Via Mr Eugenides and Guy Fawkes, we learn that The Sun today has taken a sudden stand on freedom of expression. Page 3 girl, Poppy, even quotes some John Locke (please note, this linked page contains some nudity, as you would expect). They claim that if the Tories do not win the next election, Harriet Harman and Lynne Featherstone will form a lib-lab feminist pact to ban page 3 of The Sun. It is nice to know that even this populist right wing paper is prepared to cite enlightenment philosophers in defence of individual liberty and freedom of the press. However, it is a shame that the line they draw in the sand seems to extend conveniently to the right to publish nude pictures for an avowedly straight male audience, but not to do anything beyond that. They were not citing Locke or J.S. Mill during the prohibition of extreme images or the recent dangerous cartoons act.
While neither Harman nor Featherstone have been as consistent defenders of free speech as one might like, a plan to leave such a defence to the Tories seems very much a hostage to fortune. While this is not the place to come out for one party or the other, it should be acknowledged that the LibDems made the most active attempt to oppose the extreme pornography bill in the House of Lords. The Tories would have to do rather a lot more than protect Murdoch’s Page 3 girls before they were to claim a consistent support for the basic civil liberties of sexual autonomy and free expression.