Writers’ reactions to free expression victory

English PEN have released a press statement quoting several authors’ reactions to the news of the Government’s defeat. Here are a few:

Lisa Appignanesi, English PEN’s Deputy President:

I am thrilled. This is the best result we could have hoped for. It restores my faith in Parliamentary democracy. We have lobbied and written, which is what writers do best. The Opposition has done battle. The Labour dissidents have listened. The Lords have used their very great legislative experience to curb the excesses of the Bill. And Parliamentary democracy has made the Government accept the concerns we all shared. We now have a Bill which rigorously enshrines our freedom of expression in the PEN amendment we had sought.

Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre:

Parliament has reaffirmed its attachment to freedom of expression and has slapped down a Government that has been too ready to sacrifice it. The Government should now rise to the occasion and demonstrate its stated opposition to religious discrimination by repealing the Blasphemy Laws.

Hari Kunzru:

I was very happy to wake up to this news. The Government’s loss is Britain’s gain: a bad law has been made as good as possible due to the hard work of campaigners for freedom of expression. This defeat should be another signal to the Government that in its disregard for civil liberties, it’s losing touch with the mainstream of British opinion.

Hanif Kureishi:

This is an amazing result and a great achievement for writers and intellectuals when they unite.

Philip Pullman:

The Commons vote last night shows how thoughtful argument, skilfully deployed in the service of a good cause, can still beat arrogant short-term political jerry-building. The episode also shows that if we want to guard freedom of expression, we can’t relax our vigilance for a minute. Those who think such freedom is a soft luxury, and well worth giving up in order to curry favour with whatever group has the votes they want, will come back another day and from another direction in order to destroy it; those of us who know it’s a hard necessity must be ready for them.

Salman Rushdie:

There are moments when one is profoundly grateful for, and proud of, British Parliamentary democracy. This is one of them.

6 Responses to “Writers’ reactions to free expression victory”

  1. Craig says:

    YAY! i feel all warm and fuzzy.

  2. Shaun Hollingworth says:

    To little, too late, though I am glad of it.
    Now they should take a good look at ALL laws which restrict freedom of expression, keep only those which are absolutely necessary and comply with the Human Rights Act.

  3. Steve says:

    How foolish of the writers to think it was down to the good judgement of MP’s. Stephen Green kows it was his prayers and God that stopped the bill.


  4. Alberto Enriquez says:

    Thanks to all involved in upholding freedom! Are we going to walk away from a 2,500-year history of free-thinking dating at least to inspired religious satire of Aristophanes? Hell no!

    Of course, freedom of expression is FUNDAMENTALLY the right to offend! Speech acceptable to all – if such a puerile thing even exists – would require no such protection. Religion in particular demands critical inquiry as it is so often abused by despots to deny others life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    I was not aware of Britain’s blasphemy law, but it is, on its face, an attempt to compel the conscience of the individual. I hope the British people will rise up and demand that Parliament repeal it and uphold freedom of expression. Thanks again to all who helped put the kibosh on this latest example of political correctness run amuck!

  5. marc says:

    Yeah. That (3) was fairly predicatable. In fact, I was among those that predicted it. Harmless of him to claim a victory: when it’s clear to the vast majority that he’s a dickhead.

  6. John Dean says:

    Shaun Hollingworth says: “Now they should take a good look at ALL laws which restrict freedom of expression, keep only those which are absolutely necessary and comply with the Human Rights Act.”

    Wrong, Shaun. The last thing we should be doing is complying with the Human Rights Act – we should be abolishing it. Why should a bunch of unelected judges be free to interpret a vaguely-worded stature in whatever way they see fit? The wq

    Of course we should get rid of patronising laws (like the Race Relations Act and the Blasphemy Act) that restrict our ability to debate issues. And getting rid of the HRA at the same time will prevent judges second guessing us.