Saturday, 6 November 2010

Deter those who tell lies

Whenever I hear anyone talking about what they are going to do immediately after a press conference has finished, I always think that they have decided that the press conference is more important than the thing they really want to do. Phil Woolas announced that he would be taking his legal case further immediately after he had spoken to the press. You can also say anything you like about something that you are going to do - and then change your mind.

The judge said that Mr Woolas had made statements that he knew to be untrue. Mr Woolas' defence was not "oh no I didn't". That is what I would say if I were in his position and I were innocent. In fact the words in his defence were more general and concerned the ability of politicians to say what they wish to say.

Specifically Mr Woolas said "it is vital to our democracy that those who make statements about the political character and conduct of election candidates are not deterred from speaking freely for fear that they may be found in breach of election laws."

Well I'm afraid he is wrong and the error is simple. Those vital statements have to be true. What is vital is that we speak freely as long as we aren't in breach of election law. More than that, we should only be saying things that we believe to be truth regardless of any law.

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