It was almost two years ago that John Cleese addressed a Commons lobby event hosted by press campaigners Hacked Off, and caused many pundits to go into a howling, frothing rage as a result. His alleged sin was to demonstrate the folly of allowing the press to regulate themselves. This is what he said to the gathering.
“We’d all like to regulate ourselves, wouldn’t we? But it would mean without appropriate oversight … murderers would make a good case! They’d say ‘We’ve murdered a lot of people, we know people who’ve murdered people. We are best qualified to regulate (murder)’”. Hardly had Cleese said that, than Alex Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, was off and running.
Cleese had said that journalists were like murderers (he hadn’t)! Other pundits rallied to condemn Cleese and Hacked Off, notably (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, the Mail on Sunday’s not at all celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, Dylan Sharpe of the Murdoch Sun, and Chris Deerin. All were suitably outraged. So they will all be similarly unhappy at former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan today.
Or rather they won’t: Morgan is Old Media, and his utterances are therefore Beyond Reproach for the rest of the press establishment. So thus far he has got away with very little scrutiny over his attacks on former footballer David Beckham. But his latest attempt to score More And Bigger Self Publicity Opportunities For Himself Personally Now should have anyone who condemned Cleese up in arms.
After Morgan once again claimed that Beckham was using his charitable work to “force a knighthood”, Oliver Holt of the Mail On Sunday showed he was unconvinced at The Great Man’s schtick: “I think he has done an awful lot more good than harm with his charity work. Isn't that really all that matters?” And then Morgan dropped his clanger.
Here’s his reply: “I think a person's motivation for charity work matters. Exhibit One: Sir Jimmy Savile”. Is he, or is he not, making a direct comparison of Beckham with Savile? That was how freelance Ewan MacKenna saw it, and he was not impressed: “That's an utterly nonsensical comparison in terms of people, motives, outcomes and pretty much anything else”. So what did Morgan have to say to that?
How about claiming that what he’d just said was not what he said at all? Here it comes: “Not comparing Beckham to Savile, just making the point that motivation for charity work matters”. In which case, why mention Savile in the first place? The adverse comment generated by Morgan’s latest attempt to tell the world what an important person he is shows that rather a lot of people are not convinced by his posturing.
But his pals in the press establishment will make sure that this latest gaffe does not get into the papers. After all, what are friends for, apart from being able to pull that kind of smear and get away with it? Piers Morgan, the true face of tabloid misbehaviour - and entitlement. Don’t you know who he is? Pass the sick bucket.