Those looking in on the first programme in the new season of The Andy Marr Show (tm) will have seen the paper review sofa once again graced by pundit Iain Martin, formerly of the Telegraph and Murdoch Wall Street Journal among others, who also has a book to flog. The conversation inevitably turned to the Sunday Mirror’s exposé on Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, a story of which Martin clearly approved.
Iain Martin - momentarily cautious punditry
It did, however, not escape the notice of some looking in that Martin chose his words deliberately and carefully, telling not once but twice that “there is a clear public interest”. This is the litmus test for all “sting” exercises, and what happened to Vaz gave every appearance of falling into this category. But why did Martin feel it necessary to stress his point so deliberately? To explain this, we need to go back to April this year.
After John Whittingdale’s dalliance with a known sex worker was put before the public, and given wider publicity via a report on BBC Newsnight, the press line had to be established and the story duly framed - to show said press in the best light, and to dump as viciously as was felt to be necessary on campaigning group Hacked Off, for whom Brian Cathcart had appeared on Newsnight to express his view that the story had a clear public interest.
Following Roy Greenslade’s claim that it was all a “conspiracy theory” - he is, at heart, still very much Old Media - the line was established that Hacked Off had somehow demanded that the story be put before the public, although they had made no such claim, and had not been involved in getting the Whittingdale story out there. Iain Martin is also very much Old Media, and so he took to Twitter to parrot the agreed line.
“The spectacle of Hacked Off demanding intrusion is quite something” he told, hopefully with access to a fire extinguisher to deal with his burning trousers. Yes, the Vaz story was totally different to that of Whittingdale - hence the deliberate “there is a clear public interest”. It gets worse: Martin has significant form for smearing Hacked Off.
He was there with the agreed press line from the off: “So at the talks did Letwin not recognise the Hacked Off man, or hear all the calls from Team Ed to Team Hugh?” See, Hugh Grant runs it all (he doesn’t). There was also “Wld love to have been there when govt law officers summoned Letwin morning after Hacked Off summit. Is the internet included?” Yeah, it was all Hacked Off’s fault, and it was rubbish!
And there was Martin to play up the Mail’s smear against the Leveson Inquiry: “Good grief, has this been run past the regulator, government and Hacked Off? The ‘Loverson’ Inquiry”, even sneering at someone of differing view “Did I stumble into a Hacked Off branch meeting? That Loverson Inquiry story? Legitimate + fantastic”. It wasn’t “legitimate”, or “fantastic”. It was an irrelevant piece of Dacre whataboutery.
No wonder Iain Martin wants to very carefully distance his approval of the Vaz story from one of those horrible Hacked Off ones. Just another Old Media cheerleader, and of course pillar of the Pundit Establishment.