Was anyone surprised? Not at all: when news came through yesterday afternoon that the larger part of the Fourth Estate had mounted a legal challenge, in the form of application for judicial review, against the Royal Charter endorsed by all the three major parties, and passed in both Houses of Parliament, it was as predictable as it was a sign of total and utter desperation.
It was also backed up by a quite magnificent barrage of flagrant dishonesty, exemplified by Lord Black standing there and telling anyone who would listen that he stood for an independent press regulator, and against political interference of any kind. Lord Black is a director of the Telegraph group, he is a Tory peer, and as such he is a chromium plated and fully streamlined charlatan.
The judicial review is intended to reverse the previous decision to reject the Royal Charter put forward by the press, in the days when they thought that the Royal Charter route was A Very Good Thing, whereas now they believe that Royal Charters are some kind of medieval monstrosity which nobody voted for (so rather like the press’ own proposals, then).
Taking this course of action was, in the retelling, the right thing to do, as obedient Dacre attack doggie James Chapman told the Mail’s readers: “Newspapers to launch legal challenge against plans to control Press: Politicians acted unlawfully, High Court will be told”. There are no plans to control the press, but hey ho. Chapman then rolls out the approved, and increasingly tedious, spiel.
Yes, “a new independent regulator having strong investigative powers and the right to impose fines of up to £1million for wrongdoing, up-front corrections, with inaccuracies corrected fully and prominently, and independence from the industry and politicians”. Except it wouldn’t be any of that. It would be a re-heated PCC, and we all know just how utterly useless that was.
“The Spectator magazine has already announced it will refuse to take part in regulation overseen by the politicians’ charter and take its chances in the courts”. Y’know, there aren’t many right-wingers that I respect highly. Speccy editor Fraser Nelson is one of them. He’s an agreeable chap, a sound bloke. But on this one I think he’s got it dead wrong (and it’s a risky self-publicity strategy).
And showing just how desperate the press is, the loathsome Toby Young has been pressed into service by the Telegraph (see above) to whine excitedly about it all being about Hacked Off. While he’s laying into Hugh Grant – who, despite all the catty stories, is also a highly sound bloke – Tobes forgets that Hacked Off is there to speak for the victims. Chapman forgot about them too.
That is something the public is not going to forgive easily. It’s not good enough.