NELSON SELLS THE PASS
Just in case anyone had lost sight of the looming date for the possible “sealing” of the cross-party Royal Charter on press regulation, which is Wednesday of next week, those still hoping to be left alone to please themselves are making one last attempt to pretend that anything to do with Leveson means state control, or state licensing, or political interference of some kind.
And today’s prime example of this genre has come from Spectator editor (and obedient servant of the Barclay Brothers) Fraser Nelson, who has been given space by the Maily Telegraph (owned, you guessed it, by the Barclay Brothers) to paint an apocalyptic vision of a brave free press killed off by rotten leftie politicians – and to tell readers to, once more, “look over there”.
Nelson has one last weapon left in his sadly depleted arsenal, and that is straightforward dishonesty: “The Privy Council meets next Wednesday to consider the newspapers’ attempt to preserve Britain’s 300-year history of press freedom”. See? Anything other than the press’ own Royal Charter cannot, by definition, allow press freedom. And here’s where he goes deliberately wrong.
Yes, the alternative is “a system in which politicians license the print media and bring newspapers under the purview of the government. This is what Lord Justice Leveson recommended in his inquiry”. There is only one expression that to accurately describe these assertions, and that is A Pack Of Lies. What Leveson recommended would guarantee press freedom and prevent political interference.
As has been pointed out by the folks at Hacked Off, the Leveson recommendations would not prevent the Daily Mail from running attacks on the dead. There would be no “statutory control”, “political control”, or “statutory regulation”. The whole process would be independent – not just of political interference, but also from proprietors and editors. That last is why Nelson is engaging in his dishonest tirade.
He is also underscoring the worry in much of the Fourth Estate that the Royal Charter put forward by their side – which would be no more than a Mark 2 version of the thoroughly discredited PCC, which Ed Miliband did not even bother with when making plain his views on last weekend’s Daily Mail hatchet job on his late father – is about to be considered and then rejected.
And if you thought that this was bad, just wait until next week: if the cross-party Royal Charter is sealed, there will be an onslaught of wailing and knocking copy bemoaning the death of the free press and vilifying politicians, Hacked Off, and especially Hugh Grant. But the public mood is against Fraser Nelson and his pals, and last week’s events will merely serve to entrench it. Game over, press people.