Nick Clegg's attempts to reform libel legislation backfire.
The FET, Monday 10th January
The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is being sued by Tony Blair for comments that he has made about the UK libel laws.
The British system is renowned for offering particularly strong legal protection to those who feel that they have been subjected to unfair public criticism. Many people now fear that the threat of legal action is curtailing freedom of speech.
In a speech on civil liberties, Clegg blamed the Labour party under Blair for failing to tackle the issue before it got out of hand. He accused the former prime minister of having “overlooked a pretty significant problem with our legal system”.
A range of similar attacks were printed on Clegg’s website and distributed on the social media website Twitter.
Blair, having described the allegations as “inflammatory and completely untrue”, is now known to be in the process of suing the Lib Dem leader.
“The is absolutely nothing wrong with the way that Britain handles defamation”, Blair told reporters at a press conference. “And unless Nick Clegg can definitively prove that there is, I will be looking for at least six figures in damages”.
Blair has justified his taking legal action by claiming that this incident may result in personal financial loss. His lawyers are believed to be compiling evidence to show that a slight against his personal integrity could seriously damage sales of his autobiography.
“My entire public career has been based upon having an unblemished character. The last thing I want is for this to damage my credibility as a Middle East peace envoy.”
Clegg, being in the fortunate position of having examined the libel laws very recently, is understood to be entertaining little hope of prevailing in court. It is expected that his only reasonable strategy will be to overturn the current legislation before Blair can successfully sue him.