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Sunday 6 April 2014

Fraser Nelson Headline Own Goal

The news that Maria Miller’s advisor Joanna Hindley and Young Dave’s spinner Craig Oliver clumsily tried to use the L-word (as in Leveson) to put the press off asking inconvenient questions has presented an open goal to the part of the Fourth Estate hostile to truly independent press regulation. Sadly for Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, he has gone up the other end and put the ball in his own net.
Wrong yet again: Fraser Nelson

Now and again, people ask if it would really be so bad having a Royal Charter whose proposals are almost identical to those being drawn up by IPSO, the new press regulator. The menace does not lie in the practical implications, but having a system where any minister has the press in his or her remit” he tells. So please tell us how a minister could exercise control over the press.

But he does not. Instead, we get “a Labour MP asked me to take action against a Spectator journalist who was annoying him”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. It was Tom Watson who had been made the subject of another nasty and unwarranted attack by the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole. Firstly, Watson is quite entitled to object to such behaviour.

And second, Nelson should stop blaming Leveson – whose recommendations would constrain his freedom not one jot – and instead shoulder responsibility for employing someone he should know is an ocean-going shitbag. Instead, he exhorts readers to “look over there” at Alan Rusbridger, editor of the deeply subversive Guardian, who is held responsible for “an era where [politicians] held the whip hand”.

It was a bit galling earlier on this week to see the Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger on a stage talking about press freedom when he was so silent when it mattered most – over the threat which Leveson posed to the free press”. OK Fraser, show us where the Royal Charter constrains the freedom of the press. There will now be rather more than a short intermission – because he can’t. It isn’t there.

But the most unfortunate thing about Nelson’s post is the title. “Maria Miller reminds us why no politician should oversee the press”. So that’s clear: he says that “No politician should oversee the press”. And, d’you know what, I agree with him. And so does Evan Harris. And Hugh Grant. And Steve Coogan. And Brian Cathcart. And everyone who signed the Hacked Off “Leveson Declaration.

You think I misquote? Go and read it. And, in the meantime, perhaps Fraser Nelson can explain why he makes that assertion when his magazine has signed up for the so-called Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which is overseen by the Press Board of Finance, or PressBoF for short. PressBoF is led by Lord Black of Brentwood. He’s a Tory peer. That means he’s a politician.

Memo to Fraser Nelson: next time, engage brain before headline. Just a thought.

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