Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Politicians move to the bank of the Rubicon

A free press is paramount for our democracy

A free press is paramount for our democracy

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have forced David Cameron’s hand and moved the UK closer than ever before to State-controlled media.

A Royal Charter has been “agreed” between all three main parties to establish an independent regulator of the press and also blogs hosted in the United Kingdom. Unlike the Press Complaints Commission, it will be underpinned by law despite what the political parties will try and tell you.

This is because the Royal Charter will be fixed in stone unless two thirds of parliament (no easy feat) vote to revise the rules governing the new regulator.

The Royal Charter will allow the regulator to investigate newspapers and blogs, impose fines and issue directives to the press such as where to print an apology.

All in all this is a bad day for democracy in the UK. A free press needs to be just that: free. This does not mean it should operate above the law. Hacking mobile phones is already a criminal offence and prosecutions are ongoing: expect more prison sentences.

The only reason we are having this debate at all is because of a collection of Left-wing pressure groups, like Hacked Off, who have infiltrated Ed Miliband’s Labour Party, and who are ideological opposed to freedom and believe the State should control the masses, which first and foremost means getting hold of the media.

The fact Hacked Off welcomed the “cross-party” agreement this afternoon is very worrying and suggests they have had significant influence in drawing up the Lab-Lib Dem version of the Royal Charter.

It is also becoming clear David Cameron has been railroaded into accepting the terms of the Liberal Democrats and Labour despite promising there would be no “statutory underpinning”.

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Socialists try to impose State-controlled press in UK

A free press is paramount for our democracy

A free press is paramount for our democracy

Lord Leveson – part of the metropolitan elite – recommended “statutory underpinning” of the press is his multi-volume Report into Press Ethics.

In short, this means State-controlled press. As I wrote back when Leveson superciliously bounded on to the stage to introduce his report, this recommendation is an attack on our democracy: one of its core pillars is a free press.

So it is hardly surprising to see the Liberal (note the capital ‘L’ – very different from ‘liberal’) Democrats and the sixth-form shower of a political party, Labour, want to embrace Leveson’s recommendation for shackling the press with legislation. Socialists – and let’s be in no doubt the Lib Dems are socialists too – see nothing better than command and control from the centre and “statutory underpinning” is perfectly suited to that purpose.

David Cameron, for all the gripes I have about him (and they are many), is right to oppose Leveson’s recommendation. I think Mr Cameron actually gets democracy (and probably realises the game is up in 2015 as a result) but he will be damned if he is going to go down in history as the man who destroyed a core pillar of democracy in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This whole question of press ethics has and continues to be a farce. We have THE best, diverse and vibrant print and online media in the world. We have a Government that on the whole is scared to death of the public: precisely because of our superior journalism in our print and online media. I would far rather live in a country which splashes Max Mosley’s sexual habits across the front-page (despite me personally not giving two hoots what he gets up to in spare time, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone but himself!) than one where politicians can do as they please and threaten business-busting fines if a newspaper looks set to expose a corruption or hypocrisy amongst the powers that be in Westminster, devolved assemblies and town halls.

Because as soon as you take away a free press, the powerful who rule over us will take advantage, which is a slippery slope eventually to evil. And I don’t say this an exaggeration. Abuse of power by the powerful to detrimentally affect the lives of the masses would eventually occur once you remove one of the core pillars of democracy – that of the free press. We see this today in Zimbabwe and Russia. We saw it in the past in Argentina, where it led to kidnapping, torture and murder of tens of thousands of people. This is the end result of eroding democracy – be certain of this.

We learn today both the Prime Minister, Nick Clegg of the Yellow Peril and Labour’s pseudo-sixth former leader Ed Miliband all now want to lay down a Royal Charter establishing an independent self-regulatory body for the press. However, Labour want to go further and introduce legislation to shackle the press. I wholly disagree with this approach for the reasons I have outlined above. The showdown between the main political parties will take place on Monday in the House of Commons.

However, commentators don’t seen to be talking about the elephant in the room: legislation already exists to stop the wrongdoings of the press which led to the Leveson Inquiry being set up by David Cameron. It is already illegal in the UK for journalists to hack into mobile phones, it is already illegal for journalists to pay police officers for information, it is already illegal to defame someone’s character.

So, why are we wasting time setting up Royal Charters? All Lord Leveson did was succumb to hard-left pressure groups like Hacked Off and was wowed by celebrities like Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan who want the press to write about their films and comedy shows but only on their terms.

Yes, the News of World’s hacking into murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone was horrific and that paper has rightly been closed down by its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch. But that behaviour by News International journalists was and is illegal. Prosecute the journalists. Send them to prison. But do not remove a pillar of our democracy as a sop to the Left, who dream of Communist states, where power is firmly held by the elite and the people are kept in their place and oppressed.