison, in the same way as she has threatened Facebook’s owners?

She said Big Tech bosses could ‘absolutely’ be held responsible for failing to remove harmful online content, leaving Mark Zuckerberg and everyone’s favourite ex-politician, Nick Clegg, liable for prison. I’d love to watch the extradition proceedings on that one!

The lesson Ms Dorries needs to learn is that free speech is not free if it has to be approved by government first. Not for the first time, this strong-willed politician is loving the limelight, but her bill needs to have the attention not her. She’s not a celebrity, get her out of here.

Martin Day – Party Secretary

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