AS A politician for 10 years, I have seen an ever-increasing assault on free speech.

It’s often perpetuated by those who are easily ‘offended’ if their cult-like beliefs are questioned.

The ‘offender’ is treated like a heretic, and demands for their resignation, sacking or an apology abound, especially via social media.

The ‘offended’ all too frequently uses the latter to hide their identity.

I remind you of George Orwell’s words, which are inscribed on his statue outside BBC Broadcasting House.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

They are a powerful reminder of the cardinal importance of free speech in a democracy.

Yet, in a recent case, described by the judge as ‘Orwellian’, a former policeman was visited by the police who’d come to “check his thinking” after some tweets.

The case was thrown out, with the judge making an extraordinary reference to the Stasi and Gestapo.

It’s hard to imagine that Orwell’s “thought crime” is alive and well in this country, and very concerning.

A freedom of information request by the Telegraph has exposed 120,000 ‘non-crime hate incidents’, logged over the last five years by 34 police forces.

This week, Trevor Phillips, former head of the Equalities’ and Human Rights’ Commission, pointed out that, without free speech, civil, gay and women’s rights would not exist.

He’s backing a new Free Speech Union, founded by journalist Toby Young, who himself lost his government job when old, online comments were exhumed in what he calls “offence archaeology”.

Surely, the best way to safeguard freedom of speech is to expose it to scrutiny.

In most cases, offence is subjective and we must learn to tolerate it.