In the narrative which his paper has helped to fashion, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his fellow editors were stitched up by a late night meeting in the office of Mil The Younger, where Hugh Grant personally supervised the writing of a dastardly Royal Charter designed to forever shackle the press, and to which Evan Harris delivered pizza and other game-changing inducements.
Who're you f***ing calling a liar, c***?!?
Now, this may suit the Vagina Monologue and those who worship his particular brand of bullying and righteous moralising, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that it is total crap. One or more representatives from Hacked Off met all manner of people connected with implementation of the Leveson recommendations – but so did Dacre. The difference is that he got the one-on-one meetings.
You think I jest? Thanks to the investigative nous of Martin Moore from the Media Standards Trust (MST), and parliamentary transparency, we can see just who met whom in that crucial period between New Year 2013 and the finalising of the Royal Charter in March. The MST asked Lord Black of Brentwood to make details of his meetings public. This request was refused.
Why this might be is now clear: Black met with Oliver Letwin on eleven occasions in the run-up to the drafting of the Royal Charter. He met Maria Miller on nine further occasions. And he met Young Dave. Other regular meeting attendees were Peter Wright of Associated Newspapers (the Rothermere press), John Witherow of News International, and Black’s fellow Tory peer Lord Hunt.
But the one name that leaps from the page – simply because he was given sole access to all the Ministers involved – is Paul Dacre. In February this year, he was granted one-on-one meetings with Letwin, Ms Miller, and the Prime Minister. He was the only participant to be afforded this privilege. Dacre had a second meeting with Letwin, but was accompanied by Wright.
Yes, Hacked Off met all of those ministers, and as a group representing the victims of press intrusion, they were fully entitled to make the case on their behalf. But they attended as a group: Dacre was accorded a more special status. But, were you to read the paper he edits, the only ones meeting the Ministers were Hacked Off, and the Royal Charter supposedly had input only from them.
The reality is the Paul Dacre has been playing the victimhood card for too long. He and his press pals had more than sufficient opportunity to lobby Ministers. The sole reason for perpetuating the “Midnight Pizza” narrative is just another part of the attempt to avoid press regulation that is both independent and effective. For Dacre, not being able to bend the regulator to his will cannot be permitted.
As a result, the Vagina Monologue’s trousers are well alight. No change there, then.