The campaign group Hacked Off returned to the Media Select Committee today, after yesterday’s announcement of a Royal Charter to regulate the press.
Given they were in the room with Letwin, Miliband et al deciding the final deal,as confirmed by Labour Select Committee member Paul Farrelly, you might have thought that they had their say already. Seemingly not.
Apparently they had to be in the room with the politicos, but press representatives did not, so as to stop a conspiracy and the plans being shelved, which tells you a lot about Hacked Off’s thoughts on democracy and fairness.
Campaign founder Brian Catchcart and Board of Directors Chairman Hugh Tomlinson QC both agreed that if newspapers refused to sign up “Parliament would have to act.”
Cathcart also said he believed what what was agreed yesterday was statutory underpinning, despite what the Prime Minister claimed.
One of the lines that Hacked Off and their celebrity allies are keen to pursue is that the new arrangements will actually help the press. Tomlinson said that the new arbitration system will help the regional press, as did Max Mosley, who thought it could stop bulling from a rich local.
All this in contingent on the regional press signing up to the rest of the system. Naturally.
Hacked Off always tried to claim that a new regime would not stop good, legitimate public interest journalism, and yet Max Mosley said that under the new system:
If the News of the World had that story [about Mosley have an orgy for which he received damages] they probably wouldn’t have published it.”
Read that quote again.
A story about someone running a major sporting franchise, that if nothing else damaged his credibility to lead that worldwide franchise, might well not have been published.
While the Labour members of the committee heaped praised on Hacked Off or nodded along with them, the Conservative members gave them a harder time.
On this note, my favourite MP today was Tory Tracey Crouch, who rebelled on the Leveson vote last night. She rather pointedly asked Brian Catchcart if “this is the the end of the wedge” and got him to admit that the organisation are not going away.
When she attacked David Cameron’s view that this was not statutory underpinning, Ben Bradshaw piped up jovially from opposite “are you accusing your leading of misleading parliament?” Crouch snapped back “I voted against.”
Philip Davies was also rather unsympathetic:
You [Hacked Off] say that you are sticking up for the general public, but the only politician you’ve got, Dr. Evan Harris,is sitting behind you and he was voted out by the public at the last general election.”
Lib Dem John Leech wasn’t there.
It’s quite clear from today that despite their seeming victory and politicians kowtowing to their celebrity backers, Hacked Off have no intention of going anywhere just yet.
That thin end of the wedge just became a lot thicker.