Simon Walters, Daily Mail (London), July 18, 2009
Home Secretary Alan Johnson is to scrap his predecessor’s policy of naming and shaming people banned from Britain for spreading race hate and terrorism.
The U-turn follows Jacqui Smith’s controversial decision two months ago to announce a list of 16 people branded as ‘least wanted’ in the UK.
It led to a claim for £100,000 damages by U.S. radio ‘shock jock’ Michael Savage, who objected to being put in the same category as Islamic hate preachers and terrorists.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that Mr Johnson believes the move was a blunder and does not propose to issue similar lists in the future. But the switch could have major legal consequences for the Government.
Mr Savage is suing Ms Smith for libel over the list and abandoning the policy could make it impossible to contest his demand for damages.
The presenter, real name Michael Weiner, has eight million listeners for his Savage Nation show in America, but his hardline views on Islam, rape and autism have caused outrage.
He said Ms Smith had no right to put him on the same list as a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, a skinhead gang leader and a Hezbollah militant.
The ban sparked a major debate about freedom of speech–Mr Savage claimed he was forced to employ security guards after threats against him.
He said: ‘I’m not a terrorist. I’m one of America’s most popular radio hosts and a happily married father of two.
‘Maybe Jacqui Smith just plucked my name out of the hat because I’m controversial and white–to counter-balance all the Arabs named on her list.’
The initiative was seen at a time as an attempt by Ms Smith to save her job after her expenses controversy.
She said then: ‘It’s important that people understand the sorts of values and sorts of standards that we have here, the fact that it’s a privilege to come here, and the sort of things that mean you won’t be welcome in this country.’
But the list, denounced as a gimmick by the Tories, quickly unravelled after officials admitted not all the fanatics had actually intended to travel to the UK.
They had been placed on a list of people accused of ‘unacceptable behaviour’–simply on the off-chance they may decide to visit.
Two on the list, Russian teenage skinheads Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, were serving ten years in a Russian jail.
Others on the list included a Hamas MP, Islamic activists, a Kashmiri terror group leader and an American Baptist pastor.
[Editor’s Note: The earlier story about this list can be read here.]