As Zelo Street regulars will know, the ability of those labouring in the service of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to both have opinions that coincide exactly with his editorial line, and bend the facts to fit a conclusion that has already been written, borders on the magnificent. And there is no more enthusiastic recycler of the approved Dacre line than Stephen “Miserable Git” Glover.
Glover’s latest rant concerns the SOCA report into illegal information gathering by those who are not part of the Fourth Estate: “At last, the blue-chip hackers are about to be exposed. But I still fear a whitewash” is the headline. He expects that, when all the names in the report are revealed early next week, it “should cause a political earthquake and dominate the airwaves for days to come”.
But then the mood darkens, and he worries that the amount of attention given to the story will be disproportionally small compared to phone hacking by the Screws, and that this is all down to the hated BBC and deeply subversive Guardian having an anti-Murdoch agenda. By convenient coincidence, he manages to miss the actual reason that the Screws got it in the neck.
Because that reason was evidence: Glenn Mulcaire’s notebooks had all the names, and the phone companies had more. On the other hand, the SOCA report is not expected to be of evidential standard. But we are approaching the time when the Royal Charter on Press Regulation – that would be the one that has been voted on by Parliament – is going to be making progress.
And Glover’s central point is in any case wrong: both BBC and Guardian have devoted plenty of coverage to the SOCA report, with the Beeb reporting that the Exaro News site had published an unredacted version of the results from what we now know to be called “Project Riverside”. From this, we know that there were very few “blue chip” companies commissioning private investigators (PIs).
Much of what the SOCA report contains has to do with organisations pursuing debtors, with the few blue chip names generally being on the receiving end of the hacking and blagging. And, while the information will be of interest, the urging of the Dacre hackery of a “Leveson for PIs” is bound to be an exercise the Mail will only support so long as it takes attention away from press regulation.
What Glover won’t tell his readers is that many of those PIs who were involved in questionable practices also worked for the press, the best-known being Steve Whittamore of Operation Motorman infamy. And which papers were Whittamore’s number one Fleet Street clients? Associated Newspapers – the firm that publishes the Mail. Be careful what you wish for, Mr Happy.
And some readers will believe the Mail cares about the issue, so that’s all right, then.