All posts by petermullen

24 Jan

The privileged elite and the freedom of the press

I’m not starry-eyed about the British newspapers. How could I be when I’ve read them and written for them all my working life? If ever I harboured any illusions, these were quickly dispelled back in the late 1980s when I was lucky enough to land myself a proper job in Fleet Street. Sir David English gave me a freelance contract on the Daily Mail to write op-ed pieces, travel articles and book reviews. And it really was Fleet Street in those days: the Daily Mail building was two minutes’ walk from St Bride’s, the wedding cake church so named after its unusual tower. I had a grand old time. I joined Scribes’ journalists’ drinking club and spent hours in The Cheshire Cheese,once a favourite watering-hole of Dr Johnson,  where I talked Old Leeds with Keith Waterhouse and cricket with Ian Wooldridge. I interviewed Daniel Barenboim in Munich and John Arlott in Alderney and I had dinner with Anthony Burgess and his wife in the West End. The first feature I was asked to write was about the Lockerbie disaster.

I learned all – well, at least some – of the tricks of the trade. I saw the glamour and the dark side. There was that scintillated feeling when you got the centre pages spread – though I managed that only once in three years. I saw corners cut and I saw dirty tricks, brilliant inventiveness and quite astonishing stupidity and ignorance. For example, I had to work with a particular editor who was so conscious of her status that, on the occasions she took me out to lunch, she would book a limo to take us a hundred yards round the corner. And here’s what I mean by ignorance. It was my job to suggest topics for stories and one day in 1990, the fiftieth anniversary of Dunkirk, I phoned another editor and said, “I’d like to go to the beaches at Dunkirk and interview British and German veterans of the battle.” The editor replied: “Great idea Pete…” (I hate being called Pete) “…Just refresh my memory – what was Dunkirk?”

Old hacks like me have no illusions when it comes to the world of newspapers. The papers are capable of all manner of skulduggery from phone-tapping to making up stories. But for all its faults – and they are myriad – we need the press. If it hadn’t been for the newspapers’ nagging perseverance, we would have never got the truth about the first Iraq war. And the MPs’ massive expenses fraud would have gone uncovered. And this morning there is news of another initiative that makes me proud to have been involved at close quarters with the national press.  

The UK’s two biggest selling newspapers have threatened legal action unless the reasons for the decision to free sex attacker John Worboys are revealed.

The Sun and the Daily Mail have jointly written to the Parole Board and the Justice Secretary to say that unless the reasons behind the decision to recommend the rapist’s release from prison are published within seven days, the papers’ lawyers will apply for a full judicial review to have that decision overturned.

Their letter says the report is a “matter of profound public interest” and keeping it secret is a breach of open justice.

Black cab driver Worboys was jailed indefinitely in 2009 for drugging and sexually assaulting women passengers. Although convicted of “only” nineteen offences relating to twelve victims, he is suspected to have committed more than a hundred sexual assaults. And now a new allegation of historical sexual assault has been made against the 60-year-old Worboys.

The incident, which was reported to the police earlier this month, is reported to have taken place in 1997. The controversial Parole Board decision to approve his release later this month, following his minimum eight-year term, has led to a moral outcry – with lawyers for his victims describing the move as “extremely distressing.”

And distressing it is. Many would say that to release Worboys ever would be a scandalous breach of natural justice. How could the Parole Board come to the decision that a man proven to be guilty of all those violent crimes should be set free, with the possibility of his re-offending?

I’ll tell you why: because the sorts of people who operate the Parole Board – like the sorts of people who get appointed to the Supreme Court or those members of the House of Lords who, only a fortnight ago, voted further to restrict press freedom – are not as other men. They don’t think and act as we think and act. They are a privileged elite and they consider themselves to be in possession of finer moral sentiments than we ordinary mortals.

Shockingly, you and I can do nothing to oblige these tribunes of the people who are really the enemies of the people to come to their senses and change their minds and their policies.

But the newspapers can. And that’s why newspapers – warts and all – should be celebrated. Let’s hear it then for that secular sacrament, the freedom of the press.  

16 Jan

Has David Bentley-Hart gone off his rocker?

David Bentley-Hart is a man I admired greatly for his book “God” – a quite outstanding essay in philosophical theology.

But he’s gone right off the rails in his new project to offer us a “subversively literal” translation of the Greek New Testament. No honest translator sets out a priori to produce a subversive version – or an orthodox, conservative version if it comes to that – but to produce the best translation he can

A few points then

First it is an astonishing claim to suggest that all previous translators of the New Testament got it wrong! What the immaculate Tyndale? The scholars, including Lancelot Andrewes, who produced the King James Version? The superb mostly American linguists who gave us The Revised Standard Version? All duds and just waiting for David to come along and put them right?

Besides, the interpretation of Paul which David says is plain wrong happens to be substantially the same interpretation as that held by Augustine, Luther, Karl Barth, Newman and Joseph Ratzinger. Were they all wrong too?

A few details…

Paul does not say we are born “damnedly guilty” He says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Original Sin is our self-corruption of our own will: “The thing I would, that I do not; and what I would not, that I do.” That’s Paul’s definition of Original Sin in words of one syllable

No – we are not saved by our good deeds but good deeds in those who are saved through faith in Christ are pleasant to God, and they are performed by the grace of Christ. As Paul says, “Not I but Christ within me.” But good deeds cannot save us. As Blake said, “If moral virtue was Christianity, Christ’s pretensions were all vanity.” If good deeds save us, why the need for Christ’s sacrifice?

In St Paul, but also in the synoptic gospels and in The Book of Revelation, we find the teaching of everlasting hell. Though, as Aquinas said, “There certainly is a hell. But don’t worry, there’s probably no one in it!”

“For Paul, pistis means…” Oh dear! What does this perfectly simple Greek word mean for the rest of us? It’s from Plato  – cf “epistemology” – and it is, at least to start with, an intellectual commitment. Repentance “metanoia” – much favoured by Paul – is also an intellectual act: it means “change or renew tour mind, your way of thinking.” Repentance and faith go together in Paul – as they do in John the Baptist and in the three short epistles of John: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” And so on. This theology pervades the New Testament. Hardly surprising since it IS the gospel!

Paul chooses different themes in one epistle from those he chooses to expound in another: Colossians is full of the doctrine of the Cosmic Christ (which David touches on); but that’s not the teaching we find in Romans. Philippians is largely about a different theme altogether: Christ’s pre-existence and self-emptying (Kenosis) – see especially chapter 2

It is facile to suggest that Paul is some sort of Manichee – spirit good; flesh bad. If so, why does he tell us that we shall be given “a spiritual body” – soma-pneumatikon? Why is he such a strong preacher of Christ’s Incarnation?

I’m disappointed to find David offering us sensation, a mere squib, when he is capable of writing the real thing

But then people do get tempted and corrupted – even theologians – as, of course,  St Paul says!

05 Jan

It’s not the economy, stupid!

The heart is always gladdened when someone in authority makes a definite and determined statement. So congratulations are in order for Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, who stated in his election manifesto of 2016:

“I shall challenge gang culture and knife crime head on.”

Well said, Sir! So how’s he doing at the end of his first year in office?

Homicides in London rose by 27.1%. Youth homicides increased by 70%. Serious youth violence is up 19%. Robbery up 33.4%, while home burglaries rose by 18.7%.

That’s a remarkable increase in serious offences of all sorts. But there’s more…

Thefts increased by over 10,000 incidents in a year, up 33.9%, Alarmingly, there were more than 4000 additional knife crime incidents, a rise of 31.3%.

Rape in the capital rose by 18.3% and there were 2,551 incidents of gun crime, a rise of 16.3% on the previous year.

Meanwhile, we have seen new and ingenious forms of sociopathic behaviour, such as the epidemic of acid attacks.

First the mayoral authorities crack down on the possession of firearms: then incidents of gun crime increase to surpass those in New York.

Secondly, these same authorities “challenge knife crime head on”: then we get those 4000 “additional knife crime incidents.”

Can we expect a ban on sales of Domestos end to the terror of acid attacks?

Mr Khan continuously blames central government’s “police cuts” for this shocking increase. Is he right? There has been a small reduction in the number of police officers but there are still 30,379 of them in the Metropolitan Police. The Met has an annual budget of £2billion and £240million of reserves.

The mayor says it’s all a result of central government’s economic policies as people are impoverished and deprived of adequate social infrastructure by the Tories in Westminster. But London is booming and there are more people in employment than ever.

So instead of subscribing to the prevailing Marxist explanation that increases in criminal behaviour – and just about everything else, actually – are the result of immutable economic forces, let’s try looking somewhere else to find answers. If economic depression leads inexorably to an increase in crime, why is it that – as Christie Davies pointed out in his book The Strange Death of Moral Britain – “Crime persistently decreased in the long economic depression at the end of the 19th century and crime has increased terrifically during the long period of economic expansion since the Second World War. The only people who believe the opposite to be the case are sociologists and left wing politicians.”

Oh, and Mr Khan of course.  

For him and for all those sociologists and lefties, I have a question: “What if virtue and vice, law-abidingness and criminal behaviour are not mere functions of economic forces, as Karl Marx vainly believed, but have actually to do with the individual freedom which makes possible personal and public morality?

03 Jan

The new Iranian revolution

I just write this blog and I have no part in compiling the speeches of Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump. But the other day I suggested: “No doubt the Israelis and the Americans are making all efforts to encourage the Iranians who have seen the possibility of a change for the better.”

Then Mr Netanyahu said: When this regime, the Iranian government, finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again.”

And Mr Trump declared: “The people of Iran are finally reacting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their own pockets.”

I am encouraged by the comments of these leaders to notice that, in their support for the Iranian uprising against the mullahs, at least some western leaders are backing the right side this time. That is not what the west did in its foolish enthusiasm for the so called “Arab Spring” that began with the Tunisian revolution on 17th December 2010.

The Tunisian Revolution effect spread strongly to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, where either the political establishments were toppled or major uprisings and social violence occurred, leading to insurgencies and in Syria civil war. Sustained street demonstrations took place in Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Iranian Khuzestan, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Sudan. Minor protests occurred in Djibouti, Mauritania, the Palestinian National Authority, Saudi Arabia, and the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara. A prominent slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world was ash-shaʻb yurīd isqāṭ an-niẓām – “the people want to bring down the regime.”

In Egypt “the people” – or rather the Muslim Brotherhood – did succeed in bringing down the government and President Mubarak was deposed. Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization and not composed of bright-eyed teenagers on their mobile phones and avid for “democracy” – as neocons in the west firmly believed. And so the fatuous hopes of western politicians were dashed. These starry-eyed political enthusiasts in the west reminded me of William Wordsworth’s words when the French revolution broke out in 1789: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, and to be young was very heaven.” Willie soon changed his tune when the Reign of Terror got going, Madame Guillotine toured the country and Englishmen abed feared that the revolution would catch on over here too.

The French got Napoleon, Egypt got Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Syria got a genocidal war which is hardly finished eight years later, and the world got the fundamentalist psychopaths of Islamic State.

Why did the west for so long and so consistently back the wrong side? For decades – for centuries, dammit – it was obvious that the real danger to western civilization was the same as it has been for 1400 years: a militant Islamic insurgency. 9/11 should have removed finally any doubts that remained. This insurgency was first rebuffed by Charles Martel at Tours in AD 732, later at Lepanto and then with the relief of the Siege of Vienna, 1683. How come we didn’t notice?

Long ago, Amos confessed, “I am no prophet, but a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit” (Amos 7:14). I am not even a herdsman, or even a half-competent gardener, but I saw what was going on and warned of it in my lecture Apocalypse Soon? which I gave in St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in 2003 and, a little later, in the introduction to my book The Secular Terrorist.

02 Jan

How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm?

“Do you need to be told that what has been can still be?” asked T.S. Eliot in his Choruses from the Rock (1934).

It seems a daft question which we answer emphatically, “Of course it can!” Not if you’re a Marxist though, for whom historical events are “inevitable.” So the communist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the punishment of the capitalists will all happen necessarily, as if decreed by the laws of the Medes and the Persians.

There, I’ve gone and done it and mentioned the Persians and so the mind turns to thoughts of Iran. Could it be that Iran is about to present us with one of those historical surprises which Karl Marx said do not and indeed cannot happen? And, if so, might this happening be a bit of good news – perhaps even a lot of good news – for a change?

For six days, Iranians have been protesting in the streets of towns and cities right across the country and so far at least twenty-one people have been killed in these disturbances. It’s hardly surprising that the population is discontented and unhappy. The cost of living has more than doubled in a decade. Unemployment stands at 12.6% and, crucially, 29.2% among young people. The average wage is about £60 per week and the minimum wage £4 per week.

Censorship of the press is ubiquitous and strictly enforced in Iran – one of the worst countries in the world to practise as a journalist. The Ministry of Islamic Guidance decrees what music the people are allowed to listen to and which plays and other entertainments they can enjoy. Discos and nightclubs are illegal and when their location is discovered by the religious police, they are closed down. Women are jailed for campaigning for the ordinary liberties which are taken for granted in the West.

It didn’t use to be so thoroughly oppressive. In the days of the Shah, before the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iranians enjoyed a lively and varied cultural existence. The government spent lavishly on the arts. There was music and dancing with wine and beer in the cafes.

Then arose the puritanical totalitarian Ayatollah Khomenei to breathe Islamic fundamentalism. And the land grew grey from his breath.

After 1979, everything looked set and fixed, as nicely and as inevitably as any Marxist could wish for. But, just as 16th century Europe was revolutionised by the invention of the printing press, so today’s world has been radically transformed by the Internet and social media. Of course, the mullahs in that Ministry of Islamic Guidance try to control this new media.

But they can’t. And a new question arises in succession that the one asked by T.S. Eliot. And the new question is the one asked in the (probably banned) popular song: “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm now that they’ve seen Paree?” Thanks to the new media, the Iranians – particularly the 70% under thirty – have glimpsed something like Paree and they will not go back into the shadows of sharia.

So, as we see, nothing is inevitable – not even the triumph of Islamic fundamentalism.

No doubt the Israelis and the Americans are making all efforts to encourage the Iranians who have seen the possibility of a change for the better.

I do hope that our man in the foreign office, Boris Johnson, will lend all his weight to this cause.

01 Jan

Does Welby have a wireless?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has delivered his New Year’s message to the nation in which he praises the responses of what he calls “communities” to last year’s terrorist atrocities and to the Grenfell fire. Actually, “communities” is not a helpful word, Mr Welby if your aim is to promote social cohesion. There is one community and we are all part of it, whereas “communities” connotes ghettos – that failed multicultural experiment which encouraged the separate development of the different races and creeds. Most of the immigrants who have settled in Britain over the centuries have integrated into the general population – into the community, in fact. Only in recent years there has arisen an exception: Muslims who so dislike our British community that they segregate themselves in a form of apartheid. How inconsistent and odd of lefties such as Welby to have condemned apartheid when it took place in South Africa, but to applaud it here in their use of that divisive word “communities.” What we have in Tower Hamlets, Dewsbury, Walsall, Oldham and a score other of our cities and towns is not Muslim “communities,” Mr Welby but Muslim ghettos.

In his message, which was broadcast on the BBC, the Archbishop said he also wanted to highlight the suffering of people “struggling to find work or relying on food banks” and “those who are bereaved or coping with poor mental health or physical illness.”

He added: “Their suffering will never make the news.”

Really? Does Welby live anywhere near a television set or a wireless? Does he ever read a newspaper? If he did, he would discover that, far from “never making the news,” the topics of unemployment, food banks – many organised by the Church of which Welby is titular leader – and mental health are never out of the news. These subjects are of great public concern and so it’s right that they should feature prominently in the news.

It is entirely right that the Archbishop should express his thanks to the emergency services for their courageous presence during terrorist attacks and at terrible public disasters such as Grenfell. Likewise, his concern for the poor and the sick is something required of him by the faith which he professes. I just wish he would profess the Christian faith rather more than he does. Christian morality is derived from Christian doctrine. And the most fundamental Christian doctrine is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but we can take comfort and hope from the fact that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins. So, if we repent and turn to Christ, we shall be saved,

Not a word about this from Welby. As if a chemist were to talk about chemistry while avoiding all reference to chemicals, or England’s opening batsman should walk out to bat – only without his bat.

Surely, the turn of the year is the time for looking back and repenting of our sins, negligences and ignorances and for looking forward in hope and confidence in the saving work of Jesus Christ?

The social gospel is a very fine thing. But the social gospel without the gospel is just sentimental socialism. 

24 Dec

She’s only an advert

In the prevailing cloud of evasions, half-truths and downright lies and the vague mass of imprecision, one now and again stumbles across a paragraph which is utterly without meaning. I found such a paragraph this morning in Theresa May’s Christmas message to the nation:

“As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us celebrate all those selfless acts – and countless others – that epitomise the values we share: Christian values of love, service and compassion that are lived out every day in our country by people of all faiths and none.”

Where to start in the search for a hint of meaning?

Let us begin with her second word, “We.” Who are this “we”? She answers, the “we” who “celebrate the birth of Christ.” But as we read on, we find “we” are also those “people of all faiths and none.”

But people of all faiths and none don’t celebrate the birth of Christ.

O come on, Mullen! Why are you forever gnawing at the heels of this unfortunate woman? At least give her credit for speaking to us at Christmas about “Christian values.”

But in her vacuity-spk it turns out that these values are shared by that reliable crowd of “people of all faiths and none.”

So what is Christian about these values?

Does it really matter? Isn’t it a well-known fact that most of what politicians say is mere waffle – stuff that we shouldn’t take seriously?

It matters because words – in which are framed his judgements and by which he makes his promises – are the politician’s stock-in-trade, his wares. And, as with any other sorts of wares – toys or tablecloths – we don’t like being passed off with shoddy.

Soren Kierkegaard offers us a nice image: “If in Copenhagen you see a sign in a shop window, SUITS PRESSED HERE, don’t take your suit in to be pressed. It is only the sign that is for sale.”

The precise word for this is fraud, false pretences.

May is the epitome of the political fraudster  

16 Dec

Musical Treacle

I don’t know why I put myself through it. Why do I never learn? I suppose it must be some fugitive spirit of optimism in me which makes me persist when, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, I ought to “chuck it.”

I was at it again last evening. I switched on Radio Three’s teatime music programme. No music – only “studio guests” and “celebs” gushing more soft soap at one another than you could find in Widow Twanky’s laundry. That was my first mistake. The second was even more irretrievable: I switched over to Classic FM where they played one after another late Romantic rhapsodies of such treacliness that they reminded me of one critic’s comment on Tosca as “…the opera in which Puccini’s music achieves its final putrescence.” I was listening to the programme on television and throughout the screen bore a legend which purported to describe for me what I was listening to:

“Sublime, relaxing music to ease the stresses and strains of the day.”

Obviously, I had been mistaken. I had switched on in the hope of hearing some music, but what we were being offered was a short course in psychotherapy. And it was offensive in the extreme.

The word “sublime” does not indicate a palliative nor is it “relaxing.” Edmund Burke in his Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) writes:

“The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other.”

Examples of the sublime would include Jacob’s exclamation, “How dreadful is this place!” (Genesis 28:17) and God’s words to Moses at the burning bush, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

Think of The Tempest and “Be not affeared, the isle is full of noises” Or, “What are the roots that clutch? What branches grow out of this stony rubbish?”

Think Bach and the Sanctus from the Mass in B-minor. Or the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony when the chord of C-major finally emerges, blazing out of all that jumble. (He gets it from the Bible and Haydn: “Let there be light!”)

One man asks for bread and is given a stone.

When we switch on a music programme we hope for inspiration, to be exhilarated and, from time to time, overawed. Instead Classic FM gives us a box of sickly bon-bons.

Thank God for CDs and YouTube

15 Dec

“Youthquake” word of the year

At least we can still enjoy a laugh on our way from the madhouse to destitution.

The publishers Oxford Dictionaries have just declared “youthquake” the word of the year. Oxford Dictionaries’ executive is Mr Casper Grathwohl. (Oh for heaven’s sake stop giggling at the back there and pay attention!)  Mr Grathwohl said the word was “not an obvious choice.” But, he explained, The use of “youthquake” in everyday speech had increased five-fold during 2017.

He added – in a sentence which reveals that the boss of a firm which publishes dictionaries has only a passing acquaintance with the English language – “In the UK, where it rose to prominence as a descriptor of the impact of the country’s young people on its general election, calls it out as a word on the move”

Come again? Clearly Grathwohl served a long apprenticeship in the Academy of Gobbledegook and Gibberish

Apparently, the use of “youthquake” in Britain peaked during the June general election, after polls delivered a better-than-expected result for the Labour party.

Oxford Dictionaries said the word “sounded a note of hope after a difficult and divisive year.”

Really? be careful what you hope for, Mr Grathwohl, or you just might get it. First he tells us that the popularity of “youthquake” was owing to Mr Corbyn’s having done much better than expected in the General Election. And then he informs us that this was “a note of hope.”

I told you we are on our way from the madhouse to destitution. Where else but the madhouse is the place for anyone who votes for Jeremy Corbyn and his Trotskyist gang which now fills the space once occupied by the Labour party?

The destitution will be along in a little while. once Jeremy is in Number Ten with Chancellor John McDonnell running – ie ruining – the economy according to Marxist principles and that high priestess of multiculturalism Diane Abbott as Home Secretary and Chaplain to All Minorities. McDonnell told us last week that, in the first months of Corbyn’s government, he will set up a national investment bank, funded by exorbitant levels of taxation and borrowing at ten times what we have now. Then – using our  money – McDonnell will instigate a nationalisation programme beside which the wasteful socialist spree of 1945-1951 will look like the very model of prudence.

The trade unions will run the country and they will pay their supporters – and themselves, of course – fantastical wages. There is to be a five year plan – just like the ones invented by Uncle Joe Stalin to impoverish the USSR. Hyperinflation will quickly follow and the days will not be far off when we shall be looking in dustbins for our lunch, just as they do in the Venezuela which Jeremy Corbyn so much admires.

Well now, the Corbyn Destitution Programme has been given this wonderful kick-start by good old Casper Grathwohl.

Clearly, Casper would be the obvious choice as Corbyn’s Minister of Propaganda.

PS I noted earlier that Head of Dictionaries Mr Grathwohl has merely a passing acquaintance with the English language. This acquaintance is even more passing than I first thought. For he says he chose “youthquake” because it conveys “a sense of optimism.”

Nope. “Youthquake” indicates about as much good news for the youth as “earthquake” does for the earth.   

14 Dec

A new Puritan Commonwealth?

We have complete freedom of speech in this country. It’s just that we’re not allowed to say anything. Our politicians are forever boasting of our freedoms and telling us what a wonderful country we are privileged to live in – unlike Johnny Foreigner in any number of dictatorial regimes abroad.

But this week the government has threatened – not for the first time – to invoke Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

What’s that when it’s out?

Just about the most unjust and iniquitous piece of legislation you could imagine in the worst of your Orwellian nightmares. Section 40 will force newspapers to pay the legal costs of those who sue them – even when a newspaper wins the court case against its accuser.

This is beyond outrageous.

Consider this comparison: my neighbour is building a low wall between our properties and I don’t like it. He assures me that the wall will do nothing to obscure my view or reduce the amount of sunshine I enjoy in my garden. His proposed wall, he says, is less than a foot tall and merely ornamental. But I am renowned for being obstreperous and uncooperative and I tell my neighbour I still don’t like his wall and I’m going to sue him.

The case comes before the court which rules that there is nothing offensive or intrusive about my neighbour’s wall and that I am just being unreasonable. My action is thrown out.

If Section 40 were to be applied in this case, my neighbour – who has been adjudged to be in the right – could be forced to pay my legal costs.

In other words, Section 40 is a charter for mischievous litigants. It will permit any crank out to make a fast buck to sue any newspaper about anything, secure in the knowledge that, win or lose, his costs will be paid by the paper.

It’s easy to see where this will lead in pretty quick time: newspapers will be bankrupted and titles will close down.

Who could possibly have dreamed up a process so manifestly unethical? Answer: the commissars in Lord Leveson’s Press Recognition Panel.

The government – any government – will rejoice to see newspapers shut down – because it will mean they are no longer held to account. If Leveson’s recommendations had been in operation at the time of the MPs’ expenses scandal, there would have been no expenses scandal because there would have been no free press to investigate and report it.

A free press is the first requirement of a free society and every totalitarian dictatorship from Maduro’s Venezuela to Putin’s klepto-fascist regime in Russia seeks to curtail and even abolish press freedom.

Even the Puritan John Milton, who was employed by Oliver Cromwell as his censor, fervently defended press freedom in his Areopagitica  saying: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

Section 40 would impose upon us a restrictiveness and repression worse than that of the Puritan Commonwealth of 1649-1660