Like some kind of Teflon being he remained in post, despite the revelations about his relationships with at least two sex workers, and the press cover-up. Protected by the Murdoch mafiosi, John Whittingdale kept his job as Culture Secretary when many expected that he would leave the Government, if only out of shame. But today, Whitto’s time as a minister has been cut short, and he is out.
Theresa May is clearing out Young Dave’s appointees at a rate the makes Harold Macmillan’s “night of the long knives” look tame by comparison. Michael “Oiky” Gove, Nicky Morgan, Oliver Letwin, all have been sent on their way. Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary) is staying put at the Department for Health, a matter of some concern to health professionals. But it is Whitto that will cause concern for the press.
Whittingdale has been sitting on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act for some months now, refusing to sign it into law, despite its having passed both Houses of Parliament, and despite it being crucial to completing the Leveson recommendations, giving incentives to both publishers and journalists to join a press self-regulator recognised under the terms of the Royal Charter on press regulation.
He was sitting on Section 40 while enjoying the friendship and hospitality of Rupert Murdoch and his News UK CEO, the twinkle toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, and the vociferous approval of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, as well as plaudits from the full array of the right-leaning pundit establishment. Now he has gone and the reaction has been swift.
The BBC newsroom is alleged to have broken out in cheering at Whitto’s demise, while the lamp post he claimed to have walked into recently was unavailable for comment. But on the serious side, the Mail is not happy. And they know who is to blame.
“Is it Christmas Day? Luvvies' delight as John Whittingdale is SACKED as Culture Secretary” was their headline, followed by the sub-headings that tell readers how to think: “Mr Whittingdale became a hate figure over his suggested BBC reforms … He left his position as Culture Secretary today in Theresa May's reshuffle … It was reported there were 'whoops and cheers' in the BBC's newsroom … TV personalities Gary Lineker and Rory Bremner celebrated on Twitter”. The Dacre doggies were not pleased.
But there was no mention of Section 40, none of the usual abuse directed at campaigning group Hacked Off, just “Divorced father-of-two Mr Whittingdale was hit by calls to resign earlier this year after admitted to having a relationship with a prostitute he met through a dating website … He said he had been unaware of the woman's occupation and had broken off the relationship after six months in 2014 when he discovered someone was trying to sell the story to the press”. Yeah, right.
The only reason the Mail is on the case is that Paul Dacre is frightened witless that Theresa May might appoint a new Culture Secretary who is not as biddable as Whittingdale was, rather than point out the obvious - that he was the press’ man, carrying out their bidding, and stuff the victims of the Fourth Estate’s misbehaviour.
John Whittingdale has been sternly disciplined at last. Not before time, too.