The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun have once more returned to the subject of press regulation, a concept which causes their slippery and deeply unsavoury editor Tony Gallagher - as well as his bosses - visible discomfort. In a sign that their push-back against moves to commence Section 40 of the Crime And Courts Act, and get going with part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry, is faltering, they have launched another hatchet job.
The target this time has been truly independent press regulator IMPRESS, but sadly, very little of Oliver Harvey’s (that’s Harvey, not Hardy, honest) article, “FIGHT FOR RIGHT TO TELL TRUTH From calling Sun readers ‘mugs’ to wanting to ban Daily Mail, sinister zealots behind regulators want to destroy the popular press” is original. Yes, in the spirit of Good Old Fashioned Churnalism, it was cobbled together from two other sources.
Harvey says of the Independent Press Regulation Trust, which has awarded funding to IMPRESS, “The Chair of its board of trustees is Wilfrid Vernor-Miles, a London-based tax lawyer and trustee of the charity the Society of St Pius X. This is a breakaway Catholic sect with branches around the world - yet its ideology has raised accusations of anti-Semitism, and worse”. This may be familiar to Daily Mail readers.
That is because the Mail ran a hit piece on IMPRESS back in October, which told readers “The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is no stranger to accusations of anti-Semitism … Yet the organisation is also a UK-registered charity. At the head of its six-strong board of trustees … is a man named Wilfrid Vernor-Miles, a London-based tax lawyer to the rich … But Wilfrid Vernor-Miles is also a trustee of another charity. It is called the Independent Press Regulation Trust (IPRT)”. Ah, good old guilt by many degrees of separation.
But it is with Harvey’s second bite at this particular cherry, titled “They want to wreck, not regulate”, that he becomes truly desperate, whining “IMPRESS has recruited lawyers, academics and journalists to its board and code committee, some of whom appear to loathe the popular press - but would be the ones to sit in judgment”. Some of them “appear to”. Like Oliver Harvey “appears to” be a journalist, but does a crap impression of one.
Of Gavin Phillipson, he claims “he wants to ban the Daily Mail”. He doesn’t, but a Sun hack lying is hardly news. Of IMPRESS CEO Jonathan Heawood, he blubs “He has retweeted a number of posts from the campaign group Stop Funding Hate”. And, so what? Of Emma Jones (bit of an old photo of Ms J there) we are told she “was sacked by The Sun”. Must be a rather sound person, then. Oh, and her partner gets a kicking as well.
Why so? “Her partner Graham Johnson got a two-month suspended jail sentence in 2014 after admitting phone hacking while at the Sunday Mirror”. You mean, unlike all those who hacked for the Screws who didn’t own up? But do go on. Of Máire Messenger Davies, we read that she “slammed The Sun’s readers as ‘mugs’”. And the Sun’s own hacks denounced those same readers as “plebs”. Your point is?
Then we read that IMPRESS code committee member “Paul Wragg has openly said he 'hates' the Daily Mail”. So where did Harvey get all this trawling through others’ Twitter feeds? He certainly didn’t do the research himself. But Zelo Street recognised the style (or lack of it) and lack of veracity instantly. And you know what that means.
Yes, the Sun cobbled up the second half of this article by recycling a series of posts published by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog. Specifically, they were authored mainly by newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, who was full value for his nickname in claiming that a Re-Tweet was an endorsement, which, as any fule kno, it is not (see HERE, HERE and HERE).
Wickham claimed that IMPRESS was state backed (wrong), that it wanted to financially ruin three newspapers (wrong), and more specifically that it wanted to ban the Mail (and thrice wrong). Harvey has obediently taken this less than tasteful confection of fake news and presented it as genuine journalism at his proprietor’s behest.
And the real reason the Sun has now gone after Graham Johnson is that the latter has written articles that have featured at Byline Media. Which is regulated by IMPRESS. And where Johnson has shown signs of breaking with the code of press Omertà. The smear is just to fire the shot across his bows, to try and bring him back into line.
But all that Oliver Harvey (still not Hardy, honest) has done is to once more expose the desperation of the Murdoch press, which could be seriously damaged by what Leveson Part 2 would potentially uncover. For starters, while we’re talking people who have been sacked by the Sun, there’s Mazher Mahmood. And all those dubious stings he did.
The Sun is lying its arse off to save the rest of its rotten carcass. No change there, then.
[Full disclosure: I am one of the initial funders of IMPRESS, and Jonathan Heawood, Emma Jones, Graham Johnson and Máire Messenger Davies are known to me]