Still there is no report from Lord Justice Leveson: now it is believed that this will come late this month. But, despite there being no report and therefore no recommendations, all those who fear the thought of press regulation ceasing to be under the control of the press know exactly what will be proposed. And many of them have contributed to a piece in the Spectator on the subject.
“Spectator editors and writers past and present unite against statutory press regulation” is the sub-heading, showing that Fraser Nelson and his pals know what is to be proposed. Except they don’t know diddly squat: this is mere projection dressed as authoritative journalism. What they are frightened of is independent regulation that holds them accountable to the public. And they don’t like the idea.
So out are wheeled Nelson himself to whine that Leveson cost over £5 million. So what? Does that make it good, bad, indifferent, better, worse, or what, for goodness’ sake? No Fraser, I don’t want to look over there. Nor do I believe his invented “Word is ...” assertion about Young Dave not wanting to act on what is recommended, or the recycling of the one about a new regulator becoming gradually more intrusive.
Then come the smartarse brigade: Dominic Lawson introduces the peroration of John Wilkes, Peter Jones the Roman historian Tacitus, and Dot Wordsworth reluctantly embraces John Milton. You readers have to know your place, and that these wonderful Spectator people are just so much more intercoursing clever and intellectually superior. Christ on a bike.
And there has to be an interjection from James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole: “Leveson was just a kangaroo court set up by the BBC and the Guardian on behalf of the left-liberal establishment in order to attack free speech, free markets and, most especially, Rupert Murdoch”. Del Boy then pushes two sticks up his nose and repeatedly declaims the word “wibble” (OK I made the last bit up).
What was that about Tacitus? Tedious Maximus more like. And the associated intervention by former Mail hack Kirsty Walker – also in the Speccy – talking of “chilling ... menacing ... I never hacked a phone” should make those who liken future regulation to that of a Communist state think on – her article reads like a pre-prepared confession from the era of Communist states.
Nowhere does the Spectator address the issue of independent and accountable regulation, nor that what we have now, as Hacked Off has put it, is “an approach that has been shown over nearly 60 years to have failed both journalists and newspaper readers”. Yes, what we have now has also failed journalists, as well as consumers of journalism. And nobody, but nobody, is advocating curtailment of free speech.
We should wait for Leveson to report, and then have the discussion. End of story.