Praise the brave whistleblowers for defending decency and democracy

As with buses, you can stand around ages waiting for a whistleblower to turn up and suddenly three arrive in quick succession.

The trio currently grabbing varying degrees of attention are Edward Snowden, an American intelligence contractor, Kay Sheldon, a non-executive board member of the UK’s Care Quality Commission (CQC), and Peter Francis, a former Metropolitan Police undercover officer.

Their revelations couldn’t be more diverse, but all share the common denominators of courage, principle and a burning fervour to unmask chicanery by officialdom, whether it’s cock-ups, cover-ups masking incompetence or new-fangled skulduggery.

And, without their intervention, whatever we regard as democracy risks being nudged a tad further behind a cosmetic facade, where freedom is in danger of becoming meaningless in all but name, just as in gangster regimes which boast of being the peoples’ democratic republic of one rats’ nest or another.

So our tacit deal with those we choose to govern us is that we accept the price liberty is living with a measure of state secrecy. Because someone, somewhere – maybe enemies in our very midst – has an agenda to penetrate and upset our cosy little world.

This, however, brings attendant dilemmas, such as: where do we draw a line over how much freedom is sacrificed to those who watch over our interests and, vitally, who watches the watchers?

SPOOK STOPPER; Edward Snowden went public about new NSA and GCHQ spyware being used on the American and British public

SPOOK STOPPER; Edward Snowden went public about new NSA and GCHQ spyware being used on the American and British public

Snowden, a 30-year-old ex-CIA staffer employed by a company working for America’s National Security Agency (NSA), clearly believed the spook community had outgrown its boots by unleashing two, clandestine mass surveillance programmes, codenamed PRISM and Tempora.

Far from employed against external threats – no prizes for guessing which nations qualify for that tag – the spyware is being used to pry on cellphone callers and emailers in the US and the UK (and maybe beyond, given Germany’s reaction), since its stealth-tech was shared with Britain’s top-secret listening station, GCHQ.

While most of us simple-minded folk might take the quaint view that our cyber chatter is innocuous, Snowden’s whistleblowing – a term coined in the 1970s by US civic rights campaigner, Ralph Nader – has brought into sharp relief how far Big Brother’s tentacles stretch and whether the protection of our liberty has ballooned into an invasion of it.

In contrast, Kay Sheldon has blown the lid off a domestic scandal, but one that has shaken the founding pillar of Britain’s welfare state: the NHS.

As a non-executive board member of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), this brave, single-minded woman exposed the catastrophic shortcomings of an organisation established to stop hospital mismanagement and an old boy – and girl – network that was more preoccupied with its own public image than the public it was meant to serve.

Her revelations originally came to light during a 2011 public inquiry into the serial maladministration of Mid-Staffs Hospital, where 1,200 patients died needlessly.

COVER-UP CAMPAIGNER: Kay Sheldon lifted the lid on the CQC's cover-up of NHS mismanagement

COVER-UP CAMPAIGNER: Kay Sheldon lifted the lid on the CQC’s attempt to hide NHS mismanagement

The then CQC hierarchy tried to excuse this as a ‘one-off’, but Sheldon knew it was at best a cover-up, at worst a lie, and denounced her own board for failing to investigate the unusually high number of baby deaths at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

However, instead of receiving the nation’s gratitude for her principled stand, Andrew Lansley, Health Minister at the time, personally threatened Sheldon with the sack, until she hit back and he backed down.

That was only after a brazen attempt by one (now former) CQC executive to paint her as a flaky paranoid schizophrenic.

Because, if such altruistic people can’t be paid off – and the NHS has parted with over £15M of tax-payers cash to 600 potential whistleblowers in exchange for gagging orders –  ‘mental instability’ is often cited to discredit their evidence.

So it should be no surprise that few who sacrifice themselves on the high altar of decency rarely come through the ordeal unscathed.

Peter Francis, formerly a member of Scotland Yard’s secretive Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), claims he was threatened on several occasions that if he ever talked about his work he’d be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

Now he’s gambling that the law he once protected won’t put him in the dock for publically admitting how he infiltrated the family of murdered teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in an attempt to smear their anti-racism campaign and deflect attention from the Met’s botched enquiry into the killing.

However, the ex-police spy says his lowest point was undermining the campaign of the family who wanted justice over the death of boxing instructor Brian Douglas, a 33-year-old hit over the head with a police baton in 1995, after he was stopped for driving erratically.

SPY COP: Policeman Peter Francis was ordered to dig dirt on the Lawrence family's anti-racism campaign

SPY COP: Policeman Peter Francis was ordered to dig dirt on the Lawrence family’s anti-racism campaign

Francis goes even further with startling revelations about the SDS’s sister squad, the equally-shadowy National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which sent undercover officers to penetrate groups of ‘political activists’, sometimes cynically coercing women members into sexual liaisons.

For the record, like most people, I’d never before heard of the SDS or NPOIU, but now have to wonder how many other quasi-secret police departments operate in Britain, who commands them, who are these chiefs accountable to and on what basis do they decide their targets.

Finally, there is one further, key element that provides whistleblowers with the means to air exposés that would otherwise probably go unseen and unheard: a fearless media.

In his report last November into phone-hacking and reporting standards, Lord Leveson recommended a new watchdog be established to curb Press excesses and it should operate under a Royal Charter.

This was a noble, but lame attempt to minimise political power over newspapers (but, noticeably, not the Internet). And, despite reassurances, it would nonetheless still involve ministers and MPs in having a say in the regulator’s composition and scope.

So far most UK national newspaper editors – quite rightly in my opinion – have signalled they won’t sign up to Leveson’s proposal, because it would shackle in-depth, investigative journalism.

Anyone seeking evidence to support that argument need look no further than the coverage given to whistleblowers.

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Doing your bit now for Syria is too little, too late, Mr. President

As the weight of history leans ever more heavily on his shoulder – and no US President wants to leave office looking like a ‘wuss’ – Barack Obama is about to shed his conflict aversion.

‘Stop leading from behind,’ his friends chorus apropos Syria’s civil war, while ex-President Bill Clinton is even more critical, describing his Democratic Party successor as a ‘fool’ and that word, ‘wuss’ (a term I’m unfamiliar with, but can’t help thinking it’s not a compliment).

Obama’s problem is two-fold: firstly, his default setting is that of a liberal conciliator, who, for all his silver-tongued oratory, would rather shut up than put up; secondly, he slavishly follows opinion polls, which Slick Willy says isn’t the hallmark of a true leader.

Because, of all US Commanders in Chief, Clinton knows there are limits to navel-gazing, as he admitted – with teary regret – after shutting his eyes to the Rwanda genocide. That was why he finally ignored the people’s voice, took up military cudgels and sorted out the Bosnia-Kosovo mess, after Europe and the UN had lamentably failed.

The Syrian bloodbath, however, is riddled by complexities that threaten the worst of worse-case scenarios. Plus, coming as it does when the West is untangling itself from controversial engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq – after an Arab Spring that has transited into an Islamic Winter – no-one wants a Cold War-style stand-off.

But, while Obama’s policy of wait and berate may have seemed laudable after G ‘Dubya’ Bush’s gung-ho era, sitting on the sidelines, manicured fingers crossed that Syria’s goody rebels – not those nasty Al-Qaeda types – would topple the detestable Bashar Assad, is growing a remoter possibility by the day.

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

And now the President has fallen into a trap of his own making. When, last August, he threatened ‘red lines’ would be crossed if the Demon of Damascus ever resorted to chemical weapons, Obama should have realised it would only be a matter of time before that likelihood happened and the snare was triggered.

It has been, even if Bashar’s Russian buddies claim evidence is flimsy.

In reality, so far perhaps only a few hundred Syrians have been victims of gassing, probably by sarin. And while I don’t denigrate that appalling statistic, Obama’s stress on bio-warfare being a game-changer somehow diminishes the other 93,000 fatalities, whose deaths by conventional weapons were mostly far grislier than from anything concocted in a laboratory.

To be fair, the off-the-cuff , ‘red lines’ remark to journalists was made when the rebels – under the banner of the secularly moderate Syrian National Council (SNC) – looked short-odds favourites to win and fears were growing the maverick regime would break open its biological arsenal and stage a gory last stand.

Less than a year on, however, the tables are turning dramatically in Assad’s favour, after worse dangers than the sporadic use of nerve agents have exploded onto the bloodletting.

On one side, thousands of Shiite fanatics from Hezbollah have streamed over the Lebanese border to prop up the despot and they are being joined by an estimated 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, all tooled up with increasingly sophisticated Russian weaponry.

In the rebel corner, provisioned by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, countless, rabidly Sunni jihadis from every corner of the globe, including Britain, have flooded into Syria, itching to take a swipe at Assad and his foreign legion.

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

It is these combined alien elements, not gas, that have proved the real game-changer. And, far from being internecine strife, Syria has become the battleground for a proxy war between Islam’s opposing ideologies.

Now – after Obama’s failure at last week’s G8 confab to talk Vladimir Putin into halting Russia’s ‘arms-lift’ to Assad – thanks to his ‘red lines’ warning, the US President is faced with a humiliating volte face or putting his munitions where his mouth is.

The nightmare fear is that US weaponry will fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates and eventually be used against the West. Certainly, nobody with a modicum of marbles has forgotten Afghanistan, where the CIA equipped the mujahedeen against the Soviets and Osama bin Laden was regarded as a ‘good guy’, a fact chillingly underlined by Putin.

So the talk is of supplying limited battlefield technology, maybe light arms plus anti-tank missiles, and pray a diplomatic miracle – one of the magnitude of Obama walking on the nearby lake – will somehow happen if a Geneva peace conference slated for later this month takes place.

Should it do, the likelihood is everyone will turn up, with the possible exception of the adversaries. Having clawed back the initiative, Assad has nothing to gain by making an appearance. And the SNC, who certainly don’t speak for all the rebel factions, insist on the tyrant retreating into ignominious exile before they’ll come for a natter.

Far from a ushering in a breakthrough, the meeting’s chances of success can best be summarised by an expression incorporating the words ‘snowball’, ‘chance’ and ‘Hell’.

Meanwhile, with an eye to his legacy, Obama won’t want to be remembered as a Jimmy Carter Mark II, though there’s every danger he will.

Imitating probably the most inept, post-WW2 occupant of the White House – who blundered monumentally in the Iran Hostages Crisis with a botched rescue mission and was serially incompetent in handling the US economy – Obama missed a real window of opportunity to halt the Syrian carnage more than a year ago.

Urged on by his then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Pentagon top brass to outfit the rebels when their fortunes were soaring and they weren’t infested by Islamist headbangers, he dithered, dallied and did nothing.

Today, then, it’s nigh on impossible for the President to make a moral, humanitarian case for intervention, because that time has elapsed.

The best Obama can hope for is to claim, ‘Well, I did my bit.’

But whatever that bit is, it’s a bit too little and a lot too late.

Now ‘sultan’ Erdogan’s not so much a Turk, more a power-crazed turkey

If Kemal Ataturk, the visionary reformer and founding father of modern-day Turkey, could see the bloody shenanigans going on in downtown Istanbul he’d be spinning in his grave with the velocity of a deranged power drill.

Back in 1923, following the corrupt Ottoman Empire’s humbling in The Great War, he decreed a new nation must rise from the ashes of ruination, one unfettered by religious, Dark Ages dogma, but a state closely mirroring Western values.

So out went the sultan, the autocratic Caliphate, repressive sharia law and its stultified education system. Visible symbols of Islamism – headgear, like the turban and hijab – were banned from public display and even the language was re-written, a Latin alphabet replacing the ancient Arabic script.

Ataturk’s liberal sea-change also saw women’s rights respected and restrictions on alcohol curbed, so that seductively potent raki, an anise-based liquor, became the people’s preferred tipple.

Apart from the blips of occasional military coups punctuating national serenity, for nine decades Turkey was proudly cited as the cuckoo in the Muslim world’s nest; the exception to the rule where a secular, pluralist democracy flourished and people were free to speak their minds.

In tandem came economic progress and a boom in living standards, especially spectacular under the stewardship of prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Justice and Development Party, the AKP.

FACE OF DEFIANCE: Tree-huggers' demo has now become a test of Turkey's democracy

FACE OF DEFIANCE: Tree-huggers’ demo has now become a test of Turkey’s democracy

Lately, however, justice and development have been overtaken by the leader’s religious zeal more reminiscent of the old Ottomans, as Erdogan flexes his muscles with brazen arrogance.

Despite having seen a pack of dictators – Mubarak in Egypt, Tunisia’s Ben Ali and the Libyan lunatic, Gaddafi – tumble like dominoes in the whirlwind Arab Spring (or Winter, as it’s transpired) and Assad’s savage defiance of change in Syria, Turkey’s premier appears to harbour a growing lust to join their dwindling ranks.

Melding Islamic fervour with nationalist expansionism, he has whittled away the pillars of the nation’s liberty, persecuted secular opposition leaders, imprisoned military top brass – mostly on trumped-up charges – censored the media and jailed more journalists than in any other country.

‘Democracy is a bus ride,’ Erdogan is disquietingly reported to have told Jordan’s King Abdullah. ‘And, once I get to my stop, I’m getting off,’

Following a decade of moderately benign rule, clearly that stage is being reached. The wheels on Turkey’s freedom bus are coming off and the man in the driving seat is increasingly exhibiting the megalomaniac tendencies of the pre-Ataturk old guard.

As one fearless local commentator noted, Erdogan’s ‘mandate to rule seems to have been interpreted as a blank cheque to transform the identities and lifestyles of the people.’

Unsurprisingly, then, cronyism is rife and political accountability bang out of fashion.

If further proof was needed, the brutal crackdown on environmental protestors, peacefully demonstrating in downtown Istanbul against the building of a shopping mall in Gezi Park, is it in spades.

One of the city’s few, remaining green spaces, it needs an H&M, Zara or Tesco like Bill Gates needs job-seekers allowance. But Erdogan’s apparatchiks waived through planning permission, so there’s no reprieve.

Meanwhile, thanks to the heavy-handedness of riot police, what started as a tree-huggers’ fiesta turned nasty and spread farther afield into a popular uprising against what many believe is Erdogan’s creeping despotism.

Water cannon, pepper spray and tear gas – dropped from helicopters – has resulted in several deaths, over 1,500 injuries and 2,000 summary arrests, all of which cast doubt on Turkey’s democratic credentials and highlight its leader’s true ambitions.

FACE OF RAGE: Erdogan confronts the demonstrators with rage and threats

FACE OF RAGE: Erdogan confronts the demonstrators with threats

In the finest traditions of Arab despots, Erdogan poured petrol on the flames of dissent, outrageously slandering the activists as ‘communists’, ‘looters’ and  ‘hooligans’, under ‘foreign influence’.

For good measure, he dubbed social media, such as Twitter, ‘the worst menace to society.’

And just to rub in his ruthless hunger for power, Erdogan even threatened the demonstrators by saying, ‘Don’t compete with me. If you can gather 100,000 people, I can gather a million.’

What’s more, he can.

Because Turkey isn’t one country, but two: the urban, secular, liberal middle class and rural, Sunni conservatives, whose votes shaded him three election victories.

The AKP faithful likes the notion of a hard-line leader and backs his aim to turn the premiership into a US-style presidency. They also applaud his crackdown on the metropolitan elite, by restricting the sale of booze as part of an agenda to reintroduce sharia law and outlaw abortion.

Most particularly, they favour his regional, super-power aspirations and a face-off with the mad mullahs of Shiite Iran.

Becoming a bosom buddy of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and a cheerleader for Hamas in Gaza, Erdogan’s gambit is met with glee by religiously-traditionalist country folk, but deep dismay by the liberal city dwellers.

And, while many across the Arab world admire the verbal skirmish he deliberately engineered with Israel – once Turkey’s closest Middle East ally – consternation is growing abroad, where Erdogan’s Islamic leanings and foreign policy misadventures are viewed as reckless.

Patience is wearing particularly thin in Washington, where the Obama Administration fears he wants to drag the West deep into the Syrian conflict, by arming and abetting the Al Qaeda-inspired rebels against the Iran-backed Assad regime.

Yet the last thing the Middle East – and the world – needs now is another, unhinged loose cannon with a yen to be a latter-day sultan-despot.

As a NATO member – and a wannabe recruit to the European Union (much against the better wishes of Germany, which doesn’t want 75 million Turks as members of the club) – Erdogan’s is in dire danger of becoming exactly that.

Ataturk would grieve over the chaos his crude and impulsive successor has created, plus the man’s utter disdain for democracy.

But, so far, no-one seems capable of stopping Erdogan the Turk becoming a turkey.

Ed’s talking b**ls if he thinks hitting OAPs is a vote-winner

There are two golden rules in British politics…convinced the public that the National Health Service is always a national treasure and don’t start a punch-up with pensioners.

So far, however star-crossed the UK’s Coalition government is, somehow it has managed to avoid the unpardonable sins of upsetting either apple-cart, despite David Cameron doing more U-turns than a motorist with a demented sat-nav system.

The Prime Minister may be accident-prone and finding Downing Street a morass of quicksand, but he’s doing a fair impression of minimising harm to the money pit that is the NHS and not trying to squeeze the last pips from OAPs.

Low inflation, meagre interest rates on savings and rising utility prices are taxing the elderly enough already, so reducing or axing their universal benefits – winter fuel allowance, non-requisite TV licences for the over-75s and free bus travel – would be electoral suicide.

The brouhaha over Chancellor Osborne’s wheeze to make retirees pay the first £120,000 of care-home costs was quickly rumbled and instantly reduced to £75K. There’s been a similar reversal, too, over private pension drawn-down schemes, which the Inland Revenue skimmed by 20% two years ago, only to reinstate the cut this January.

Besides, as leader of a party whose dwindling membership is mainly composed of over-60s stalwarts, Cameron and Co – the Lib-Dems, too, even if they won’t countenance a reduction in Inheritance Tax – know the value and psyche of the Blue Rinse Brigade.

Come election day, pensioners are more conditioned to vote than any other demographic group and Tory-minded volunteers can be relied on to stuff envelopes full of manifesto bumf, knock on doors and put up posters in their chintz-curtained windows.

In contrast, Labour, which can’t seem to decide whether it’s Old or New, is displaying all the symptoms of a political lemming under geeky Ed Miliband’s stewardship by deliberately targeting the wrinklies and crinklies.

TWO EDS BETTER THAN ONE? Miliband and Balls plot to hit the elderly

TWO EDS BETTER THAN ONE? Miliband and Balls plot to hit the elderly

Red Ed, who says he won’t reverse Coalition cuts to Child Benefit, recently backed his wannabe Chancellor Ed Balls’ plan to exclude rich pensioners from receiving the £200 winter fuel grant and stop their gratis bus-hopping (if, indeed, they ever do so).

Balls said, ‘When we introduced the winter allowance we introduced it universally in a different circumstance. It’s tougher times now. I think it’s fair to say that we shouldn’t pay it to the richest five per cent [but] keep it for everyone else.’

And on free TV licences worth £145, he noted rather ominously, ‘I think you have to be pragmatic about that one to be honest.’

In the cold glare of financial reality, removing the winter fuel subsidy to fatter-cat pensioners would net about £100M, manifestly less by axing the telly grant. Together, they’d hardly make a dent in the country’s debt.

It’s therefore fair to assume that the man who assisted Gordon Brown in the biggest, barmiest government spending spree in history – one that has contributed exponentially to the UK’s dire financial plight – is telling Darby and Joan that Labour has them in its crosshairs.

And once the breach has been made by means-testing universal benefits, rarely can it be reversed. So, if a sliding scale of disentitlement is introduced, who’s to say it won’t slither downwards to trap not just five per cent, but 10, 15 or 20 per cent?

Bizarrely, this might appease a few over-loaded old timers, who can manage very nicely, thank you, by private means without being encumbered with state largesse and they’re insisting on making maximum fuss about not receiving it.

So let me state, unequivocally, that I have no gripe with fatter cats, of whatever vintage, giving away money (though, ironically, those who’ve tried to return their pensions to the Treasury have been told where to stick the moolah, because they can’t do that).

By all means lavish what you don’t need on your favourite kith and kin, charity or bookmaker.

However, these aren’t privileges you’re undermining, but universal benefits all are entitled to receive by law. And, if you’ve been fortunate to be a high earner, you’ve paid your fair share of income tax and national insurance to justify a small return in your dotage.

I know it sounds ridiculous that multi-millionaires, like Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Bruce Forsyth, should receive pensions+benefits, but that’s how the system was designed and should remain.

If you don’t like it, vote Labour, because Ed Balls will be delighted to grant your wish.

Why some definitions of ‘free speech’ offer a free pass to the terror mongers

In affluent, uber-liberal Sweden they are still dousing the flames of hatred, while the country’s bleeding-heart elite asks itself, ‘Why us? All we did was to open our door to the repressed of other lands.’

Or, in the submission of one leading politician, ‘We’ve tried harder than any other European country to integrate, spending billions on a welfare system that is designed to help jobless immigrants and guarantee them a good quality of life.

‘Yet we have areas where there are ethnic groups that just don’t identify with Swedish society. They see the police, even the fire brigade, as part of the state and they attack them. We have tried everything, anything, to improve things, but it hasn’t worked. It’s not about racism, it’s just that the policy of multiculturalism in Europe has failed.’

Ah, there’s the goodie-goodies’ pet buzzword, ‘multiculturalism’, It might offer a clue to why Europe’s most egalitarian state was burning. Though if you’d read early reports of the rioting and arson in The Guardian or BBC News website you’d be none the wiser.

The bibles of radical thought merely informed their readers that ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘immigrants’ took to the torch, believing themselves to be second-class citizens in a nation that’s the epitome of everything wholesomely Nordic.

Both organs of the pompous bien pensant somehow overlooked who the great disenchanted are: Somalis, Eritreans, Afghans and Iraqis. A mere oversight, perhaps? Or, disingenuously, a lame attempt to disguise the fact that, in common with most of Western Europe, Sweden has a problem with some of its Muslim population (15% and growing), where Islamists agitators are increasingly stirring violent dissent?

FLAMING RAGE: Cars burn as rioters take to the torch in Sweden

FLAMING RAGE: Cars burn as rioters take to the torch in Sweden

Well, hand-wringing Swedes, wake up and smell the couscous.

Recently here, I posed the question: Is it time Muslim communities did more to combat the fanatics in their midst?

This was an attempt to derail the pernicious hatred of a minority of evil deviants by enlisting the huge, silent majority of peaceful Muslims to seize the agenda.

Because, whatever you think of multiculturalism, headbanger Islamists don’t rate it one iota – certainly not in Britain, France, Spain, Holland and now nice, nice Sweden, where flat-pack furniture makes an ever-so-lovely bonfire of liberal vanities.

What’s more, the deplorable fanners of religious flames are using our institutions and laws to make twits of us. And, we can thank the obsessive political correctness of some in positions of influence for further exposing us to the threat of extremism.

They’ll even stake their snooty reputations on the high altar of ‘free speech’ to protect the rights of crazies who want to drag the world back to the 7th Century.

For instance, listen to Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK – the vice-chancellors’ union – who was asked why Islamic societies are allowed to hold gender-segregated events on campus, where impressionable youngsters are systematically indoctrinated in anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-gay loathing by invited hate-preachers.

‘Clamping down on speakers is not the way forward,’ Nicola said glibly, on a recent visit to Planet Earth.

For good measure, she added that Islamic societies should be left to police themselves.

DEFENDER OF THE FAITH: Baroness Warsi agrees there is no more Islamic hate-speech on UK campuses than 'anywhere else

DEFENDER OF THE FAITH: Baroness Warsi agrees there is no more hate-speech on UK university campuses than anywhere else

Baroness Warsi, Britain’s Minister for Faith, also subscribes to this codswallop, insisting extremism is ‘no more prevalent’ at varsities than elsewhere. That contradicts the anti-extremism group, Student Rights, who found at least 10 instances of Islamic hate-peddlers being openly promoted on UK campuses in April alone.

So what’s Nicola’s interpretation of ‘free speech’? Extending free passes to disciples of Abu Qatada, Omar Bakri Mohammed, hook-clawed Abu Hamza and Anjem Choudary to spout invective that defiles our democratic principles (at least Bakri was ejected from Britain, Hamza deported to the USA and hopefully Qatada will soon be packed off to Jordan)?

And how do we deal with mosques hijacked by ‘militants’ – that’s BBC-speak for terror-mongers, since the ‘T’ word is banned by Left-leaning Auntie (though, odious Choudary, an apologist for murder and once leader of now outlawed Al-Muhajiroun, is a welcome guest on Newsnight)?

Or are we supposed to tolerate friendly, neighbour bookshops, flogging DIY bomb-making manuals and the 10 best ways to behead an infidel?

Even UK jails have become breeding grounds for rabid Islamists, as illustrate by last week’s brutal attack on a warder in Full Sutton Prison, East Yorkshire.

So what I – and, no doubt, now many Swedes – want to know from Nicola and her ilk is: Define your version of ‘free speech’? Because I know what mine is…and among other proscriptions, I cannot spew racism or incite others to acts of religious aggression.

To me, freedom of speech is a privilege, not a right to abuse. And those who defend it irresponsibly are dunderheads in dire need of gagging. Far from being the protectors of a democratic virtue, they are playing into the hands of its destroyers.

That’s why the West must sing from the same hymn sheet in dealing with extremism, particularly of the Islamo-fascist persuasion, and learn best practices from each other.

As I’ve written before, France brooks no dissent when it comes to extraditing fomenters of terror. Adieu – or words to that effect – they say, without going through the inanity of consulting the European Court of Sub-Human Rights, while the Americans simply revoke citizenship and escort malcontents to the nearest international airport.

After the 7/7 London bombings, Britain’s answer was Prevent, an ostensibly tough regime intended to crack down on fanatics. However, so liberally absurd was it implemented, the government and local authorities actually funded the very lunatics Prevent was supposed to prevent…to ‘engage’ with them.

In one instance, £113,411 was given to a foundation linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir to establish Islamic schools, where an ‘Islamic personality’ would be implanted into pupils. It’s worth noting – as ministers were well aware – Hizb sought the destruction of the British state, vilified assimilation and wanted Sharia law imposed on the nation.

Currently, as the UK is locked in soul-searching following the dastardly murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, controversy surrounds a new Communications Bill that would give security services more powers to scrutinise emails, phone calls and text messages.

The Lib-Dems label this a ‘snooper’s charter’ and are dead against it (hence, it must be a good idea).

Meantime, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, says current UK laws exist to ensure hate-preachers don’t incite violence or disorder.

Perhaps he should pass that information onto the pussy-footing police and judiciary, so we can all have our free speech protected…especially from repellent Islamists.