17 June 2012


Like a lot of politics addicts, I’ve wasted a lot of time in recent weeks (well, months) watching the proceedings of the Leveson inquiry into the relationship between politicians and the media. And I mean wasted: hardly anything has emerged from the hours and hours of questions and answers that wasn’t already in the public sphere. Even the noteworthy moments – Rupert Murdoch’s casual statement in public for the first time that he dictates the political line of the Sun, John Major’s denial that Kelvin MacKenzie’s “bucket of shit” Black Wednesday story is true, Gordon Brown’s evasions about the activities of his spin doctors – have added little to the sum of knowledge.

Part of the problem is poor research. The inquiry has stuck to the bleeding obvious throughout, allowing key figures to perform well rehearsed set pieces. Major got away without a single question about his use of the libel law against the New Statesman; Brown and Tony Blair weren't asked to say anything about their roles in the takeover of the Statesman by Geoffrey Robinson in 1996; Brown was not questioned about his meeting with Murdoch after the Labour conference in 2007 (which the Sun had marked with a week of front pages demanding a referendum on Europe); Murdoch escaped any interrogation on his acquisition of sport broadcasting rights. And so on ad nauseam ...

To make matters much worse, there is a real danger that the whole show will come to an end – eventually – with a recommendation of statutory regulation of the press that goes well beyond limiting the share of the media one company can control. I can’t read Leveson’s mind, but we need more state interference in journalism as much as we need a dose of the clap.

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