So the hearings of the Leveson Inquiry have concluded, no doubt to the relief of editors, hacks and pundits everywhere who would rather the whole business of regulation be kicked into the long grass so that they can carry on bullying, snooping, smearing, threatening, blagging, pinging, conspiring and, yes, even hacking in the style to which they had become accustomed.
Now comes the interregnum during which the evidence gathered will be weighed and sifted – we’re coming over all Homepride here – before some kind of report is generated and recommendations made. But the period also gives those who fear that those recommendations may constrain their activities an opportunity to set an agenda, generate a little knocking copy.
This adds to previous interventions, notably from Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove, where Leveson was held to be doing what the BBC was to Murdoch Junior, and what anyone attracting adverse comment from Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips is also guilty of, and that is “chilling”. And in this context, readers are left in no doubt that “chilling” is A Very Bad Thing Indeed.
The Gove attack has been honed today in the Maily Telegraph by David Hughes, who is not any old pundit, but the paper’s chief leader writer. That means he has the duty of conveying the authentic voice of the Tel from on high to the readers, something that takes not only the written form, but the unspoken hint, those readers knowing what they should infer and how they should interpret the words.
And Hughes’ angle is, to no surprise at all, to go after the Guardian and its editor Alan Rusbridger, who is held to be too close to Leveson, or maybe the other way about. This attack has the advantage of appealing not only to the more traditional right-leaning hackery, but also the more rabid form as seen all too often at the Daily Mail, Murdoch Sun, and the empire of Dirty Des.
Thus the battle lines are drawn: expect to see more of this in the coming weeks, as the absence of real information as to what Leveson intends to recommend is spun as the coming of a “Guardian charter” which would undoubtedly “shackle the free press”, lead to “statutory regulation”, and therefore a “Big Brother state”, sounding “the death knell of a great British institution”.
That Leveson hasn’t said anything about where his report may lead, let alone the inconvenient fact that he won’t be the one to act on its conclusions, will not deter the Fourth Estate. After all, there are many there who blamed the Guardian for the demise of the Screws (even though it was Rupe who pulled the plug), so blaming them for anything from Leveson not to their liking will be a doddle.
After all, who is he to stand in judgment on others? That’s their job.