Billy Bragg's diary: The right does not own freedom

I want press regulation precisely because I value liberty, says the singer

12 October 2013

9:00 AM

12 October 2013

9:00 AM

A great night to be in Pittsburgh. The local baseball team, the Pirates, were attempting to reach their first play-offs in 21 years. Meanwhile in Washington DC, a Republican party rejected at the polls last year was seeking to increase its popularity by bringing the government to a halt. On the Strip, a bustling street along the banks of the Allegheny River, it seemed everyone was wearing a shirt declaring his or her allegiance to the Pirates. In the pizza joint where we’d gone before I played my first Pittsburgh gig in nearly two decades, the TV above the bar reported on the stalemate in Washington. But it didn’t feel much like a shutdown. No one in the place seemed to care that the Republicans might be in a hole, nor willing to suggest that they stop digging.

Someone who might have benefited from that kind of advice is Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. If he had hoped to undermine Ed Miliband’s reputation by attacking his late father, the plan backfired spectacularly. Right before the Privy Council was due to assess the newspaper industry’s plan for self-regulation, Dacre gave us a reminder of how irresponsible editors can be. Granting Miliband the right to reply seemed, on the face of it, a reasonable thing to do. But taking the opportunity to further attack Miliband Sr dragged the whole affair on for a week, not just eclipsing the Conservative conference but dragging the war record of Dacre’s own father into the fray. Result? The stature of Ed Miliband was enhanced. The stature of the press — less so.

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 00.12.19

The America I have been touring is convulsed by Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which has come into force this week extending basic insurance coverage to more Americans. A considerable step forward, yet fierce opposition from the Republican party has ensured that many of those in the greatest need will remain without cover. Twenty-six states have opted out of an extension of the Medicaid programme, affecting about half the population but two-thirds of America’s poor, uninsured African-Americans and single mothers. Fifty years ago, many of these states, predominantly in the south, regularly passed ‘Jim Crow’ laws, local statutes designed specifically to marginalise African-Americans. It took the civil rights movement to make that a thing of the past. But when the glitches on the Affordable Care Act have been ironed out and the nation sees who remains without insurance, many Americans may come to view refusal to implement ‘Obamacare’ as a 21st-century form of Jim Crow.

The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco

The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco

The Republicans currently seeking to overturn the result of the last election seem convinced that affordable health care is somehow un-American. This appears to chime with Paul Dacre’s assertion that Ralph Miliband’s Marxist beliefs meant that he hated Britain. It’s a common assumption of the right: they ‘own’ freedom and anybody who seeks to question them is a traitor. I caught a whiff of it myself on Saturday night at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. I was teasing the audience by insisting that we Brits invented Americana — an increasingly popular genre inspired by American roots music (I told them about skiffle and how it inspired the Beatles, Stones, et al). A female heckler took offence and began shouting about the second world war. The essence of her argument was that her father had fought to give me freedom of speech — so I should shut up about America!

Attlee, freedom fighter

Attlee, freedom fighter

The truth about how we came to enjoy our freedoms is a little more complex than that, but has always involved challenging those who believe they have a monopoly on truth. Since Magna Carta, the British people have sought to hold the powerful to account. Parliament had to take on the monarchy to win its right to represent the people. Only when workers organised into trade unions were they able to secure fair working conditions. Women were forced to challenge men in order to win the right to vote. In 1945, the voters of Britain had to turf out a victorious Winston Churchill in order to gain free health care. All were called traitors in their time, accused of hating Britain and all it stood for.

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Throughout our history, the British people have seen their liberties abused by those who believed that they were above the law. This has given rise to a determination to hold those in power to account that runs deep in our culture and is the reason why, after the troubling disclosures of the Leveson inquiry, few of us now trust newspapers to regulate themselves. Paul Dacre’s clumsy intervention in this debate will only stiffen the resolve of those of us who love Britain and want to see the freedom of the press guaranteed by an independent regulator.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Billy Bragg starts the British leg of his tour in Cambridge on 18 November.

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Show comments
  • Hood

    Tedious, third rate musician preaches about how other people’s money should be spent, advocates state control of the press … yawn.

    • Joe

      and that’s a considered response to what he wrote then, or just a lazy whinge because you have no counter-argument?

      • Hood

        Thanks for that Joe. It was a simple observation but no less accurate for its simplicity.
        Lest you are confused, my point is that Mr Bragg is dull, predictable and as entertaining as a dental abscess. But then again he’s down with the ordinary people in his humble pad in Dorset. I don’t take him seriously.
        And do you really think that counter arguments are needed to the assertion that the state should muzzle the press?

        • Joe

          Straw Man alert! ‘Muzzle’ emotive word. What is being proposed is preventing the press from raiding people’s bins, tapping people’s phones (two of my friends are on Mr Mulcaire’s list of victims) or defaming people’s dead fathers.

          • La Fold

            Is illegal phone tapping, not already, you know, illegal?
            Raiding bins, whislt its pretty low, its not criminal.
            As for emotive, your entire post is emotive and full of straw men.
            Wont somebody think of the dead marxists?!

          • Ben Kelly

            These are already crimes you empty headed moron. Do you not understand how one step down this road can lead to more and more steps being taken and politicians controlling the formerly free press? Give them and inch and the scoundrels will eventually take a mile. Everything that came out in the scandal was already covered by existing laws.

            Are you now suggesting we legislate for the papers to show good taste just because they criticised Ed Miliband’s Marxist socialist father? It might not have been very nice but so what? You thought it was in bad taste so you want to pass laws to restrict what a newspaper can say? Are you really that stupid?

            Loathsome ingrates like you don’t know what a society underpinned by liberty is all about and you’ll clap like a trained seal when your freedoms are taken away. Idiot. They broke the law and were brought to account. Any regulation that involves politicians should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Wakey wakey.

          • Joe

            Abuse nice! Don’t tell me I don’t know about liberty, I revere ‘On Liberty’ by JS Mill, but organs such as the Mail have reached their ‘fire in a crowded theatre’ moment. If you can’t be civil bugger off and argue somewhere else

          • Hood

            You have issues Joe.
            Calm down – try some Pink Floyd instead of the talentless gobshite Billy Bragg.

          • Biginabox

            The ‘Freedom’ to blackmail and intimidate and destroy innocent people’s lives and pervert truth and the course of history is an abuse of the word. Might is not right, however much you worship it.
            TV is a far more powerful media than print, and in Britain flourishes under regulation. For your information, ‘the state’, as you call it, is electorally representative of the people. And its political complexion has been heavily influenced for generations by the profit-making press, which is accountable to no-one. So the press barons have got the state they wanted, but still oppose the demonstrated democratic will of the people. They want it all. And until now, they have had their way.
            But News International spying on The Mail… surely that is too much even for them.

          • Ben Kelly

            They don’t have those rights though do they? They are already crimes covered by common law. Hence why there have been so many arrests and the NOTW was shut down, there have been far reaching consequences for the crimes committed, you talk as if nobody has been held to account which is demonstrably untrue.
            As well as being regulated by criminal law, all of the newspapers are accountable to their readers, if you do not like a newspaper then you have the freedom not to buy it, you don’t ban it, you just don’t buy it.
            For your information the state often does things against the interests of the electorate regardless, although your naive and child like trust of the government is touching, it isn’t exactly the level of scepticism a thinking person should display towards the actions of government. The democratically elected government went to war in Iraq, for example, against the will of the people, among many things they have done that voters did not like or want.
            Demonstrated will of the people? How are you so sure of this? What has demonstrated this?
            It is utterly baffling that you such an unconditional trust of the state, elected or not. Once power is gained it can be built upon, it can become a slippery slope, it is within the interest of some people not to live with the worry of having their crimes or corruption exposed by the press.
            You are far too willing to give up such a freedom, infact more than willing, positively begging for it, in a reactionary manner. Giving up 300 years of freedom in a reactionary spasm is an astounding folly and is extremely unwise.

          • Biginabox

            Who’s talking about crimes? Threat of disclosure is enough to warp politics. Just as the demand for hot stories warps the truth and destroys lives.
            Unfortunately for you, the people are with the state in wanting standards which can be enforced. And are not fooled by the hysteria of the media barons, which is just a repeat of the same wails which accompany the Factories Act, the Clean Air Act, the establishment of the NHS, and every other advance of civilisation.
            None of the measures now proposed will hamper one scrap of press freedom. What they will do is make it credible for the first time in decades by making it accountable, as Tv broadcasting is. You publish smears and lies and get found out, you give the same exposure tot he apology. What’s your problem with that?
            You don’t have a problem with behaviour like this either, then?
            “many of the calculated and cynical breaches of ethical codes reported during Leveson were certainly not circumscribed by the criminal law. There were the intrusions into private grief,on which Sheila Hollins gave such graphic evidence. There was the pursuit of friends and relations of newsworthy figures, sometimes with tragic consequences: Charlotte Church, for example, told the inquiry how the front-page splash of her father’s affair drove her mother to attempt suicide (at which point the newspaper demanded an exclusive story on her attempted suicide in return for not publishing a second instalment on the affair). There was the News of the World front page devoted to Kate McCann’s private, intimate diaries after the disappearance of her daughter, which the newspaper had somehow obtained (almost certainly from the Portuguese police) and published without consent or any prior notice. It left her feeling, in her own words, ‘mentally raped’. There was plenty of evidence, as Leveson himself concluded, of intrusions into privacy and dignity, of unlawful or unethical treatment of individuals through harassment, and of acquisition of private information through blagging, surveillance, subterfuge and similarly intrusive methods. Very little of this was criminal, and even where data protections laws might have been breached, no journalist has ever been prosecuted.”

          • Ben Kelly

            Note how the chairman of the Tory Party has talked about cutting the licence fee, threatening the BBC, the BBC is regulated and set up by royal charter, not stopping political interference though is it? That’s the future of the British press you are wishing for.

          • blindsticks

            Fred West had about six kids. Poor bloke.

          • anyfool

            The two Straw Men are the two reasons you quote, both are against the law, always have been, its just that the police where the real problem arose did not do their job.
            If someone is dead it does not excuse conduct when alive.
            That silly remark he fought for us is not proof of not hating, a lot of Empire citizens, who actually did hate us with reason, fought for us.
            This man Miliband ever since he ran away from his home country has suckled at the public teat, as has his family, not one has ever done work that did not require living off the public body, classic parasitism.
            Tell me what this immigrant family has brought to the countries table instead of just dining on it.

      • blindsticks

        What are you his manager. Why aint he in Barking?

  • ohforheavensake

    One of the most ironic aspects of the debate over Leveson is that it’s provoked the powerful (Dacre, Murdoch, the Barclays) into making the rather ludicrous claim that they’re powerless: and that, despite all the evidence, they’re the underdogs, fighting on the side of the little people.

  • La Fold

    Okay then, lets have a royal charter covering whats right and wrong for musicians to write songs about?

  • Advocatus_Diaboli_69

    Will this independent regulator be able to advise The Guardian on the difference between a whistleblower on the one hand, and a thief and traitor on the other?

    Good songs though Billy

    • La Fold

      Hes terrible, uses his 6th form debating club politics to disguise his lack of talent.
      A New England was kind of catchy though.

  • Dalek_1963

    “A great night to be in Pittsburgh”

    I believe its now the whitest city in the US. Im sure Billy felt at home there, living as he does in one of the whitest counties of England.

    • chas_m

      You’ve CLEARLY never been to Pittsburgh.

    • Advocatus_Diaboli_69

      Of course he lives in Dorset. If he was still in Barking he’d be marching with the EDL 😉

    • rogermurrayclark

      He’s a loathsome hypocrite – the lover of diversity and multi-culturalism ensconced in Burton bloody Bradstock.

      There’s no such thing as an “independent” regulator, Billy boy

    • The Pittsburgh Post Gazette also lies. The recent census shows that are African Americans and Latino Americans are on the rise and combined eclipsed Caucasian Americans.

      I live in Pittsburgh. I thankfully see more “minorities” than I do “whites”. As a PoC myself, I am overjoyed by this.

      Please, educate yourself to the truth before believing a newspaper that is known to lie.

      Further, what does talking about a baseball game have to do with the city’s racial makeup?

      • La Fold

        Why are you thankful for seeing more “minorities” than “whites”? even as a PoC?
        Sounds a tad racialist to me.

        • Well good for you. I’m sooooo happy for you.

          • Hood

            What about answering the question Lou? Do you judge people by the colour of their skin?

            Had your prejudice been reversed – I thankfully see more “whites” than I do “minorities” – you’d have been moderated.

          • Answer what question? was there a question there? or an attempt at a trap?

            Not going to happen, ‘Hood’. You’ll have to try harder.

          • La Fold

            My question was why are you thankful for seeing more minorities? Simple enough.
            Lets be honest Lou we could dance about this subject all we want.
            However the fact of the matter is like so many with, for want of a better term, a “Right on” mindset, you’ve been hoisted by your own gibberings once anyone dares to delve a little deeper beyond the superficial.
            Now you have no real answer you flail about a bit trying to deflect attention from the fact you lack the testicular fortitude to stand by what you said.
            Be lucky son.

          • I’m still trying to the question.

            My words are my words, they stand on their own. If you read anything into it, that’s your concern not mine.

          • La Fold

            Again, more meaningless tautologies. The question is there for all to see? Why are you thankful for seeing more minorities than whites as a PoC?
            Try a bit of intellectual honesty fella, you might even enjoy it.

          • 1. It’s intellectually honest, not intellectual.
            2. I’m still not seeing a question there. What I’m seeing is an attempt at a trap that’s just not working.

            Again, if you read more into my statement then is there that’s your problem not mine.

            Have a good one and blessed be!

          • La Fold

            1. “Try a bit of intellectually honest,” doesnt make any sense.
            So a poor attempt to try and discredit me by incorrectly correcting my grammar? Its a step up from “my words stand for themselves” I suppose.
            2. There is a simple and clear question there. I dont know how to make this any more simple for you without using sock puppets. So for the fourth time, WHY ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR SEEING MORE MINORITIES THAN WHITES AS A PERSON OF COLOUR?
            Its an honest question.
            You’re refusal to answer such a simple question about a statement you made, of your own volition, on the grounds that it is a trap, just shows me you are worried you cant answer it without sounding racist.

          • Again, I’m not seeing a question and yes, my words stand for themselves. If YOU read something into them, that is YOUR problem. Not mine.

            I like seeing poc thrive. If you have a problem with my words, perhaps you should be introvertedly looking instead of extrovertedly.

          • La Fold

            Seeing PoCs thrive is your answer?
            Its taken you 4 days to come up with that. And still doesnt answer why you are thankful for seeing more minorities than whites?
            Are you saying PoCs can only thrive if there are more of them whites?
            Also please dont try and use some biscuit arsed, student debate club technique of trying to turn the question round onto me. Its puerile and pathetic.
            I havent said a thing either for or against Persons of colour or whites. Mostly because I like to deal with people as individuals who each contain the capaciity for humanity. I know, I know Im a dreamer…

          • well, there’s nothing pathetic about it. Are you saying POCs can’t thrive? Are you saying a person can’t like something more than the other.

            With your type of attitude and non-questions I’d venture you live in South myself.

            Again, waiting for actual questions and actual discussion here, but I won’t hold my breath.

          • La Fold

            “Your words stand for themselves” is a meaningless tautology and is not an answer. If i came on here and started spouting Alfred Rosenberg or Mein Kampf would it be enough to say “My words stand for themselves”? Course it wouldnt. It would be derided for being the racist nonsense it is.

            Secondly, where have I said or even suggested that PoCs cant or shouldnt thrive anywhere? your insistance that I am the one with a “problem” and that i should look introvertedly is a poor attempt to insinuate that I am possibly racist. That is low and underhand.

            Also its pretty funny really considering you are the one making assumptiuons about where I am from and that I mst be fromt the “South” merely because I have questioned you. Another poor attempt a suggesting im a closeted racist Lou? for shame sir, for shame.

            This just shows you to be an adolescent who likes to spout off but yet has nothing to back them up with.

            And for your information I live a lot further North than yourself, and in a different country on another continent.

          • well of course it wouldn’t because they’re not your words. They’re Alfred Rosenberg and Adolf Hitler’s words.

          • La Fold

            Stone the crows, how did this slip by me?! The point is that saying “my words stand for themselves” is not a defence of what you said, as you damn well know. So now you play silly semantic games. Im beyond you son.
            Also notice you dont have a comeback for any other of my points.
            Let me put this in a way a PoC will appreciate..
            “Grab yourself a napkin homie, cause you just got served.”

          • La Fold

            PS Lou

            ” Are you saying a person can’t like something more than the other.”
            Not at all. I firmly believe people can like whatever they want and dislike what they want. If you happen to like minorities and PoCs more than whites thats up to you son.

          • BTW, you just changed my phrasing, which shows you’re not attempting an honest discussion. I said, and I quote “1. It’s intellectually honest, not intellectual.” which is correct grammar.

            if you want to have an actual discussion, I’m all for it but what you just attempted is not honest nor is it an actual discussion.

          • La Fold

            I believed your point 1. was an attempt to correct my phrase “try a bit of intellectual honesty”. Either way “its intellectually honest, not intellectual” is still a meaningless phrase.
            Secondly, how is what I doing neither a debate or honest? Please enlighten me. You made a statement, i asked you a simple, straight forward question about that statement and you dodged, twisted and turned every which way to avoid giving me an answer.
            Now just because the question I asked is apparently difficult for you to answer does not mean that I am being dishonest or not interested in debate. Surely asking difficult questions is fundamental to discussion?

  • chas_m


  • PaulBurgin

    Agree, this is not about press freedom, it is curtailing abuses! In the same way drunken louts may believe they have the freedom to rampage through a train carriage and hassle everyone else there but can be charged with public order offences because they abuse their freedom to impose tyranny on others!

    • La Fold

      And they would be rightly prosecuted under the criminal laws already set in place. Much as those involved in phone hacking and bribing police officers should have been.
      You wouldnt set up a royal charter covering what those drunken louts could and could not say.

      • PaulBurgin

        But how many louts have been shown to have a cosy relationship with some in the Met? That is the most worrying aspect of Hackgate and shows that with that, and a toothless PCC, many people had virtually nowhere to go!

        • La Fold

          Youve obviously never seen the SPG in full effect. I reckon the Met employs a few of those louts.
          However this is the point.
          The newspapers emplyed phone hacking and bribery of officers in spite of the law, no doubt because they thought they had the politicians and the old bill in their pockets.
          So now we have politicians of all people,trying to tell newspapers what they can and can not print instead of prosecuting the officers and crooked politicians who were breaking the law or aiding and abetting criminality.
          Its all political sleigth of hand.

          • PaulBurgin

            There are prosecutions going on, but where have the tabloids learnt from this?

          • La Fold

            Id imagine that those found guilty and prosecuted within the law will probably not commit these crimes again. It may also deter others from doing the same. Then again it may not. Some people will commit crimes regardless of the law let alone a royal charter. (for example if prison was a successful deterent our prisons would be practically empty) The answer again is not to have politicians saying what our press can and can not say. It is to investigate, prosecute and properly punish those who break the law.

          • PaulBurgin

            Sadly we also have some in the media who decide to still misbehave! As the shutdown of the News of the World showed, many expect high standards of behaviour from the press. Their recent behaviour (the gatecrashing of a Miliband family memorial service being an example) shows that they will go back to bad habits given a chance!

          • La Fold

            Exactly. You’ll get some people who’ll still misbehave regardless even if their is a royal charter, or state backed regulation etc
            Therefore the royal charter is not about moderating the excesses of journalists and editors who feel its okay to break the law and harrass. That is why we have criminal and civil laws in place.
            The royal charter is about handing over freedom of the press to politicians and the state, who are becoming ever more totalitarian for “our own good”. And god knows how they’ll decide to misbehave with that power given the chance. Slip back into bad habits indeed.
            Also remember the News of the Screws didnt fold on the orders of the state or from any politician, it was closed up by Murdoch cause he knew that the paper would never recover from the crimes it had committed. It was a shrewd business decision.

  • zakisbak

    You value the right to preach multicultism from your Dorset mansion.
    You nicked your one good song from Simon and Garfunkel.
    You are concerned about a debatedly innappropriate press attack on a leading politician’s deceased far left father,yet unmoved by the Guardian’s assistance to fascist clerical totalitarians who wish to kill us.
    You simply ignore the Democrat’s plan to deal with fiscal realities by simply borrowing more,increasing debt.

    Typical bollinger socialist in other words.

  • Ben Kelly

    My beloved magazine giving a platform to someone I sincerely hate. UGH I enjoy the fact that The Spectator is a platform for free thinking and there is a good variety of thinkers writing for the magazine. Still, I DO NOT expect to open the magazine, a conservative weekly, and read a column from this loathsome country house champagne socialist. Why are they promoting this guy and his tour of socialist anthems? What’s going on Speccie? He’s a horrible hypocrite and a boring life of privilege leftist socialist ideologue. Cheers Speccie, had to put the mag to a side for a bit after reading this tiresome warbling idiot.

    I’m not surprised he would advocate press regulation involving the state, he is a student politics socialist.

  • Peter Hirsch

    A tedious and tendentious article. Mr Bragg should understand that if a government regulator regulates the press, it will be much as it was in Russia before glasnost. But perhaps that is what he wants.

  • Cheese Pavilion

    I would have thought that Bill, as man of humble origins who grew up to be a successful entrepreneur and exporter, ought to be more popular here – even allowing for some knee-jerks.

    Surely a man can achieve success and still criticise the system and society in which he becomes successful? If he changed his tune after becoming successful, it seems to me that would make him more of a hypocrite.

  • Far from ‘owning freedom’, the ‘right’ as Bragg quantly refers to reactionary politics in general, is not even intellectually viable, or a ‘philosophy’ at all in any genuine sense of the word. It is, as the name implies, just a neurosis. An irrational fear of change and growth. A form of mutaphobia.
    The apostles of reactionary politics are consistently refuted by the history of progress, and many would not exist without it. They are the living contradition of their own pronouncements. They are the historical champions of slavery, and slaves of their own mythical past. So anything they have to say about freedom is completely discountable.

    • DanV

      Some fascinating stuff here – can I ask your view on what the main driving force of the ‘history of progress’ is ? And what exactly is this progress leading towards ?

      • Technological innovation, which breeds political consciousness, which always ends up distributing power.
        The direction of progress is towards a society which depends less on rivalry. The direction of reactionary politics is backwards towards one that does.

      • Biginabox

        Competition may well have been the driving force for much during the eons of technological shortfall, when civilisation and feeding the people depended on brute labour and battle, but ever since the invention of the steam engine and electricity competition has been an obsolete, wasteful, un-natural dynamo of change.
        Which is what Progressives have been saying all along. Competition was fine for building civilisations fast in order to feed and control the population, and for ending feudalism, but not any more. And the only people who cling to competition are those who yearn for a return to its heyday, and who cannot imagine anything different. Hence the pathological tendency to use the past to define all possibilities. Competition has been the driver of progress, as no-one denies, least of all the feudal rulers it deposed. But it is now the has-been. Co-operation is the only viable option for progress in an age which is ecologically aware, as we are now. If Marx had been as aware, he would have been even clearer about the fate of industrial capitalism..

      • Biginabox

        Competition may well have been the driving force for much during the eons of technological shortfall, when civilisation and feeding the people depended on brute labour and battle, but ever since the invention of the steam engine and electricity competition has been an obsolete, wasteful, un-natural dynamo of change.
        Which is what Progressives have been saying all along. Competition was fine for building civilisations fast in order to feed and control the population, and for ending feudalism, but not any more. And the only people who cling to competition are those who yearn for a return to its heyday, and who cannot imagine anything different. Hence the pathological tendency to use the past to define all possibilities, which is the same as saying that if god had meant us to fly he would have given us wings, as many did until the Wright Brothers came along.. Competition has been the driver of progress, as no-one denies, least of all the feudal rulers it deposed. But it is now the has-been. Co-operation is the only viable option for progress in an age which is ecologically aware, as we are now. If Marx had been as aware, he would have been even clearer about the fate of industrial capitalism..

  • Stephen Rowley

    Couldn’t agree more BIlly

  • ManOnClaphamOmnibus

    Oh dear, what a stir of discontented trolls an article like this uncovers – like lifting a stone on the crawlies. Bragg’s article is not about right and left. It’s about right and wrong. It takes the entirely sensible view that shutting down America to block affordable healthcare is indefensible. Who would disagree? It says sections of the press are out of control and incapable of controlling themselves. Who would disagree? It says anyone who disagrees with the State has the right to voice that complaint. Who would disagree? And it says the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the brink of some success. Who would disagree? Congratulations to the ‘conservative’ Spectator for publishing it.
    ps. I do like the word ‘mutaphobia’.

    • Derick Tulloch

      I am laughing too, ManOnClaphamOmnibus. I like Billy, because despite his well earned wealth, he tries to remain true. Missed a trick with all this ‘British’ tosh and Magna Carta (surely ‘Declaration of Arbroath’), but his hert’s in the richt place. And the hert’s aye the pert, aye – that maks wis richt or wrang!

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Except it isn’t affordable and doesn’t extend affordable healthcare to all which was the false flag under which it flew. Obama supporting self interest groups have already won exemptions from Obamacare while millions are seeing their insurance changed beyond recognition and with costs hiked up.

      Neither the Sate nor the populace as a whole can afford this travesty but it does drive a massive State crowbar into everyone’s lives which many Braggs support but many Americans don’t.

      Them cockernee socialists and meeja luvvies do like the West Country don’t they? Maybe Billiam was inspired by radical geezer Joe Strummer.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Whatever Billy Bragg opines is wrong, always and without exception. His music’s crap too. Back to your burrow, Bragg!

  • Algernon_the_Sceptic

    Well don’t ask me what I think of him
    he can’t sing
    he ain’t pretty
    and his legs are thin
    and he’s a rich Marxist hypocrite who wants to control the press
    but would be the first one telling other people to man the barricades
    if anyone other than a socialist had had the same idea

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “Stand up, all victims of oppression
    For the tyrants fear your might
    Don’t cling so hard to your possessions
    For you have nothing, if you have no rights
    Let racist ignorance be ended
    For respect makes the empires fall
    Freedom is merely privilege extended
    Unless enjoyed by one and all”

    • cbinTH

      That’s nice. Who wrote that?

  • Lee Moore

    Freedom = free health care. How sweet.

  • Adaadat

    None of this makes any sense. There doesn’t appear to be any argument.

  • Rudi774

    First I noticed was the presumptious tone in Mr. Bragg’s article. Dacre was “clumsy”,
    “irresponsible” and in need “advice”, presumably from people like Bragg. Do
    English radicals really talk like that nowadays? Talk about an iron fist. Shows
    you who’s in charge and who’s not. That Miliband sr. was a Marxist academic who
    loathed and feared his adoptive country seems like a value judgment that
    shouldn’t be too hard to argue in opinion journalism. If you live in a free
    country, of course. The enhancement of Miliband jr.’s stature is
    inconsequential. “Those who believed that they were above the law.” I always
    suspected Billy Bragg was a real law-and-order type. When he’s not duffing up
    people on the streets. In my country these people are mocked mercilessly. In
    loony Brittain they get a platform in a ‘conservative’ publication. ‘Like me,
    like me, Billy Bragg! I’m a good conservative, I loved New England’.

  • Noreen Metcalfe

    Billy for Prime Minister! You are a level headed, intelligent, socially responsible and talented grown up. You are what is missing in our, and America’s government. Stand for Parliament

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Mr Bragg illustrates his essay with a photo showing the old colour bar in America. Does he not realise that if the laws he demands had existed in America it would have taken a great deal longer to achieve racial equality? He is correct in stating that the right does not own freedom but, equally, neither does the left. Freedom of the press is a powerful weapon against overweening governments.

    Anyone thinks governments should hold sway over the news media should ask themselves this: how much worse would Blair & Campbell or Brown & McBride have been if they had had the proposed press laws behind them?

  • andrew cotterill

    Thanks for this interesting and informed piece of journalism, Mr Bragg. Always a pleasure to hear from you. What an unpleasant bunch of critics you have below

  • TRAV1S

    Sorry Billy, your article reads like something written by David Icke. Could I just point out that the Jim Crow laws of the South were passed by left wing Democrats as the South was the Democratic stronghold. Those laws also encapsulated the beliefs of the left wing Social Darwinists and Eugenicists who did not want to see a degradation of the races.

    As for Clement Atlee being the greatest prime minister, would any sane person want to live under his Premiership from 1945-51? In 1947 Atlee nationalised the coal mines and stole the poor peoples’ coal. The winter 47-8 was one of the harshest in history, there was no coal, people could only survive by ripping out the door frames and using it as fire wood. To this day the government will not release the figures of those who died in Atlee’s Freezocaust.

    Finally as for your sub-headline “I want press regulation precisely because I value liberty” reads very much like Orwell’s ” WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”.

  • anyfool

    Your produce in the article a propaganda picture with Attlee in it, it has the usual lies about how he did this that and the other.
    Being in power when something happens is quite different to causing it to happen,
    India had been promised independence before he came to power.
    He never achieved full employment.
    The creation of the UN “poor policy” was decided before he came to power.
    The welfare state was created 40 years before he came to power.
    He did spend and promise money on the disasters that befell this country after he left office, just like your type always do.
    Still Blair, Brown and the Kinnocks have made themselves millionaires looking after their own interests, so it is easy to see why you want to inflict more of these people on the country, look in the mirror to see someone just like them.

  • serguei_p

    Reminds me of 1984: “War is Peace”, “Ignorance is Wisdom”, “freedom of the press guaranteed by an independent regulator”…

  • Thats_news

    Aha! Bragg is in favour of press control not for you and me, the little people, the quiet people, the secret people of G K Chesterton! Oh, no! Bragg is in favour of press control for his fellow right on slebs so that they may do their dark and dastardly deeds hidden from the public gaze.

  • JonBW

    First, I found the attack on Milliband’s father unpleasant, but given that Ed had made so many references to his values, it was quite legitimate for the Mail to scrutinise them.

    Second, whilst it’s true that the Right don’t ‘own’ (and didn’t ‘invent’) freedom, there is also degree of selectivity here: the Mirror Group have been shown to have used most of the tactics that the Murdoch press employed; the Guardian has exploited Snowden’s revelations to put lives at risk; and the BBC is patently biased in its coverage of the Scottish Independence debate, the EU, immigration, the Middle East et cetera. The position Billy Bragg takes looks very much like a defence of Freedom of Speech for those he agrees with and regulation for those he dislikes. It’s also worth pointing out that most of the worst excesses of the Press are now being dealt with through the Criminal Courts: why regulate when the practices that we all deplore are illegal anyway?

    Third, what is happening in America is the consequence of the American system of government as much as anything else; Obama has done very little to carry his opponents with him and the mandate for his healthcare bill simply isn’t strong enough. American voters rejected the Democrats and turned to the Republicans in the 2010 mid-term elections. You can’t pretend that didn’t happen.

    And finally, why does no reference to Clement Attlee ever acknowledge that he also transformed the UK by bequeathing us an ‘independent nuclear deterrent’? Or that his government’s handling of the Palestine mandate contributed hugely to the problems that the region has faced since 1948?