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Tuesday 22 November 2011

Leveson Is Served (3)


Yesterday’s appearance of actor Hugh Grant before the Leveson enquiry, together with his forthright denunciation of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and the modus operandi of his empire, was unmissable. Grant also said what many – especially those who saw the Daily Mail at the top of the Operation Motorman charts – had thought, when he fingered the Mail On Sunday for phone hacking.

The reaction from the Dacre press has been equally forthright, but as Mark Pack of LibDemVoice noted earlier, Phonehackgate was relegated to Page 10 of today’s Daily Mail, while making the front page of several other titles. This should surprise no-one: Associated’s executives will see the Murdochs being sucked into the financial mire and dread the trail of evidence arriving at their door.

But the taint of impropriety already hangs over the Mail titles: one former hack told Nick Davies “We used to use the social security computer as if it was an extension of the Daily Mail library”. Another observed “If the Mail go for you, they get every phone number you have dialled, every schoolmate, everything on your credit card, every call from your phone and from your mobile. Everything”.

And it is againt these examples of “previous” that the rebuttal from “Daily Mail Comment (the part of the paper most likely to have Paul Dacre’s very own prints all over it) should be considered. Under the title “Mr Grant: the facts” (which should sound an immediate warning, given the Mail’s relationship with such things), an attempt is made to draw the proverbial line. It does not.

No I'm not f***ing well consumed with c***ing hatred

We are told of “millionaire actor Hugh Grant”, which is code for “fair game”, though this does not cover millionaire editor Paul Dacre, or millionaire churnalist Richard Littlejohn. Grant is “a man consumed with hatred”, a trait which Paul Dacre will recognise. And his paper is in no position to judge Grant’s “colourful and ... unedifying love life” with Mary Ellen “bonk of England” Synon on board.

Millionaire, guv? It's on ITV, innit?!?

But the cat is let out of the bag in one go with this statement: “The Mail papers do NOT hack phones and our sister paper, the Mail On Sunday, has unequivocally refuted his claim that they secured a story about him as a result of this practice”. Leaving aside the incorrect use of “refute”, nobody is suggesting that the Mail titles themselves hack phones.

The Screws didn’t hack phones – they engaged the services of a PI to do it, and a variety of other illegal activity, on their behalf. Rather like the Mail engaged the services of Steve Whittamore. That’s what made them top of the Operation Motorman charts. The Mail is denying an allegation that hasn’t been explicitly made, and by doing so is drawing suspicion to itself. Dacre og 1, as the Eye might say.

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