The enemies of a free press, also known as the mysteriously funded Hacked Off campaign, are positively salivating at the prospect of new legislation to regulate the press. I hear that their press conference, held after lobbying the three party leaders, at Four Millbank yesterday gave a glimpse of things to come.
Professor Brian Cathcart and former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris waxed lyrical about their relentless pursuit of justice for their celebrity backers like Hugh Grant, and the lesser known victims of press mistreatment. Despite being promised the chance to quiz the victims, journalists in the room got increasingly irate as the double act hogged the limelight.
The tension boiled over when various broadcasters asked for victims to speak, a request seconded by their ink-based colleagues. It got very awkward when one journo said – aimed at Evan Harris – ‘we’ve come to hear from the victims not from a failed MP’. My spy in the room reckons Harris looked ready to jump off stage and chin him. I hear the hack in question ‘thought he was going to get hauled off’.
Proceedings were abruptly called to a halt with the promise that ‘a press release with victims’ words will be going out shortly’, and the event was wound up sharpish. Is this the kind of censorship Harris would like Sir Brian Leveson to recommend next week?