Rod Liddle, former editor of the Today programme, has thrown his weight behind a campaign to reform a controversial law which criminalises ‘insults’.
Mr Liddle said he cannot find anyone who does not want the word “insulting” removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
He warned that “under its present wording” the law has “been used in a number of fantastically ludicrous cases”.
Mr Liddle’s comments came in an article in Spectator magazine, and echoed his speech to a parliamentary reception in support of the Reform Section 5 campaign last week.
He noted that the “alliance in favour of reform must be unique in its breadth, unique in the number of individuals and organisations who usually loathe one another, banded together to get the wording changed and protect a little bit of freedom of speech”.
Mr Liddle, associate editor at the Spectator, quipped: “There is even an argument to be made in favour of keeping the words just as they are in order to give us all a good laugh at some fatuous prosecution.
“It is used, basically, for two reasons: first, to criminalise people who express inconvenient political views. Christians have been arrested merely for reading extracts from the bible, for example.
“Gays have been arrested for suggesting that Islam is a bit silly on the subject of homosexuality. One old bloke was warned he would be prosecuted because he put a sign up in his window stating that religion was ‘fairy tales for grown-ups'”.
He concluded: “Despite almost universal backing for reform, the law is still there, as it has been for 26 years. Let’s get rid of it.”
Rowan Atkinson has also given his full support to the campaign to reform Section 5.
Speaking at last week’s reception the comedy star warned against “a new but intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent” – something he said could be called a “New Intolerance”.