To add to her travails, the Home Secretary is today receiving a claim for £100,000 by the American "extreme" radio host Michael Savage. Jacqui Smith had put him on a list of undesirables and banned him from visiting Britain. It's worth reading her words: "Coming to the UK is a privilege and I refuse to extend that privilege to individuals who abuse our standards and values to undermine our way of life."
Mr Savage (real name Weiner) is a transatlantic version of our own angry columnists whose abuse of Jacqui Smith's standards and values do contrive to undermine her way of life.
"Therefore, I will not hesitate to name and shame those who foster extremist views as I want them to know that they are not welcome here."
I find it hard not to have extreme opinions these days, it's what you get in a time of change. And in a wishy-washy way, I'm not against some restrictions on free speech. There is some comfort to be gained here from the Oxford University regulations in the 14th century that forbade the use of "odious comparisons". That was when England was still in a stage of nation building and the colleges with an ethnic identity were in danger of mini enactments of civil wars. It was political correctness "al goune wood" as Richard de Pettyjohn said at the time.
But if you believe in climate change, you are an extremist. You believe the world is going to suffer a cataclysm and that one or two billion people are going to be forced out of uninhabitable latitudes and driven into new living territories. If you don't believe our border guards will be armed with machine guns it's only because you haven't thought it through. That's extreme. Is it illegal to bring it up? If not, why not? And why haven't we made "climate change denial" a crime?
Extremist views are held by anyone who takes religion seriously. You can't believe in personal redemption and eternal life without being extreme. If you believe in eternal salvation you will do everything you can to persuade your fellows – especially those with children, innocent little children! – to your way of life and snatch them from the jaws of damnation. There are others who feel the same way about teachers who say "between you and I". It's what diversity means.
Back to the libel action. Savage is considered by Jacqui Smith "to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred". He denies the violence, observing that he wouldn't have lasted 15 minutes in radio if that was the case. And it's true that recommending race war gets you into terrible trouble in the States. So, if he can prove his case, the damages will be considerably more than £100,000, and I will be happy to see Jacqui Smith in the can for a hundred grand (even though we'll have to pay it ourselves when she claims it on expenses).
Because this is an area of life we really have to take back from the state. The "values" and "way of life" that the Home Secretary talks about are not things she can define, let alone protect. Let us not forget that abuse (or "invective" as it used to be called), hate speech (or "satire" as was) and fighting talk (or "flyting dialogues") are more deeply in the British psyche and culture than the Government is.
Camilla's cool, but long live the Queen
The more you see of Westminster government, the more you can approve of the Queen as head of state. She is a triumph of personal qualities over the disadvantages of birth. Had she been other than she is, she would have lost her throne and Tony Blair would now be our president.
This is why monarchists should worry about Charles and how he's going to cope. He gives every indication of showing up the limitations of a university education. His opinions about the world are perfectly inoffensive in a private person – as head of state they are worse than a nuisance. They will enrage a country that now spends more recreation time being angry than in gardening. He should give more indication he knows when to belt up.
But there is hope in the person of Camilla. And not just in the smoking and laughing at people's jokes. Admirable qualities both. We now know she shops for bargains on eBay. It's the modern version of "make do and mend", the sort of modest, head-down, hard working, penny-pinching values that got Britain through the war and the monarchy through the 1990s. But it would still be a lot safer for them all if the Queen lives as long as her mother.
Live vitamin-free, guilt-free and die happy
A little health update: don't take an aspirin a day to ward off heart attacks unless you want to increase massively your risk of internal bleeding. High-factor sunscreen protection may be causing you to suffer a vitamin deficiency, leading to depression and suicide. Cigarette smoking is good for you after the age of 60 (if you've survived the fags until then the nicotine helps offset Alzheimer's). In other health news from the future: obesity cures diabetes, exercise is the main cause of premature death in men, and those who eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day die of cancer within five years (unless the effect is offset by cigars).
*You may not have heard the news, but the Scottish songbird from Britain's Got Talent got 808,000 votes and Diversity got 996,000, or so ITV1 says. Those whose faith in our fundamental democratic procedures has been rocked by recent revelations ( Blue Peter, Eurovision, Soapstar Superstar, Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon, Strictly Come Dancing) will believe their candidate was edged out by a conspiracy. When will the matter be referred to the Serious Fraud Office? Justice cries out to be done!
* Women, increasingly, are unhappier than men. A report from the US shows female happiness has been declining "irrespective of age, marital, labour market or fertility status". Why? If I may generalise, women feel guilt more acutely than men, and with the pressures of work, school and personal presentation, there is just so much more to feel guilty about today.Reuse content