The knives are out for Laurence Fox and GB News, which makes what I have to say all the more difficult because I don’t want to give the impression I think he should be ‘cancelled’. For the record: Fox can be snarky and boorish, but I don’t think he should lose his job at GB News. He has an audience who clearly adore him, even if they might concede he’s been a bit of a pillock at times. An ‘interview without coffee’, and an acknowledgement that he should have dialled it down a bit, would seem to be sufficient.
But the problem is that when it comes to free speech, Laurence Fox is, in my opinion, a bit of a hypocrite. My reasons are as follows.
Back in May, I wrote a piece condemning Laurence’s friend Calvin Robinson and his prayer for peace, which I felt was merely an opportunity to demonise Ukraine. Instead of ‘turning the other cheek’ or issuing a coherent response, Calvin took a bizarre pop at the FSU; but then in a strange and misguided attempt at solidarity, Laurence Fox pulled out of Toby Young and Isabel Oakeshott’s Lockdown Files Live event. That’s water under the bridge, but it’s why I threw down the gauntlet to Laurence (and, separately, Calvin and James Delingpole) for a debate on the topic of Ukraine. James and Calvin both instantly declared me an uppity non-entity, entirely unworthy of sharing a platform with their majesties, but Laurence appeared to accept the challenge.
Skip forward a few months, and after some difficulty pinning Laurence down, the venue was set for Reclaim Party HQ this Wednesday, September 27th at 10.30am. So I took the train down to London and saw the Kyiv City Ballet (which I’m sure is very good if you like that kind of thing), before toddling off to my sister’s place for an impromptu Ulez strategy meeting. Then, at 8.52pm, Laurence’s PA informed me that he was cancelling due to vague “unforeseen circumstances”. He couldn’t quite manage a personal phone call or text. Note, this was before he’d made his inflammatory remarks about Ava Evans, let alone been suspended by GB News, so that can’t be an excuse.
This was very irritating, given I’d spent several days researching and preparing for the debate, including a two-hour tutorial with a friend, also of this parish, while at the same time giving Toby increasingly vague timelines for when I’d finish the IT work I was meant to be doing for the FSU. Given what had happened in the week prior, with a former member of the 14th Waffen Grenadier SS Division getting a round of applause from the Canadian Parliament during Zelenskyy’s visit, and a possible case of a war crime by a Ukrainian drone operator – both of which Laurence had tweeted about, and which I think some of the below-the-line commenters here would have enjoyed seeing me having to tackle – I had my work cut out for me, and I confess I was quite on edge. I’m a bit of an introvert, and have never wanted to put myself forward for public speaking before.
It was therefore quite a relief when Laurence cancelled, but extremely annoying nevertheless. Just a few minutes later, he was on GB News doing his best to cancel himself, too. And if we count his throwing of Dan Wootton under the cancel bus, that’s three in the space of 24 hours. In tweeting as in life, Lozza is nothing if not prolific, but I couldn’t help but think yesterday’s tweets about the preciousness of free speech and his attack on Mark Dolan as a “cos play freedom fighter” rang a little hollow (if not self-parodic), since whatever “unforeseen circumstances” had prevented him from debating me clearly hadn’t stopped him from a vigorous round of morning tweeting.
Freedom of speech is indeed precious, but talk is also cheap.