Tony Blair is a fine ally and has a morally clear vision of the world that should shame former Presidents Clinton and Carter. But his answer to religious tensions in the UK, a pure sop to the strong Islamic lobbying, was a nightmarishly Orwellian bill that would have stifled free speech in the UK to a degree never seen before.
The House of Lords throttled the worst of the bill, entitled the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, and required additional provisions to protect free speech:
notably put in an amendment restricting the new offence of inciting religious hatred to threatening words and behaviour, rather than a wider definition also covering insults and abuse.
The Lords also required the offence to be intentional, and specified that criticism, insult, abuse and ridicule of religion, belief or religious practice would not be an offence.
This earned a plaudit from Rowan (Mr. Bean) Atkinson, whose signature spoken comedy bit has him dressed as the devil welcoming dead people to Hell, telling them where they will be settled, and informing Christians and Muslims that he understands their confusion at being at Hell's entry point, but "the Jews were right." Under the unaltered Blairite version of the bill, Atkinson would be liable for criminal sanctions.
Britain's traditionally free and relatively open society depends upon its traditions and political heritage to maintain its freedoms. The UK has no written law higher than the various acts that Parliament passes -- no written constitution, no Supreme Court that can check an overstretch by the legislature. Only the tradition of liberal politics (not left-wing, but freedom-based) curtails the baser inclinations of the MPs. Indeed, the House of Commons can conceivably pass any statute on any issue and render the UK a fascist state, but it does not thanks to Britain's political traditions. In this case, the House of Lords put brakes on a horrendous bill, and reduced its infringement level from stifling to troubling.