Yesterday afternoon, with impeccable timing, just as most eyes were on the local election results, the Government announced that the Royal Charter on the future of press regulation would not be going before the Privy Council on May 15. There are to be further consultations, perhaps because some press interests have put forward their own Charter.
This was greeted with barely suppressed glee by the Sun’s non-bullying Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn, who could not wait to get the good news out there. Evan Harris, on the other hand, took a more cautious view, and asserted that the delay was legally required. Ministers were aware of the possibility of a last minute challenge.
But these responses were eclipsed by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who have sold out totally to the Fourth Estate. As part of the press establishment, they want the status quo to be maintained, as any change could impact on their nice little earners with the Murdoch, Rothermere, Barclay Brothers and Desmond empires.
The Great Guido was celebrating Press Freedom Day, oblivious as usual to the UK languishing at Number 29 in the Press Freedom Index, well behind countries that have properly independent press regulation like Finland, which tops the chart right now. And as part of the Fawkes folks maintaining the pretence that we have a wonderfully free press, there had to be a suitably malicious smear.
After an apparently straight explanation of the event, in went the boot: “Guido is sure the likes of Evan Harris, Hugh Grant, Max Mosley, Brian Cathcart, Steve Coogan, Tom Watson, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Oliver Letwin, Maria Miller, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris will be celebrating”. You read that right: Staines and his rabble have bracketed all those names together.
So not only is Rolf Harris, who has not been convicted of any offence, been put on the same level as Stuart Hall, who has owned up and is awaiting sentencing, so have three Party leaders, two senior Government figures, and half a dozen press campaigners. It’s a quite magnificent example of gratuitous nastiness, and should be borne in mind by anyone minded to cut Staines and his pals some slack.
Don’t bother. Once again, The Great Guido is bang out of order. Another fine mess.