When Jacqui Smith stepped down as Home Secretary last week she may have expected that the most toxic job in the Cabinet was behind her. But one man has not forgotten her.
Yesterday, the controversial American talkshow host Michael Savage announced he was continuing his personal £100,000 libel case against the former Home Secretary after she placed him on a list of people banned from entering Britain and condemned him on television.
In a letter addressed to Gordon Brown and passed to The Independent, Savage says he is "likely to recover a very substantial award in damages" and demands that the Government "remove forthwith my name from the excluded list of individuals". He has instructed the City law firm Olswang and has urged his eight million listeners to boycott British goods.
For Savage, beloved by American right-wingers for his politically charged rants which have included describing a child with autism as "a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out", this latest salvo against his persona non grata status is part of a media blitz to clear his name in Britain, a place that had barely heard of him until he was unceremoniously banned from entering it. He has hired the former News of the World editor Phil Hall, who specialises in "reputation management" for celebrities.
The spat between Savage and Ms Smith began in May when the Home Office "named and shamed" 16 people who had been banned from entering Britain in the previous six months. Savage, who had not even applied to come to Britain, was placed alongside a string of Islamist preachers, white supremacists, a convicted Arab terrorist and two anti-gay evangelicals.
Speaking on morning television, Ms Smith described Savage as "someone who has fallen into the category of fomenting hatred, of such extreme views and expressing them in such a way that it is actually likely to cause inter-community tension or even violence if that person were allowed into the country."
The San Francisco radio host believes those words were defamatory. He told The Independent: "I have to get my name cleared. She's made me into some sort of enemy of the state, for God's sake. On the same list I was on were a convicted terrorist and two Russian skinhead murderers.
"There is a big difference between acts of violence and words and I have never prompted anyone to commit any sort of act of violence. I would not have been able to continue my career as a radio host if I had."
For the Government, Savage's determination to pursue a libel claim against Ms Smith is a source of embarrassment which could derail the whole point of having a list of banned individuals. It is meant to keep hate preachers out of Britain but libertarians say it is a form of pre-emptive thought policing.Reuse content