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Murder of free speech; Move to ban a made-up Thatcher story is dark day for democracy.

Byline: NigelNelson

MANY years ago I wrote a spectacularly unsuccessful novel about a spectacularly unsuccessful plot to kill Margaret Thatcher.

Sales were so dismal that second-hand copies are now classified as rare books and sell for twice the original price.

I thought a story about an attempt to shoot the Iron Lady while still PM was controversial enough to make it a surefire winner. But no one batted an eyelid.

Yet when the spectacularly successful Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel murders Thatcher in a new story there is talk of reporting her to the rozzers. I'd have killed for publicity like that.

Thatcher's old mate Lord (Tim) Bell caused a ding-dong by demanding police investigate and Tory MPs Nadine Dorries and Stewart Jackson joined the condemnation. Since the only crime Mantel committed was in her imagination I assume the Conservative peer is proposing a new squad of thought police.

And writers' association English PEN put Bell through the wringer for attacking freedom of expression.

That freedom comes in many forms.

Models exercise it when they sign up for glamour shots - yet Labour's Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper would ban Page Three girls.

The other day Keira Knightley posed topless and feminists howled that it was demeaning to women.

I know I'll be branded a sexist pig for this, but I don't get their logic.

Keira also has the right to express herself freely and if baring her breasts is how she chooses to do it then arguably the only woman demeaned by that is her.

One actress whipping off her blouse cannot humiliate an entire gender any more than I could belittle all men by running naked through Westminster.

But free speech carries with it the responsibility to exercise restraint when necessary.

We do not name British hostages held by Islamic State because that would put them in more danger.

And now that Britain is at war with the fanatics, we would not publish information that might help our enemies. The imaginary killing of Margaret Thatcher does not fall into that category, not least because she's already dead.

But it's really serious when freedom of expression puts those still alive at risk.

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Title Annotation:Editorial; Opinion Columns
Publication:The People (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 28, 2014
Words:362
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