When you’re amid like-minded souls in the comforting surroundings of the Inner Temple’s Grand Hall, it’s easy to feel invincible. Especially when there’s nearly unlimited wine flowing (thank you the Nuffield Foundation).
So it was something akin to a victory rally last week when the Libel Reform Campaign launched the final report of The Alternative Libel Project. Especially when justice minister Lord McNally came as close as is possible without committing lèse–majesté to promising that libel reform would feature in the Queen’s speech in May.
However, speakers did their best to puncture the mood by reminding the audience that not everyone shares their belief that English libel law is broken. Blogger David Allen Green, head of media practice at City firm Preiskel & Co, reminded the audience that another word for exorbitant costs is revenues - and that when lawyers talk of access to justice ‘they usually mean access to clients’.
Author Nick Cohen cast himself in the role of Old Testament prophet by saying that, even if libel reform gets on to the legislative programme, MPs are not exactly in the mood to hand the press any favours.
And science writer Simon Singh (pictured), introduced as the pin-up boy of the campaign, said that his litigious foes in the alternative healthcare business enjoy widespread public support. The most widely held paranormal belief, apparently, is in the mind’s ability to move physical objects. Singh invited any adherents in the audience to come forward: ‘If you believe in telekinesis, please raise my right hand.’