Now I have been given carte blanche by the Leveson inquiry to write what I want on blogs without any regulation I am going to take full advantage with some tough words for this judge on his lack of logic.
Like Lord Hutton before him who exonerated Labour over Iraq his report exonerates the current great and good in government and the media bosses from blame for the current crisis. Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, is cleared of bias over Murdoch; News International’s Rebekah Brooks of undue lobbying of Cameron over the McCann inquiry or anything else; Cameron and his government of any favours deal with the Murdochs and the police of widespread corruption. Cameron can be trusted to introduce reforms to make sure public perception is changed.
But go further into this report – see http://www.exaronews.com today. Go to Volume Four and Appendix Five – and get one of the most devastating critiques of the incestuous relationship between top politicians and the media I have ever read from a High Court judge in my 26 years of political journalism.
Unlike Hutton he really puts the boot in. Here and I quote he attacks what he calls the ” inappropriate closeness” between media bosses and successive governments not just now – but for over 35 years. Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron are all indicted in a damning charge sheet.
He baldly states “ politicians have conducted themselves in a way that I do consider has not served the public interest”.
He accuses them of being vulnerable to unaccountable interests, missing clear opportunities to address public concern about the culture, practices and ethics of the press and seeking “ to control ( if not manipulate) the supply of news and information to the public in return for expected or hoped-for favourable treatment by sections of the press.”
He concluded that all this gave rise to “legitimate perceptions and concerns that politicians and the press have traded power and influence in ways which are contrary to the public interest and out of public sight. These perceptions and concerns are inevitably particularly acute in relation to the conduct by politicians of public policy issues in relations to the press itself.”
Now where does he get that view. By page 1971 as a good judge he cites his sources. And guess who gets reams of footnotes, one, Rebekah Brooks, from the McCann inquiry to Brown ,Blair and Cameron – the very person in the main part of the report is absolved from dirty deals!
Perhaps I have misread this million word treatise – Brian Leveson is actually auditioning for a Monty Python script or to help revive Bremner, Bird and Fortune for Channel Four.
His other glaring lack of logic is the treatment of the internet as of no consequence. I have a sneaking suspicion he thinks the internet is tun by techy teenage geeks playing war games and mad loud mouths. In fact it is now becoming a powerful antidote and rival to the dead tree press as a forum for discussion and breaking news. The battle for future generation politics is being fought between Owen Jones and Harry Cole on-line every day. And there would be no way this small one man blog would get 158,000 plus hits in less than three years if the internet has been ineffectual.
On the main issue of regulation or no regulation, I am reserving judgement. My heart is with those who argue that a free press is just that, a free press. My head is revolted by the despicable practices of some of the tabloid bosses who may well now go to prison. I applaud the idea of a journalist’s conscience clause and his views on treatment of women and people from ethnic minorities and a new arbitration service that will give justice to Joe Public as well multi-millionaires. But I want to see what this new press act will look like before going down the road to statutory backing. Let debate begin.