Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Lock-in at the last chance saloon?*

Tomorrow the Leveson Enquiry is published. Some very powerful voices seem to be being raised to give the press (yet) another chance. This, decades on from David Mellor’s comment that they “were drinking in the last chance saloon”.

I am not sure what Leveson is going to say but I hope he will comment on:

  • The imbalance of power between individuals who get caught in the whirlpools of the press and the very large corporations that run so much of our print media.  Taking an action for defamation is very expensive and very high risk and the editors and their lawyers know it.
  • The arrogance of some elements of the press which seems to believe that anything that sells papers is “in the public interest” and that the “public interest” is a licence to break the law with impunity. The press seems to believe that they are keeping politics clean – “Sunshine is the best disinfectant” according to Boris Johnson – and this requires them to break the law at times. “Free Speech” which gives a licence to journalists to break the law and trample over individuals seems rather expensive – and it is individual members of the public who pay.
  • The lack of action by “the law” when the press appears to have broken the law. The press (particularly the major nationals) seem to have put themselves above the law and the police seem to have been willing to turn a blind eye to a number of breaches.
  • The cosy apparent triad of “press”, “police” and “politicians”.  It makes “us plebs” feel very disempowered.  The politicians and the police should already be aware that they have to both be clean and appear to be clean.  The press, if they fancy themselves as one of the “Great Estates” should also be willing to be both clean and have the appearance of being clean.

* (29 November 2012) I notice – having done a search, that my headline is near-identical to a phrase used by Harriett Harman in her submission to Leveson (see http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Submission-by-Harriet-Harman-QC-MP-on-behalf-of-the-Labour-Party1.pdf ) – except she thinks it has been a 65 year lock-in.

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