We’ve got rats. Yes, irritating. Never a sign in all the time we’ve been here in the rural idyll and now, like Ada Doom of Cold Comfort Farm. “I saw something nasty in the woodshed.” Who knows why? There have been some excavations locally and the torrential rain of recent times has swollen the many streams and tributaries that run down to the local mill pond and on to the Medway. It’s flushed out all sorts.

The boy lurks with an air gun. The woman of the house baits traps. I courageously lift tarpaulins and ensure the integrity of the barbecue. But it’ll take a brave lad to go in among the log pile.  

Fraser Nelson is a brave lad. The Spectator editor has written a defence of Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson after his offering on the resignation of BBC Chairman Richard Sharp caused an anti-semitism row

His basic contention was that cartoonists deal in the exaggerated and grotesque and Rowson didn’t really mean references to gold sacks, Goldman Sachs, protuberant proboscis and pigs in the way this unfortunate assemblage of images was construed. 

Only the cruel would suggest that, as we speak, the Nelson mail box is a-flood with invitations to share his bank details with luckless businessmen whose money is trapped in Nigeria, his phone besieged by time share salesmen and his door being tapped at by a man with a gash bit o’ tarmac offering to resurface his drive. 

But what Nelson sees with his other eye, as HMS Guardian, flagship of Left liberal thinking founders rudderless, the flames of its latest self-inflicted crisis flickering towards the powder magazine, may be worth a thought or two, though possibly for different reasons than the captain of the Spectator perceives. 

He makes a point in saying that those who oppose cancel culture need to exercise considerable caution in calling for the cancellation of Rowson and his editor, Katharine Viner, who stands sore charged with either not knowing or not caring about the cartoon. 

Particularly with the wreck of the Diane Abbott still visible on the rocks, its signaller still forlornly flashing ‘first draft’ as a warning to all on the port side who can’t seem to tack away from the undertow of antisemitism and whose siren call they find so irresistible, it was negligent navigation.

In Viner and Rowson, we may, of course, have found master and mate of moral righteousness in a clinch. Skirts up, trousers down, fag in hand and a large bottle of rum uncorked. The schadenfreude that drives the desire to descend upon them with the same unforgiving, merciless opprobrium with which they wield the cat on others is predictable enough.

There is limited tolerance for the intolerance of the oh-so-virtuously tolerant.

But Nelson’s Gandhiesque point – that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind – might have some lurking wisdom, however dependent it is on mercy being at some point reciprocated.

He’s right too to say that Twitter is an accelerant to reputational conflagration like no other in history. Screams amid the flames that it was all a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation are drowned out as the stacked brushwood roars into life. 

All of which plunges us into the well-rehearsed arguments around free speech. “A right-wing construct” to some – largely at the Guardian – and an unalienable right to the Voltaire tendency. Whichever way, we all know it has its sensible limits from state secrets to simply keeping the peace.

But the real argument for free speech surely lies back in the woodshed. Lift the right sack, let the light in, and all manner of things go scurrying. We can now see those noises in the night for what they are. Keep things dark and never touch the apple logs again and horrors proliferate. 

Much the same with ideas. Let ‘em run. For that reason alone it’s worth letting Fraser Nelson lift up that pallet. You can’t defeat what you can’t see and, over to the left, you can now see quite a lot.

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