So, the News of the Screws has gone. No more will I learn of the indiscretions of âmodelsâ with C list âcelebsâ from Eastenders under its red top banner. The priapic exploits of footballers will have to be gleaned elsewhere. Although I donât think I shall want for sources.
A cause for celebration?
In his excellent article of yesterday, Thaddeus J. Wilson pointed out that there is a distinctly dark side to the arguments being assembled against the press.
Here is my take on it.
Our politicians love their persona of honesty, concern, selflessness. Some exhibit this characteristic. I am thinking of Frank Field MP, a man of enormous expertise and integrity â tellingly reviled within his own party. But many â no, most â do not. When the MPâs expenses scandal broke, if the standards which applied to a rigorous company had been applied, at a rough guess about half our MPâs would have been capable of disciplinary action and dismissal.
Despite every effort to avoid prosecution, some have been proved to be so fundamentally dishonest as to end up as guests of Her Majesty in a way which they might not have expected when starting off their career in the Mother of all Gravy Trains. Sorry, (slight slip of the key board there) Parliaments.
It is worthwhile remembering that the information which finally exposed these greedy and dishonest freeloaders had originally been sought under a Freedom of Information Act request. It is also worthwhile remembering that there had been repeated and protracted legal challenges to revealing the facts by the House of Commons authorities on the grounds that the information was âunlawfully intrusiveâ. In short that the Parliamentarians, including the then Speaker, the dour, greedy, self aggrandising âGorbals Mickâ, wouldnât tell anyone how their âclubâ worked.
No, they fought tooth and nail. They fought on the beaches and on the benches. They fought on the radio and in the courts. They would never give in!
I will stand corrected on this, but as I remember the deadlock was broken only by a mole who supplied The Telegraph with the information on disk. I think there must have been quite a few criminal offences involved in that, probably including theft. Well done the thieving mole! Well done The Telegraph, the receiver of those stolen goods! There was at the time, as I further recall it, some suggestion of prosecution of both mole and newspaper, but this was abandoned in the face of the conclusion, reluctantly reached, that the public simply would not allow it. Even politicos have some shame. Or perhaps just a basic survival instinct.
But the politicos were deeply hurt. Wounded by the simple revelation of their greed, graft, free loading and dishonesty, they moaned, whined, thrashed and gnashed their teeth. How dare the Little People question them, the Anointed Ones, the Almighty! How dare the mere tax payer question the MPsâ just, albeit corrupt, desserts!
And so now the revenge. The News of the Screws has handed the politicos a stick with which to thrash and crush the press. Donât get me wrong. Frankly, I donât care if the papers hack the odd awful celeb or awful MPâs phone. But hacking the phone of a missing teenager who has in fact been murdered is beyond the pale. It threatens the investigation and strikes me as akin to grave robbing. The perpetrator(s) should in appropriate order of priority be (a) horse whipped (b) sent to prison to reflect on the error of their ways, and (c) horse whipped again.
But, back in Westminster, I sense not outrage, but positive glee. Finally, the political classes smell revenge on those who baited them in their hour of torment. Itâs payback time against the press. The Empire Strikes Back!
I watched Prescott on TV this evening. The vast, corpulent frame, foaming with malice and indignation. He was not satisfied. Like some great greedy pig, already full but ever hungry for more. A man full of ermine and pensions, happy to use the Milly Downer issue to further his interests. He moaned and foamed and railed at the Murdoch Empire. He sensed, and wanted, more blood. He wanted to muzzle a free press.
I have no brief for Murdoch. What the NOTW did was horrible. But do the politicos care? Yes, but only in this sense. They are delighted. Here is a gold plated chance to muzzle the press. A chance to crush not just the News of the Screws but at the same time anyone who would intrude on the corpulent self serving party that is public life. A little law here, a regulation there. And so it begins. The slippery slope.
Long live illegality!
Gildas the Monk