When Matt Hancock, the new Minister for Murdoch, read out his instructions in the Commons last week, claiming dishonestly that the world had changed since the first part of the Leveson Inquiry was completed in 2012, and that the press had “cleaned up its act”, his department initially allowed the public to see what Lord Justice Leveson had said in response to the decision not to continue the Inquiry process.
But this meant letting the whole world know that Leveson did not merely disagree with the abandonment of the Inquiry; his response eviscerated the Tories for breaking their promise to the victims of press intrusion. So what did the Tories do? After Leveson’s reply was briefly published on the Government’s website … it was deleted.
Yes, our Government has censored Leveson, although it is not hard to see why. When he observed “The conviction of Mazher Mahmood also raises issues of an entirely different species of unlawful and improper conduct”, this will have caused significant discomfort not just to the Tory Party, but its media masters. So the letter was pulled.
Also, as he points out, evidence to Part 1 of the Leveson Inquiry showed that phone hacking had only been admitted on behalf of the now-closed Screws. Since then, it has become clear that it also occurred at the Sun, and the Trinity Mirror titles. Other avenues of illegal information gathering have been pursued by these and other newspapers.
Leveson makes a compelling sales pitch for the continuation of his Inquiry (another reason the Tories decided to censor him), telling “A detailed and independent forensic investigation of compellable witnesses in a public forum, with evidence streamed online and widely available, will likely arrive at the full truth and I would suggest that the public interest would be served by a detailed, reasoned report which covers the whole of the available evidence, not just the evidence relevant to the guilt or otherwise of individual defendants in any specific trial. In short, in neither Part One nor the trials have there been answers to ‘who did what to whom’”.
The Tories want to turn their backs on all that. Those looking on are entitled to ask why. What is our Government scared of? How is it that they are putting themselves in a position of denying that full truth to the public? Might it cause them difficulty and discomfort?
Moreover, there is the question of all those victims of press misbehaviour to whom Young Dave gave his solemn promise. Leveson did not forget them, as our Government would forget them. Here he is unequivocal: “I have no doubt that there is still a legitimate expectation on behalf of the public and, in particular, the alleged victims of phone hacking and other unlawful conduct, that there will be a full public examination of the circumstances that allowed that behaviour to develop. That is what they were promised”.
But for the Tories, and in particular the under-fire Theresa May and her captive Culture Secretary, those victims will not sustain them in power and bolster their credibility. The press, in the short term at least, will do that for them. And the short term is all they have.
Matt Hancock lied to the Commons about Leveson wanting the Inquiry to continue, the Tories ignored his direction (a first in modern politics). Then he was censored. We are governed by a grotesquely corrupt and cowardly régime. And that’s not good enough.