As I’ve told recently, the least problematic course of action when faced with a legal threat is to address the threat, and if necessary settle as quickly and inexpensively as possible. The likes of pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins, and her pal Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, are testament to what happens when one ignores the threat and it turns out to be something more serious.
The latest individual who needs to take this advice on board is Aaron Bastani, who has himself been routinely smeared by a whole host of individuals, most regularly and recently minor thesp Frances Barber, but who has made an assertion on an open social media feed which he might have trouble standing up. Moreover, the target of his assertion is the thin-skinned and highly litigious LBC host Maajid Nawaz.
Nawaz memorably extracted a significant sum from the Southern Poverty Law Center after he had been accused by them of being an “anti-Muslim extremist”. So when Bastani called him “literally a former terrorist” after Nawaz went on another of his anti-Corbyn rants which themselves could leave him open to defamation proceedings, it was in the no-brainer category that there would be a legal threat following right behind.
Nawaz added helpfully “Two other Corbynist media pundits will also be sent letters today. Anyone who supported this tweet, your tweets are printed out. You are on notice”. Letters? In this age of electronic communication? How very 20th Century.
Meanwhile, it seems Bastani has plenty of time to consider his position. As he has told in response to Nawaz’ announcement, “Mr Nawaaz [sic] and his lawyers have been kind enough to furnish me with a letter including a deadline for 4pm....December 18th”.
But one item is missing from Nawaz’ bluster: Bastani and “other Corbynist media pundits” are not the only ones publishing or transmitting material using the T-Word to describe him. And thus far there is no sign of any threat being made over a significant other media source which falls into this category. That source is the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, in an article featuring none other than Stephen Lennon.
The Tel had run a piece on Lennon back in 2013 - it is still up on the paper’s website - which explores his supposed renunciation of the EDL and embrace of Quilliam, which appears to have been brokered by Nawaz. It tells “Of those who refuse to believe in his change of heart, he says: ‘They don’t say that to Maajid Nawaz today. He was in Hizb-ut-Tahrir, he did six years [in prison] in Egypt for terrorism. You know, and I find stories like that inspiring’”. Except that Nawaz did not do time in an Egyptian prison for terrorism.
For a whole six years, Maajid Nawaz has - perhaps by not being alerted to the article’s contents - allowed a published claim that he had “[done] six years for terrorism” to remain uncontested. Were I in Aaron Bastani’s shoes, I’d be waving that Telegraph article in the faces of Nawaz and his reassuringly expensive lawyers pretty sharpish.
Nawaz may believe he’ll extract apologies, damages and costs from Bastani. It would be most unfortunate if all he received was a referral to Arkell v Pressdram 1971.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at