The news that Arif Ahmed is to be appointed the UK’s first ‘Free Speech Tsar’ — a position that apparently comes with “the power to investigate universities and student unions in England and Wales that wrongly restrict debate” and to “advise the sector regulator on imposing fines for free speech breaches” — is disappointing for various reasons. One of them (not the most important one) is that it suggests Britain’s capacity to name things continues to decline. To see this once-great country reach for a foreign title that not only originates with one second-rate empire trying to recall the glory of the Romans but that was first popularized as a job-title within the administrative apparatus of another is really quite sad, given that England has so many equally preposterous but largely home-grown (or at least Norman French) titles available right on its own doorstep. It’s a scandal, really. A kind of Tsargate, if you will.
Here I present a few alternatives of my own, along with some excellent suggestions from others following up with me about this on social media. As an alternative to “Free Speech Tsar”, consider one or more of the following: The Duke of Discourse. Warden of All Chit-Chat. Equerry of Arguments. Gold Stick To The Point. The Earl of Axiom. The Keeper of the King’s Premises. The Wheedle Beadle. Chief Constable Counterexample. The Postillion of Positing. The Justiciar of Just One More Thing. The Marquess of My Question is More of a Comment. The Archbishop of Banterbury. The Lord Privy Sealion. Groom of the Discourse. Chancellor of the Factchequer. Red Herring Pursuivant. Master of the Eyerolls.
As should be clear, the capacity exists within the UK to develop an entire peerage system of Free Speech aristocrats of all ranks. I strongly encourage Rishi Sunak to implement just such a scheme as soon as is practicable.