Back in 2007, Peter Wilby observed the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre giving the annual Cudlipp lecture: it “was like watching the Mail, with all its anger, its prejudice and its negativity, made flesh ... he delivered himself of an unoriginal rant that made many listeners feel they were stuck in the back of a taxi with a particularly boring and opinionated driver. It was a wasted opportunity”.
Why the f*** shouldn't I be allowed a paranoid rant, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
Seven years later, the Vagina Monologue has again been lecturing, this time at the Ritz. And the wilful distortion of reality was remarkable: “I note with some irony that Leveson had barely a word of criticism for the police and the politicians. Well, if the first had done their job properly and the second had not so sycophantically fawned upon Murdoch, Leveson would never have occurred” he began.
In Dacre’s world, the politicians only fawn around Creepy Uncle Rupe, yet it is he who has enjoyed the most recent Downing Street lunch. His audience is supposed to airbrush out what should have been “Leveson part 2”, which would have considered the Police. And, most telling of all, the Leveson Inquiry is imbued with powers it just did not have. Dacre comes over as frightened and paranoid.
All that Leveson did was to propose a totally independent system of press regulation – independent not only of editorial and proprietorial interference, but also independent of any and all politicians. Thus public confidence would be restored in the press; the less well off would no longer get trampled over and have no means of redress when monstered and smeared by the Fourth Estate.
Dacre cannot see it that way: “To the police and politicians made so suspicious of the press by Leveson I would argue that it is in all our interests to drop hostilities and to try and restore the mutual respect we should have for each other and which is an important ingredient in a healthy democracy”. What can he mean by “hostilities”? Indeed, what does he mean by “mutual respect”?
What he most likely means is that a number of journalists have been arrested as part of continuing Police operations, and Dacre did suggest in the first instance that the cops should do their job properly. This they are now doing. And if, by “mutual respect”, he means going back to the too-close relationship that existed between press and law enforcement officers, he can forget it.
As for “healthy democracy”, when his paper is selectively shilling for one party and against its opponents, smearing the EU just to garner more sales, and attempting to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria, that is a case of “physician, heal thyself”. Paul Dacre’s attempt to then deflect by inventing “Government controls shackling the press”, where none exist or are proposed, will not wash.
That “boring and opinionated driver” hasn’t improved over the years, has he?