Rod Liddle

Everyone says they’re Charlie. In Britain, almost no one is

Those lining up to defend freedom of speech are all too often the very people who are out to curtail it

17 January 2015

9:00 AM

17 January 2015

9:00 AM

Je suis Charlie indeed. This is the problem with placards — there is rarely enough room to fit in the caveats, the qualifying clauses and the necessary evasions. I suppose you could write them on the back of the placard, one after the other, in biro. Or write in brackets and in much smaller letters, directly below ‘Je suis Charlie’: ‘Jusqu’a un certain point, Lord Copper.’ Then you can pop your biro into your lapel as a moving symbol of freedom of speech.

Only a few of the British mainstream national newspapers felt it appropriate to reproduce the front cover of the latest, post-murder, edition of Charlie Hebdo, which shows the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH, natch) saying: all is forgiven. Nobody else was quite Charlie, although BBC Newsnight held up the front page very, very briefly, as if it were on fire. Credit to them at least for that.

Of course, our MPs had their pens out as well, waving them around in the chamber in a show of solidarity. Their number will have included plenty who voted in favour of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and particularly the clause that prohibits people from saying stuff to which other people might possibly take offence. ‘Using threatening, abusive or insulting words to cause alarm and distress’ was the original wording of this charter to protect the perpetually outraged; the word ‘insulting’ has since been removed, after a long campaign from, among others, the excellent Conservative MP David Davis. But the rest of it’s still there, a restriction on freedom of speech primarily to protect the sensibilities of people who feel that they have a human right not to be offended and enjoy ringing the police any time that they are.

This strikes me as a little hypocritical of our noble members, a point made with some force by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who said: ‘The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then in the next advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens.’

Sure, Nick. But the irony seems to be lost on you, too. There were few politicians more delighted to embrace Lord Leveson’s draconian restriction on press freedom and, therefore, freedom of speech. But then it wouldn’t surprise me too much if his lordship was also proudly wearing a pen in his lapel. Hell, right at this moment Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant have probably got pens in their lapels. Has the BBC broadcaster Andrew Marr got a pen in his lapel? Did he have one in his lapel when he took out a super-injunction to stop the press reporting details of his private life which, in the manner of Mohammed (PBUH again, natch), he thought should not be viewed by mortal eyes?

Remember too that it is illegal in this country to use footage of our politicians in Parliament for satirical or humorous purposes, even if unintentionally they provide the humour and satire all by themselves. In this way our elected members have elevated themselves above the fray and almost to the position of Mohammed (PBUH again, and again, fivefold).

The journalist Brendan O’Neill of Spiked wrote a superb little vignette of what would have happened if Charlie Hebdo had been published in this country. He meant it as satire, but frankly it was all a little too close for comfort: he imagined the magazine subjected to a furious Twitter campaign, liberals launching a petition against its vile Islamophobia, supermarkets refusing to stock it, having first displayed it only in a black plastic bag to avoid offending Muslim customers. And the publication eventually being hounded out of business. The only thing missing from Brendan’s imagined account was the arrival, at some stage, of the Old Bill, investigating the editor and the cartoonists for inciting religious or racial hatred.

Meanwhile, as the appalling events in France unfolded, a British man exercised his right to freedom of speech. The Ukip leader Nigel Farage suggested that a dubious policy of multiculturalism, plus unrestrained immigration, might in some way have contributed to the sort of attack we saw in Paris last week and have seen before — and will undoubtedly see again, some time quite soon — in the UK.

The response from the three main party leaders was immediate and unanimous. Let me try to paraphrase it for you here: ‘I am deeply disappointed that Mr Farage sought to make political capital out of this tragedy. Now is not the time to make salient and virtually incontestable observations on the causes of the misery inflicted upon us all. Now is the time to spout vapid, platitudinous drivel about our heavily qualified commitment to freedom of speech and thus our partial and temporary solidarity with that ghastly magazine in France.’

Farage was roundly condemned, as he usually is. But again, he was right — as he usually is on such matters. And why is now not the time to consider the policies which have brought us all, in Europe, to this somewhat disagreeable position? I would have thought that ‘now’ was just about the best time imaginable. We have a degree of focus right now, no? Our minds are concentrated.

But it is easier, I suppose, to wallow in the emotive, if mindless, outpouring of grief and confected grief and to issue a string of canards, the same canards that are spewed out every time something like this happens. This is nothing to do with Islam! (Er, yes it is.) The overwhelming majority of Muslims believe in freedom of speech just like the rest of us. (Are you having a laugh?) Let’s all unite and march onward into a bright new dawn, holding hands and with our pens in our lapels and carrying those placards: Je suis Charlie.

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Show comments
  • Rik

    Brilliant!!! As per usual you have punctured the hypocritical posturing of the mainstream parties with laser like precision.
    Thank god for Farage and a bit of common sense.

  • Radford_NG

    It’s only a cartoon of The Big M. because the cartoonist says it is.By any normal standards the figure and the sentiment above it would refer to the Prophet Jesus of Nazareth.

  • philiphuw

    Good column Rodders. One worrying thing to add is that many of the (supposedly-educated) young in the UK seem to believe that Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists were racists and had it coming. They don’t appear to understand that Islam is a collection of ideas and not a race. I could, if I so wished, become a Molsem. I could not, If I wanted to, become an afro-Caribbean. Why don’t the kids see the difference? We don’t have to respect any ideas that we don’t like. Especially if it’s at the point of a gun. Also, being told that we can’t express our dislike of ideas we find dangerous or frightening is what is known as tyranny.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Rod, In Australia, you can indeed become an aboriginal australian if you wish. The legal test of identity is- do you feel like an aboriginal and do other people who feel like aboriginals recognise you as one of them ?

      This was made very clear by the grotesque case against plain-speaking journalist Andrew Bolt who wrote a couple of articles criticising urban “white aboriginals” for snaffling up all the scholarships and prizes offered to this group to help address indigenous disadvantage. Bolt was sued by a small group of eminent white aborigines for offending them.

      Under our infamous s18 Racial Discrimination act he was convicted of causing offence to this group.

      The advanced thinkers in Australia are all supportive of the “right” not to be offended over free speech. They are all currently hashtagging and holding their little pens aloft… but they won’t support the repeal of the right to be offended.

      I am Charlie Indeed!

  • Marcus

    Good article Rod, but Farage and you don’t go far enough:

    The Leftist policy of encouraging mass unchecked immigration from economically insolvent Muslims.
    In conjunction with simultaneously launching illegal, murderous and entirely unsuccessful wars against Islamic countries, which were not in our interests (or theirs).
    Is the reason why Europe is in this mess and South Korea (which is actually in closer proximity to the largest Islamic country on earth) is not.

    • Grace Ironwood

      I have a couple of South Korean friends. Not much multiculturalism there- nor Japan.
      Do you reckon that might have something to do with it ?

      I’m so fatigued by ye olde “foreign policy” argument. Not even the most ratbag university students perpetrate mass murder for their views on foreign policy.

  • Its taken Speccie quite some time to get round to illustrating its support for freedom of expression following the murder and mayhem in Paris, so well done and thanks for publishing the cartoon.

    • davidshort10

      I think you are mistaken. The Spectator from the start has said it would not register under the Leveson rules.

      • Perhaps the comment was not clear enough. It was meant as praise to the magazine for finally displaying the Charlie cover (above) but criticism for taking so long to do so. As you rightly note the Spectator did come out strongly against Leveson gagging and a very welcome stand that is. Thus it was disappointing to see them initially shy away from republishing the cartoons by journalists murdered for defending free speech and the right to free expression (covered by the ‘Liberté’ in France’s revolutionary slogan).

  • James Lovelace

    Tommy Robinson is the only person who dare say “Je Suis Charlie” in Britain.

    Over 300 death threats to him and his family (threats from muslims, socialists and from neo-nazis). And despite taking the threats to the police, not one person has been charged.

    Tommy Robinson no longer informs the police where he lives. Each time he moved house and told them, within days gangs of muslims would be at his door threatening him. The only reason he’s still alive is because the fascists don’t know where he lives or what his routine is. Bearing in mind how useless the police protection was for the staff of Charlie Hebdo, it’s clear the only way to be able to publicly criticise islam is to be under 24×7 state protection like Geert Wilders or to keep moving.

    • Richard

      One does wonder how many police are on the side of the Muslims, and tell them where “protected” people move? The service is probably riddled with them.

    • Carlos Malleum

      Spot on, I would urge everyone to watch Tommy Robinson s speech to Oxford Union, it is on YouTube. Everyone I have shown this to comes away with a changed opium this man and shame that their middle class life of comfort has isolated them from seeing problems across our cities and a state and media coordinated over reaction to anyone who could possibly even think about challenging the death cult of multiculturalism.

      Particularly depressing is the obvious collusion of the police in shutting down free speech.

      Robinson (aka! Lennon) is no angel, a point he freely admits, but nor is he the Neo nazi racist brownshirt he is portrayed as by his opponents and, depressingly, by people who pre judge on headlines.

      Before you respond to this post with ‘no, he’s a nazi’ please watch the speech, all it effectively is is a presentation of the issues that motivated the establishment of the EDL.

      Huge respect to the Oxford Union for going ahead with this lecture despite threats of violence and censure from the radical left and islamist organisations.

  • little islander

    Yes, I was. The best yet……tragic though the backstory is.

  • The_greyhound

    Brilliant piece.

    I think the unctuous Clegg was the first to rush to the microphone to deny the obvious truth – this is what multiculturalism must mean.

    Still, I’m sorry that Rod Liddle couldn’t have pointed out the other obvious hypocrisy of the reaction : “je suis Charlie” ignores the victims in the supermarket. But to the bien-pensant, Jewish lives are of very little account.

    • Grace Ironwood

      “Je suis juif” not so popular, eh ?

  • The Masked Marvel

    At last. Thanks, Rod. How can anyone suggest that showing Mohammed as being against this violence is offensive? Isn’t that what we’re told over and over again by our betters?

    • davidshort10

      The way CH portrayed the Prophet is however offensive and would have been banned in a pre-Oz Britain. If an American magazine had portrayed Jesus in the same way, a lot of gun-toting Bible Belt Christians would have come calling.

      • Robbydot1


        • davidshort10

          I’m referring to previous cartoons which show the prophet in pornographic poses and with his testicles hanging down and so on. Not many people have seen them. If they had, they’d understand better how offensive CH is/was.

      • Mc

        Who gives a toss if something is offensive, except for those who are constantly on the lookout for a grievance. It is no wonder that the permanently aggrieved and religious fundamentalists are always offended. Neither are interested in basing their thoughts or actions on logic by accepting that being offended doesn’t and shouldn’t confer the power to curb free speech. Beyond being a demand to “stop doing something because I say so”, being offended isn’t an argument at all and is called on by people for one reason only: to control and censor others.

      • The Masked Marvel

        Your comment is defamatory, bigoted, and factually ignorant. Jesus has been portrayed in all sorts of ghastly ways, and your imaginary bogeymen have yet to shoot up any magazines or tv studios or Jewish shops. P!$$ Christ, South Park, Family Guy, Jerry Springer the Opera, ‘Corpus Christi’, the list goes on and on. They get upset and protest and make noise from time to time, but to make such a glib statement makes you look like a less than intellectually honest person.

        • davidshort10

          Don’t be silly.

        • ARDNASSAC

          Can you believe such jerks exist? I mentioned to him, ‘The
          Last Temptation of Christ’ still banned in many countries, and the films by Diane Keaton and Bill Maher which mocked religion. No doubt it all went over his empty head.


        You clearly read very little US literature and comment to say nothing of being unaware of a long list of films which portray Jesus as an idiot at best. If you had the intellect to be aware that ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ was a US production, you might have restrained from making your crazy remark. The list is endless, ‘South Park’, and Diane Keaton’s and Bill Maher’s films effectively mocking believers. Yes, they had their critics in the US but no one was hurt. Stay with your Guardian you ignorant bag of human pus.

        • davidshort10

          Charmed, I’m sure. At least I am not a coward and use my name. You are a troll and must lead a very sad life to let off such hatred against a stranger. Try and find a girlfriend.

          • logdon

            Or in the name of inclusivity a boyfriend like you.

      • Grace Ironwood

        Really ? Please detail the number of terrorist incidents associated with “gun-toting Bible Belt Christians” over the issue freedom of speech.

        Please give your sources.

        No ? Didn’t think so.

      • Ted Bishop

        Eh? The Life Of Brian. He’s not the Messiah, he just a very naughty boy. The famous cross ending with Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
        Outrage by a few banner hoding old ladies, angry letters to MP’s but no killings of people over depiction of Jesus.

  • The_greyhound

    A neat exposition of how the atrocity in Paris, and many other atrocities, have nothing to do with the Religion of Peace

  • Andy Capp

    Right on, Rod. How can it be claimed that Muslims support free speech when they feverishly follow a religion that is dictatorial and impinges on every aspect of society in countries where that religion is dominant (e.g Iran, Iraq, Pakistan)? I think the more sensible establishment politicians now realise that mass immigration from Muslim countries is a real problem but they are now caught in a trap of their own making – i.e there is a huge Muslim block vote (think of the number of Muslim households signed up for postal voting) and they are desperate not to offend it as it could cost them their parliamentary seats and their party the election.

  • 70sgirly

    The Charlie Hebdo image of Mohamed should have been reproduced in every newspaper and shown on all news programmes. The BBC did briefly show it on Newsnight and on Breakfast (with a warning to those who might be offended to look away, FFS) and Sky news nearly had a fit when a French journalist tried to show it to camera whilst being interviewed.

    And the reason why Cameron insists these attacks are nothing to do with Islam and the media daren’t show this cartoon? He is absolutely terrified of the sh*t hitting the fan on British streets if Muslims here react like thousands are doing in Pakistan, protesting the “filthy blasphemers” after being revved up by nutjob imams at Friday prayers.

    • Grace Ironwood

      I’m sure I’m not the only person who can see the acceleration of the violence.
      It is obviously going to happen anyway. The pollies are right in their dishonest instincts- they’re balancing on a powder keg of their own making.

  • James

    The perpetually outraged Rod Liddle

    • Cornelius Bonkers

      Why does the pursuit of truths such as these always attract the charge of “outrage” ; and anyway, what’s wrong with a bit of outrage? If it’s good enough for feminists then why not Rod?

  • Kennie

    But this is all bo**ocks. I do sincerely sympathise with the relatives & friends of those killed both at CH and at the supermarché. However, let’s not forget, Charlie Hebdo’s staff were in favour only of their own free speech. They actively sought to block the freedom of speech of some with whom they did not agree.

  • answeeney

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. An article on free speech that has deleted comments by the shed-load.

    I guess being in the same stable as the Telegraph may have something to do with it.

    Call yourself jounalists…God help us.

    BTW I won’t go into the speccis offices on a rampage – I will just cancel my subscription.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      The Spectator, that bastion of free speech.
      Throw up here.

  • DStAndrew

    I’m not Charlie, but I shall be firmly exercising my right not to read it.

  • cestusdei

    It is difficult to respond to an attack on freedom of speech when your own nation restricts and punishes those who engage in politically incorrect speech (so-called hate speech). The US has it right in the 1st amendment.

  • Andrew Emerson

    Farage has said that UKIP ‘want immigration’ and ‘welcome immigration’. He wanted more immigration from Syria not long ago. Just like Mrs Thatcher, Farage and UKIP cannot be trusted to take the vitally necessary measures in relation to immigration. These are: stop all immigration by persons not of British descent; round up and deport all illegal immigrants, foreign criminals, bogus asylum seekers and overstayers; and strengthen our border controls to make them fit for purpose.

    Patria is the one and only party with both the courage and the intelligence to put our people first. Visit

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  • Jonathan Douglas

    As a protestant conservative supporter it is uncomfortable to find myself agreeing with the pope and disagreeing with David Cameron, this morning. There is a very important distinction here : it is not that journalists should not be allowed to print insulting cartoons, but just that they shouldn’t print them. The debate is not really about whether journalists in Paris get shot (although clearly they should not), but whether printing these insults is good for the populations of Niger and Nigeria, Syria and Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, etc. The reform process in the Islamic world will only be delayed or stopped by westerners taking a smug, careless, and indifferent attitude to it. Meanwhile there is enormous suffering on account of it. Crowing about how much better our values and ethics are doesn’t help at all. Therefore, Je ne suis pas Charlie, Je suis une jeune fille chrétienne avoir été violée au Niger.

    • twowolves

      You don’t understand. They don’t give a fig about the insults to Islam, this is about power over us. That’s why they hate Jews, the people we cannot insult.

      Start thinking man.

      • Ted Bishop

        One only has to read snippets of the history of Islam from its beginnings to realise that within a few hundred years it had cut a bloody swath of atrocities in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, killing millions and enslaving many more. Those who did not convert were killed and if women enslaved. The Barbary Pirates, Muslims from North Africa were raiding Europe for centuries for slaves, attacking ports, town and villages in southern England, Wales, Ireland and capturing fishermen who happened to be in the seas off France. That slave trade is forgotten well not forgotten not taught in case it might offend but it enslaved more people than the old Triangle trade that is taught in schools and why, because that
        awful slave trade was all do with the old defunct British Empire, the USA and Europe with the help of Africans and also Muslim slavers yet not a word is taught about the old Islamic Empire which was so brutal and if we listen to the tirades from Islamists and indeed some who our leaders likes to label moderate Muslims, the Islamic Empire never went away and is expanding again and the rage in the Muslim world from Indonesia, Pakistan and to Chechnya over a cartoon is just growing. It is a real danger to all people who are not Muslims and to those genuine moderate Muslims but most of all women. If we are subdued by Islam and those in authority who are too scared to stand up to radical Islam and we do not speak freely against it more intolerant views we will have no freedom whatsoever.

    • Cornelius Bonkers

      Oh, so it’s our fault?

      • Jonathan Douglas

        It is the fault of lots of people, none of us has never made a mistake. The solution to these problems is not about allocating fault, but looking at where we all want to be at some point in the future and working towards it with positive ideas. Throwing insults and then claiming it is defending free speech is not positive, it just inflames things.

    • Cornelius Bonkers

      You’ll be saying next that there is such a thing as the Arab Spring. Islam can’t and doesn’t want to be reformed – it DEMANDS to dominate. Muslims’ are the other chosen people; so that makes two lots of chosen people – see the problem?

  • Jeeti Johal-Bhuller

    Je Suis Charlie – freedom of speech is a luxury and privelege outcome of a civilised society. It is for people’s free to speak openly amongst others no matter what echelon of sentient understanding they may be on, knowing the collective voice of reason will always balance any dispairty in truth. Freedom of speech in times when extremism of all persuasions prevails, must be defended and upheld. Ridiculing deities is foolishness and symptomatic of a society unable for numerous reasons to be constructively critical of bigotry. Religion is a cancer at war with their rivals for the prestige of dominance, an evil initself. Humanitarians are caught up within the matrix it constructs. May the peacemaker libertarian always rule with its impartial and unprejudiced perspective. Je Suis Charlie.

    Scandals are terrible things for nobles with a regard for their reputations, good names and honour. Ignobles are always on the witch hunt, for whom the bell tolls than any one misadventure worse than the others. The frustrating despair of those polarised and maligned in an arena where all are more than guilty but they who speak truth or at odds with the overseers are scapegoated. A nation at war with its own hypocrisy, this and them over there. It’s cold in Coventry.

    • twowolves

      … and maybe slightly inebriated.

    • Bonkim

      Good literature.

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    I was wondering if those in OUR country who REALLY need the protection of the law against the real and serious threat of being slaughtered by Muslims – Rod Liddle, Douglas Murray, Roger Scruton, Nigel Farage – will actually get it? It seems to me that War is no longer incipient but existent…I really believe they and their nearest and dearest need to take steps to defend themselves – HOWEVER, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THOSE STEPS MIGHT BE….any suggestions anybody?

    • Bonkim

      Stop dreaming about an imagined future.

      • Cornelius Bonkers

        Is there any other kind of future?

        • Bonkim

          Nor dreams – if you don’t dream how will you make your dreams come true?

          • Cornelius Bonkers

            Maybe dreams and fantasies are causes of our present and future woes? Perhaps we should stick to reasoned argument and refuse to engage in ANY theology.

          • Bonkim

            Reason – depends on who is reasoning.

          • Cornelius Bonkers

            Well Bonks, this is the crux. Surely there is unreason and reason – who speaks is irrelevant?

          • Bonkim

            Reason and un-reason are relative depends on the evidence acceptable to you – One Bonk’s reason may be completely un-resonable to another Bonk.

          • Cornelius Bonkers

            Yo Bonks. I’m sorry but no, reason is not a relative concept. It’s about a search for truth. If someone tells you there is no such thing as reason/truth (WHICH IS WHAT YOU’RE TELLING ME) then why ought you believe them? This is why we ought to ignore all engagement with FAITH OF ANY KIND. Best regards

          • Bonkim

            Religious belief systems and rational thought do not mix. Even in rational thought such as physics and mathematics you have to accept certain Axioms as the basis of any discussion – Axioms by definition are fundamental truths you cannot question. Human behaviour cannot always be discussed in terms of absolute rationality and people do things just because they want to – try developing an air-tight logic for say buying your next car or life-mate or similar – the factors involved and their weighting have huge variations and transient – look back at court decisions or political ones and the volumes written on the causes and effects of various historical decisions – you will be lost in the maze of rationality or just accept some clever sounding rationale. You will find similar processes operating on industrial design, governance of state, multinational investments, etc, all ultimately boil down to someone’s gut feel after all the sums and optimisations have been carried out.

            Conversely those that want to achieve something think quick and draw first and prepared to risk all. No argument after the deed is done. You have to give credit to ISIS or Boko Haram they have the initiative in their evil trajectory – and the rest are just following and wondering what next. Same technique employed by the German Panzers in WW2. Have you played Noughts and Crosses in school? The one that steps forward first usually wins.

          • Cornelius Bonkers

            Yo Bonks,
            I Entirely agree with the stuff about axioms. The axiom that God exists is a presumption that rational thought cannot and therefore should not try to deal with – hence my dismissal of all theologies. Regrettably, we in the West also have axioms/founding myths – the Big Bang for instance. Even mathematics is guilty here; you must surely recall Hilbert’s dismemberment at the hands of Gödel’s undecidability theorems. So reason has its presumptions too…but it’s the best we have…for now…

  • David Hopkins

    This is Britain, we are not permitted (out of fear of punishment) to speak out against Muslims, Jews or Homosexuals. Our national pastime is persecuting Christians.

    • Bonkim

      Don’t see any Christians being fed to the lions here. In fact can’t see many Christians either.

    • justsomeone

      I can’t see why anyone would want to speak out against Jewish people and gays. We’re also not allowed to speak in favour of Ebola or genocide or brutal rape or wife beating. Let’s try this: “We’re not permitted to speak out in favour of violent rape”. How comical. Indeed, some members of the Pakistani community may well want to “speak out” against young white girls.
      There’s genuine reason for concern about mass-Muslim immigration,
      the Islamization of Britain, the price of accommodating Islam, Islamic

      You might object to gay-marriage and the politically correct do not
      like that, but that is not equivalent to wishing to attack gay people, even using words rather than sticks.
      When it comes to Jewish people and to gays, have there been lots of cartoonists murdered for offending them? Are people scared to see someone Jewish in the street? Any stories about gay patrols beating up heterosexuals? Some gays, acting on behalf of the gay community been hijacking planes lately? Were the tube bombings were carried out by militant gays or perhaps by Jews?
      People like you make the rest of us look bad.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Stand by for the race riots, Britisher pals.

    • Cornelius Bonkers

      Was that a threat Jack?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        More of a warning for those with the wit to grasp the obvious.
        As you were, Corn.

        • Cornelius Bonkers

          Yo Jack. is RACE the point though? I would have thought it was religion which posed the key conundrum…

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    In multicultural Malaysia where I find myself, there are moves to prohibit public displays of Christmas celebrations. Now I could endorse that especially if it could be bartered for knocking that “call to prayer” on the head. Bellowing out across the rooftops at 06.00; I mean come on. A joke’s a joke, but let’s not have a three-ring circus.

  • Fraser Bailey

    Spot on always, Rod. Rodchard Liddllejohn is always right.

  • mikewaller

    All good stuff, Rod, but what are you actually suggesting we DO?