When the Government put Leveson in charge of the ‘investigation’ into press standards, they chose a bent Judge. Supposedly set up to get to the bottom of phone-hacking, the Inquiry ignored huge swathes of incriminating evidence, gave Piers Morgan a ridiculously easy ride, allowed the Teletubbies’ son not to bother turning up, and sat quietly as Dacre the Mail Ducé put on a display of arrogant dismissal while giving his evidence. Leveson was a whitewash of common practice criminality in the press sector, and every good journalist in Britain knows it.
A batch of luvvies at Hacked Off (who didn’t think through the ramifications of this perversion of their objectives) also do not seem to have noticed that, while Newscorp is still there and nastier than ever, the two main recipients of Leveson’s ire were the blogosphere and genuine freedom of speech in the public interest. The outcome of their (albeit justified) whingeing has been the legislation we see before us today – a hotchpotch of proposed censorship with the added ingredient of yet another playing field sloping in Camerlot’s direction.
In the legal sense, this is Take Two of a Ministry of Justice attempt to pervert, um, Justice, put forward by Chris Grayling two years ago in the aftermath of brazen opinion manipulation by Lord Alistair McAlpine – a man wrongly accused of paedophilia by the BBC, but rightly nailed as an unashamed admirer of Machiavelli and all his works.
The old rascal – mercifully taken from us soon afterwards – not only managed to persuade Radio 4 listeners that a small piece of paper handed to David Cameron on air containing the names of alleged paedophiles had damaged his reputation: he brazenly lied to his grovelling interviewer by saying he had “no idea” why he’d been accused of such calumny. Setting aside the fact that not even Superman’s X-Ray vision could have defined the shape of the paper let alone what was written on it, it is a tribute to Ali McScalpine’s inestimable chutzpah that he pretended not to know of his infamous cousin Jimmy’s predeliction for small boys dressed in Läderhosen. Suffused with anger at the time about the callous nature of this ageing dissembler’s manipulation of perception, I confess that later I came to respect his evil genius for what it was.
But what His Lordship did was to create an environment in which ‘rough justice’ could flourish. And so it came to pass that Chris Rottingue-Fishhedde stepped into the breach, and ran an unjustified attempt at injustice up the flagpole. Grayling’s proposal would have made it not only cost-free to sue any medium even if they won, but also to make it almost impossible for the accused medium to recoup any costs or damages having won the case.
Happily, the Law Society in particular ran a very nimble and persuasive campaign that forced the pond life at ‘Justice’ to withdraw his idea. But it was a narrow escape, and one election later (lost by inflexible Metro-Labour and its minority policies) the Government is now back for more. This time, however, Grayling has been thrown back into the river, those ghastly LibDem swine have been banished, and the Home Secretary is on board. Worse still, Michael Gove – the fanatic who looks forward to the day when scientific advance allows him to bear Rupert Murdoch’s children – is the new Secretary of State for Justice.
There is something quintessentially Orwellian about the idea of a Ministry of Justice. Like the Ministry of Truth in 1984, it takes a given of civilisation, and suggests it is being observed by awarding it a Ministry. We might as well have a Ministry of Loyalty, a Ministry of Sympathy, a Ministry of Goodness, or even a Ministry of Humanity At It’s Best. When Governments have to proclaim a special interest in that which is their job, then one knows their real intention is to kill it for their own ends. (By the same token, when somebody says we need to think outside the box, it is a sure thing that the box is more secure than Alcatraz)
Given that canvas, predictably the portents for output from the Ministry of Goveness are not good: news organisations that refuse to cooperate with the proposed State-backed regulator will face the prospect of having to pay not only their own legal costs but also a complainant’s legal costs in any court proceedings, even if the publisher wins its case. Judges will also be able to impose “exemplary damages” in cases where a publisher loses a court case if they do not sign up to the new regime. And for some reason, the Law Society’s profile on the issue is disappointingly low.
Maybe there is a genuine irony in that: for this is not a law, it is political vindictiveness from which there can only be three winners: Camerlot, Newscorp, and (if they mind their manners) the Daily Telegraph. As I wrote earlier above, it is a thinly disguised Take 2 of what was tried in late 2013. In such a legal context, the Freedom of Information Act will go from being toothless to pointless.
The Torygraph continued – from its high horse spraying didactic dung in all directions – ‘If the new law had been in force at the time of the MPs’ expenses investigation in 2009, every MP could have sued the Telegraph, regardless of whether they had a valid case, knowing that a judge could force the Telegraph to foot the bill for both sides’ legal costs even if the Telegraph won every single case’.
I would point out that most of the good people there who brought MPs into the Dock (only to see most of them get off) have been cleared out in favour of the cheap-trick, neo-tabloid Teletubby whores abusing the masthead today. But again, hypocritical or not, the paper is right: the Government is about to demolish freedom of the press in the name of a non-existent danger from NVEs…the non-violent extremist oxymoron which the Prime Minister sees in our midst, due to his God-given second sight sixth sense as our Holy Helmsman.
This far down the line, the same Daily Telegraph thumping the tub for freedom is in turn paying the price for its past misdemeanours. But we’re not in the legal arena here: instead, we must enter the murky world of that Magic Spin-Circle surrounding the two centres of political obedience to corporatocracy in London: City Hall, and Downing Street.
The Telegraph sees London Mayor Boris Johnson as very much their man. He is given a weekly column from which to write bigoted codswallop in the style of a jolly good bloke who tells it like it is. But then, everyone sees BoJo as their man: his wife, Rebekah Brooks, any woman with a pulse, the City of London, the Saudis, Beijing….and (most disturbingly of all) a lot of British voters across the Party spectrum.
Johnson overtly attempted to get the Hacking Enquiry buried. For the last two and a half years, he has been sitting on the Met Police Elm House investigation, from which absolutely nothing has emerged. Now, a very clever campaign designed to remove any taint of guilt from the Elm House setup is being orchestrated: again, chiefly through the Daily Telegraph….and, very probably, with the tacit approval (if not at the insistence) of Borisconi.
More on this in Part III tomorrow.