"The Conservative party is committed, if elected, to undertaking a fundamental review of the libel laws with a view to enacting legislation to reform them. This reform could best be done by means of a separate Libel Bill and this is the preferred approach for us."With Labour's Justice Secretary Jack Straw having committed to libel reform back in March, and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg having done so in January, this means all three main political parties have now expressed a commitment to reforming Britain's unjust, plaintiff-friendly libel laws.
It's a high-point for the hugely successful Libel Reform campaign (to which we, as the Rationalist Association, are signed up as supporters) but, as an email from the campaign points out, this is only the beginning:
This would not have happened unless 48,000 people like you backed our campaign, turned up to our public meetings, Big Gig and lobby of Parliament. With the decison by three of the most important judges in the land on Simon Singh’s case last week extending your right to fair comment, and a commitment to our politicians to reform the rest of our unjust libel laws, we’re on the cusp of radical and long-awaited reform.
Yet, it won’t be easy. On Tuesday, an attempt to cut lawyers’ fees failed in the House of Commons. We know that some libel lawyers will oppose reform every step of the way. It’s a lucrative business with some cases costing £3 million in lawyers’ fees. The vested interests are huge. We need your support not just now, but more importantly in the next few months when we see how our newly elected politicians propose to reform the law in the next Parliament.
So, please continue to support the Libel Reform campaign (if you haven't already signed the petition, now would be a good time) and here's hoping that whichever party forms the next government stands by its commitment.