Sham press regulator IPSO may be worse than useless when it comes to dealing with the less than totally principled behaviour of our free and fearless press, but at least it has adhered to its own rules. While representatives of that press manage to get themselves on to its board - Murdoch retainer Trevor Kavanagh being the low point - it has at least been independent of obvious political interference. Until now.
IPSO chairman Alan Moses was appointed in 2014. He is stepping down at the end of this year. His replacement will be Lord Faulks. Who he? Well, as Press Gazette has told, “He served as justice minister for three years from 2013 and as a barrister specialises in human rights claims, personal injury, police claims and public law. He took silk in 1996”.
What has also been admitted is “He was appointed to the House of Lords in 2010, but no longer takes the Conservative whip”. He served as a minister in both the Coalition and Tory Governments between 2014 and 2016. His Wikipedia entry still lists his party as the Conservatives. His wife is a Tory councillor. His voting record indicates that, whatever claims he may make of independence, he goes through the same lobby as the Tories.
To no surprise at all, Professor Brian Cathcart of Kingston University has roundly condemned the appointment: “Could not make it up. IPSO’s new chair is a former Conservative government minister who, while he may not formally take the Tory whip in the Lords, still routinely troops through the lobbies for them. Independent? IPSO doesn’t know the meaning of the word”. And it gets worse.
Press Gazette once more: “Faulks’ appointment has been made by the IPSO Appointments Panel, which is independent of IPSO’s board and is chaired by Sir Hayden Phillips … The other panel members are Wendy Harris, Jeremy Horner, Adrian Jeakings and Reach group editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley. Times editor John Witherow and ex-High Court judge Dame Laura Cox also advised on Faulks’ appointment”.
Two editors helped him get the nod. Worse still, one of those was John Witherow of the Murdoch Times, whose track record includes being editor of the Sunday Times when it ran the infamous “Agent Boot” story about the late Michael Foot, claiming the former Labour leader was a Soviet agent. It fell apart on the morning of publication. Foot later sued the ST and won significant damages which he turned into a new kitchen.
More recently, Witherow presided over a culture of news gathering by using blagging, as revealed by former blagger John Ford, who did rather a lot of the blagging. Most recently, Witherow has been in the editor’s chair during the “Muslim Fostering” row, where the reputation of chief reporter Andrew Norfolk was used to validate a story which soon, you guessed it, fell apart. The Times has been impervious to criticism there - and reality.
So not only is the new chairman of IPSO not really independent of party politics, he has been appointed by a group which includes a Murdoch editor forever tainted by claims of malpractice - claims backed up by rather more evidence than the Sunday Times managed when it ran the Muslim bashing stories in the first place.
Power corrupts. For our free and fearless press, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
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