In 1968, fifty years ago, I was on the cusp of starting Big School. The magnitude of this event was somewhat diluted by a very palpable Zeitgeist around the Vietnam War and what was subsequently termed the Summer of Love. We lived then in the garrison town of Colchester, place of my father's final posting but also home to the newly built University of Essex. One of my lifelong comfort odours is what I call 'army smell' - open the canvas tail-flap of an army Landrover newly serviced and inhale. A mix of storm-proof canvas, paint, gun oil and clean metal. Years later I went to an auction at an army stores and almost missed the event as I stood in the shed just inhaling nasal lungfulls of the glorious smell. It was the smell of my dad's stored kit, the smell of safety and belonging. Colchester in 1968 was a mix of army smell and patchouli oil, of crop-headed lads and tie-dyed hippies.
In the years that followed, into the '70s, as my social and political consciousness grew, I was a passionate and vocal supporter of what I shall term (with upper-case) Freedom. The Lord Chamberlain had still back then to approve each and every line of each and every stage play - Spike Milligan was almost prosecuted for departing on stage from the officially approved text. Kenneth Tynan's epic battles that led eventually to this censorship being overturned are well documented. We fought against the Establishment, against bent judges, thieving politicians, censorship and repression in every form. We read Private Eye, in those days an anti-establishment magazine, and celebrated the exposure of official cant and hypocrisy. I stood beers all night when Jean, Cardinal Danielou, the church's vocal spokesman against all we stood for, died of a stroke in a French brothel.
The Pythons and the Cambridge footlights crowd were tame, but played their part. We preferred Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (I have only to ask "What's the worst job you ever had?" these days to see who references Jayne Mansfield and who looks blank) whose samizdat albums were played so often the grooves wore out.
Fifty years on and the bastards are back. Labour's Noncefinder-General Tom Watson, almost as repugnant a man as Lavrenti Beria, is seeking today to take us back to those pre-1968 days with a press censorship so draconian that Boris Pasternak would wince. Leveson I was bad enough, institutionalising the private press censor funded by the sado-masochistic sexual deviant Max Mosley but now Watson is seeking to implement phase II. Philip Johnston in the Telegraph (£) calls them the enemies of a free society, and so they are.
Well, we fought those battles once, fifty years ago, and if need be we'll fight them again. We'll tear Labour's repressive knouts from their brutal fists - our press won't be cowed or beaten by these authoritarian bigots.
If you've got this far you deserve a prize. Here's Peter Cook satirising the summing-up of the bent judge at the trial of Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal leader who attempted to murder his gay toy-boy
WATCH IT HERE