It might have ended there had not M Herve Eon, some six months later, held up a placard bearing these same words on the route of a presidential procession in Laval. Eon was arrested by plain clothes police and charged and convicted of insulting the president, under a French law of 1881 that also criminalises insulting hordes of other establishment members, including foreign heads of state. After refusing to apologise to Sarkozy to reduce his penalty, Eon managed to get this appealed at the ECHR - and though the ECHR would doubtless have dearly loved to have upheld such penalties against lèse-majesté, the court felt obliged to avoid international ridicule by declaring that M.Eon's declaration had been satirical, and was therefore permitted.
In France it takes a whole bench of judges to tell the difference between an insult and satire. And satire itself is seemingly only protected when it not too vicious or biting; cartoon or distorted images of protected fat cats can all too easily be termed insulting.
France of course is seeking only to implement fully the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), effective from 1976. Luckily it already has an earlier 1881 law that does so. The ICCPR is an appalling piece of treaty-making; as is often the way with such things, it authorises suppression of free speech to a greater degree than it protects freedom of expression. In particular article 19 (3);
The exercise of the [right to freedom of expression] carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:And there you have it. Governments may freely introduce laws to protect the reputations of others from insult. And you can be sure that the 'others' that many governments will have in mind are not us ordinary folk but those for whom reputation is vital - such as ministers, politicians and members of the establishment.
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
The EU has taken the lead in seeking to implement across the EU its own interpretation of the international convention, to which all 27 are signatories. Many EU nations can already lock their citizens up for insulting politicians - but thank God the UK is not amongst them:-
M. Herve Eon was also fortunate in that France only fines those that insult its establishment figures, rather than locks them up. The fines, though, can be up to €45,000 - on a scale greater than anything the UK's summary courts can impose for a whole host of serious criminal acts. In Austria one also has to be careful what one writes and says -
Now one can begin to understand the sort of legal changes that Yvette Cooper and others of her parliamentary cohort are seeking, and why they are so keen to adopt the EU standards on the criminalisation of insult. We must all fight this with every fibre of fortitude; British politics has always been a robust and forthright process, where political insults are freely traded and politicians expected to have thick skins.
Provided that my frequent reminders to Mz Cooper of her pledge to house a migrant - a pledge that neither she, Lily Allen nor any of the fatuous virtue signallers have fulfilled - can remain as satire, provided that I never descend into encouraging violence, harassment or intimidation (which I absolutely counsel and extort against - whether directed at politicians, migrants or any persons). So here again is that clip from the Telegraph on the 'flipping' of Mz Cooper's two homes, either of which is doubtless capacious enough to accommodate a migrant or two -