Free speech and censorship

The danger of being cheery, how we should deal with unruly commentors, and some of the exciting thin

Let me take a few minutes to put the boot into the Cheery Digest. A confirmed miserablist, I'm clearly not the target audience for this sort of thing.

Nor have I any idea who is behind this blog so why not read this and draw your own conclusions...

NEWS: Why we love the Queen ...

There's no two ways about it, our dear old Queen has a twinkle in her eye - apparently she has revealed (we're not sure who to) that whenever she hears Abba's Dancing Queen come on the radio, she "always tries to dance, because I am the Queen and I like to dance".

That's rather charmed us.

Staying on the regal theme, we were also amused to hear Nelson Mandela's reasoning behind simply calling our monarch 'Elizabeth' when they speak on the phone: "Why not? After all, she calls me Nelson."

Possibly the most nauseating outpouring since Violet Elizabeth Bott had a good scream.

Moving on to the knotty issue of commenting, censorship and what lines should be drawn.

This is an increasingly vexed issue on newstatesman.com. First of all, there are some contributors who use this website - and others - to propound a particular world view. Some of the right, some of the left. Others use it as a place to insult people, belittle their intelligence. Somewhere in between the two there are the humourists who are often funny but occasionally cross the line. Most people are interested in the articles and fire off our content and off each other. They manage to disagree without being personal.

Ultimately the decision on when things should be removed falls to me and up until recently the decision to unpublish comments has been taken only because there's been some pretty extreme unpleasantness such as racism or homophobia or something that is likely to cause great offense. That's partly because I don't believe in censorship.

However, we've had to toughen up the stance in recent weeks. In particular we've focused on those who are just tediously rude and who put off other commentors but also on those with views which most right-thinking people will find offensive. We're also being tougher on some of the nastier personal attacks that occur - thankfully rarely - on some of our writers.

By enlarge, I'm grateful that so many people wish to hold intelligent debates about important issues. One good example of debate, I think, was this thoughtful exchange on homosexuality and Christian notions of marriage.

Coming up on newstatesman.com...

Unison boss Dave Prentis writes on why his members would be right to strike over a 2.45 per cent pay offer. As many as 800,000 workers from dinner ladies to binmen are set to walk out next month having rejected the rise.

Look out for criminologist Mary Lynn Young on the severed feet that keep floating into shore in British Columbia.

Heard the one about the obscenity trial judge caught with smutty images on his website? Alex Kozinski, said he wasn't sure whether he or some other family member had intentionally stored the sexually explicit images. Log on to find out more about how he caused a mistrial.

Jonathan Calder ponders the strange link between a cult children's TV show and New Labour. “The Roman Emperors used to keep a slave to whisper “remember thou art mortal” when they got above themselves. Tony Blair would have done well to have an aide close at hand to say “remember you’re a Womble” now and then.”

All this plus our new column on gaming – CultureTech
– and much, much more.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.