Michael Savage v Jacqui Smith: the stars align
Padraig Reidy on shock jock Michael Savage's lawsuit against the Home Secretary
01 Jun 09

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith reportedly received a legal letter from lawyers representing US radio host Michael Savage this morning. Savage claims to have been libelled by Smith when his name appeared on a list of undesirables barred from entering Britain on the grounds of fostering extremism and threatening community cohesion. Smith has said she will defend herself, which could lead to a rather interesting court case.

Perhaps the most interesting question here will be that of definitions: as we’ve seen with the Simon Singh case, meaning is both absolute and in the eye of the beholder, in this case, the judge. So how will Justice Eady (if it be he) definine ‘extremism’? And will the Home Office lawyers be forced to come up with their own definition? If they do, will we then know what the official Home Office definition is?

Also of interest is the possibility that in any court proceedings, the Home Office may have to reveal the exact criteria and mechanisms for banning someone from the UK.

Finally, will this bizarre case help the government realise both how counterproductive the banned list is, and how badly in need of reform our defamation laws are?

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.