From John O’Sullivan:
Before I saw this morning’s news, I happened to be in the midst of Tom Stoppard’s fine trilogy of plays, The Coast of Utopia, about the different lives of such 19th-century Russian revolutionary intellectuals as Alexander Herzen and Mikhail Bakunin. The third play, Salvage, which begins in the Hampstead home of Herzen (I’m still reading it; its action may yet move to Paris or Geneva), contains the following remark from Herzen to his fellow-exiles about their English hosts:
They invented personal liberty, and they know it, and they did it without having any theories about it. They value liberty because it’s liberty. So when the Republic collapsed, you socialists — (He nods to Blanc.) — and you bourgeois republicans — (He nods to Ledru-Rollin.) — ran straight for the Dover Ferry.
Today, Britain’s three major parties agreed on a shameful compromise to bring the fractious British press under official regulation for the first time since 1771, when John Wilkes — the English equivalent of John Peter Zenger — successfully established the right of newspapers to publish uncensored reporting of parliamentary and public affairs. It is a serious attack on freedom by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, and a cowardly retreat in the face of that attack by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tories.