Coffee House

Jim Dowd MP vs The Spectator (“The type of people we’re dealing with”)

3 December 2012

Our honourable members have been busy denouncing the press in the House of Commons. The debate is still going on, but The Spectator has just had an honourable mention from Jim Dowd who read out our latest leading article (PDF here) to MPs. “The idea that you can trust the press is a strange one,” he starts. Here’s his little outburst:-

“What these people are basically saying is that they are above the law. This parliament, the British public, can say what they like. If it does not meet their approval, they will not abide by it. That is the calibre, that is the type of people we’re dealing with and we cannot trust them to act in the public interest.”

I will return the compliment: Mr Dowd shows the defenders of the free press who they are dealing with. Note how talks as if Parliament and the Public are the same thing (this “les gens, c’est moi” complex is not uncommon amongst those who have been in parliament for a certain length of time). The ‘public interest’ he defines as what he, an MP, wants to do.

His argument offers a classic example of why politicians cannot be trusted to regulate the press: they define “the public interest” in a way that suits them, and punish publications who defy this interest. Claiming to do so in the name of the powerless.

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Eric Joyce then butted in (sorry), saying perhaps The Spectator wants to be regulated by Ofcom instead. Even Mr Dowd was able to correct him on that. Here’s his peroration:-

“We face a position where the strong – in the shape of the press barons, media moguls, call them what you like – are demanding that there should not be a law because they know it will curb their power. Not power to observe and comment as they see fit, nobody’s is talking about a commissar… we’re talking about regulating the way in which they conduct themselves. And, more particularly, the way in which they treat the other citizens of these islands. If there is a dispute between the rich and powerful and the weak and powerless, it is a duty of this House to stand up for the latter.”

He seems not to recognise a few fundamental points. First, that newspapers stand up for their readers, who are also “citizens of these islands”. Second, that the “rich and powerful” are the very people whom journalists tend to investigate – a category that very much includes MPs.

Also, he seems not to grasp the idea of conscientious objection – which has long existed in my trade. Most journalists, for example, would go to jail before revealing a source. It doesn’t mean they regard themselves as “above the law”, just that they are prepared to pay the full legal price for not doing what the state demands. A few journalists (like Jeremy Warner at the Daily Telegraph) have demonstrated this principle.

And what of Mr Dowd’s “commissar?” What could anyone fear from press regulation? The answer, quite simply, is that once parliament’s power over the press has been established then it creates a tool which they will use again and again.

Nodding along to Mr Dowd was an MP who called me up recently and asked me to discipline a Spectator writer who had annoyed him on Twitter. Not because he had written anything wrong, simply because he didn’t like a Tweet and considered it offensive. I asked the MP what on earth this had to do with me. The journalist, he responded, holds a position at The Spectator. Did I want to be associated with someone like that?

It was an appalling suggestion, but it underlined what’s at stake. Why on earth did this MP think I’d oblige? Because these guys are limbering up for a post-Leveson world where they call the shots. They’ll have a regulatory tool, they can use it any time they please and we’d better play nicely or they’ll crank it up. This is the danger: that state regulation of the press has a chilling effect on freedom of speech. And that’s why freedom of the press is a right which Britain has cherished since 1695. Our mistake was not to protect these liberties in a constitution, as the Americans did.

Since 1828, The Spectator has been an resolute defender of English liberties and implacably hostile to MPs’ periodic attempts to bring the media into their purview. I am not saying that The Spectator is above above the law. Simply that I, as editor, will take the full consequences – under the law – of our decision not to attend meetings or pay any fines levied by a state regulator.

Jim Dowd probably doesn’t know it, but he is calling for a Britain where an MP can call up for a quiet word in an editor’s ear, complain about a pesky reporter – and be given a satisfactory response. It’s the kind of thing that happens in regimes all over the world already. And The Spectator will play no part in Britain going the same way.

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Show comments
  • FirstPassThePostStinks

    If we have a free press why do i pay a hefty poll tax to get brain washed by the British Bullshit Corporation?

  • valedictorian16

    I’d love it when and if press,and media went back to reporting to daily events, and giving us real food for thought , about them- Voluntarily!
    Instead of being on single, collective and personal missions to always be ‘outing’ their thoughts, about ‘the kinds of people, we’re dealing with.’

    Spectator is one of a dwindling few places left to have real discussion about
    such matters…. I would hate to see it disappear.

    The real issue at stake here
    – is not Freedom of Press

    but Moulding (Molding!) of Thought
    -when you get to bottom, and heart, of it.

  • David Webb

    I don’t think much if your French,. “Les gens, c’est moi!” makes no sense at all in French, where les gens and le peuple have different meanings. I think you mean “le peuple, c’est moi!”

    • Fraser Nelson

      i stand corrected! I didnt get bast O Grade

  • Dave H

    When MPs start calling for government regulation of the press, it’s time we got ourselves a bunch of new MPs.

  • George Laird

    Dear All

    There is a proud history of a free press in this country, and long may it continue, sadly there is always some git who seeks to gag it or control it while in power.

    Jim Dowd doesn’t impress me with his attitude, with the good also comes the bad, and when that happens as we are seeing the mechanism of the Courts is available.

    Just as Church and State need separation so does State and Press. That said we should distinguish between criminality (bribing Police etc) and legitimate news gathering. Mistakes can happen and when they do, they should be put right and people having redress regardless of their financial situation. It shouldn’t just be the rich who get that access to justice.

    I can understand Cameron not wanting to stick his nose in, too many problems but any new code of conduct must have universal support especially from the public.
    Illegal acts by the NOTW cannot be condoned, but without a proper investigative press we would all be so much poor and unsafe.

    I would hope people at Westminster realise the slippy slope they have set foot on and step off, the House does need to be put in order, and perhaps the trials ongoing will focus editors and reporters minds.

    On the whole, I think Fraser is right, no one is above the law and no one should be gagged either, but standards have slipped in a minority who have tarnished the whole.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird
    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Frank Kirkham

    Hear Hear ! We can always rely on the Speccie to choose the correct course of action. On the othe hand MPs….

  • Malfleur

    Just in case we forgot the locus classicus in this contretemps:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
    speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    They are abandoning this in the USA; let’s bring it home!

  • Burbage

    This may come as a surprise, but there is a qualitative difference between the decision to buy a newspaper and the decision to elect a representative.

    Pretending that the press has any sort of public mandate, other than the grubbily commercial, is exactly the sort of arrogant nonsense that got it into this mess. Threatening to break the law if you don’t get your own way may be the only response now available to you, but it’s as far from edifying.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Well said.

      I’ve been worried these Speccie teenagers might wrench their own backs, reaching back to pat them in praise for their support of fundamental liberties and for discouraging authoritarianism.

  • Richard Baron

    A committee of public interest would soon turn into the Committee of Public Safety.

  • MrVeryAngry

    “Regulationism” has neatly replaced Socialist authoritarianism. And without most people realising it. Press Regulation(ism) is the last bit of this Fabian gradualistic revolution. Bastards.

  • sam

    “Nodding along to Mr Dowd was an MP who called me up recently and asked me to discipline a Spectator writer who had annoyed him on Twitter.”

    Seconding what others have said; name them. Let’s see not only what, but whom, we are dealing with.

    Plus then we can all post rude things about them on twitter…

  • HooksLaw

    But you have come straight out and said you would not obey a law because it does not suit you.
    He picks on you because you play into his hands.

    Presumably people on here are thinking on the fact that Cameron is risking huge unpopularity to do what he thinks is right.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I don’t think he is risking huge unpopularity since he has already managed to achieve that. His stand against regulation has/will upset some and please others. The snag is that the upset some believe that their views are more important than those of the pleased others.

  • Beth

    “Newspapers stand up for their readers”
    I sometimes read the comments of readers on your site and Guido Fawkes site; I take it that these ungrammatical abusive dogmatic people are the ones you are sticking up for?

    • Rhoda Klapp

      I think you mean ‘up for whom you are sticking.’.

  • In2minds

    As Alex Massie might say – ‘Don’t be fooled: Labour is not a libertarian party!

    • Hugh

      He’d never say it that concisely, though.

  • jazz6o6

    The joke (or not) is that the whole Leveson bollocks has been brought about primarily by a failure of the public service in this case the police force to do it’s job. For if they had prosecuted phone hackers instead of taking bungs off them there would have been no Leveson Inquiry.
    And it is the public sector and it’s representatives who most want press regulation; probably so that they can carry on fiddling their expenses and generally dunning the taxpayer without press interference.

    • Andy

      Exactly. Phone Hacking wasn’t even a crime until 2001 or whatever it was. And as someone here pointed out if the factory setting has not been changed is that hacking ? Possibly not.

      But you are right: the Police should have done their duty, which they didn’t, and had they done so there would have been no Leveson. And let us not forget this all happened on Labour’s watch.

      I don’t think we should go down the route of Statute. Once you have done that when the day dawns that the Press don’t behave as our politician masters demand, as it will, there will be a clamour to amend the Act. And before you know where you are we will end up with state controlled media- we already have that with the BBC. I notice no one is demanding that the BBC is broken up because you have a concentration of media ownership.

      And how are you going to select the regulator ? We already have a Labour Party clone at OfCom. Maybe elect them like a Venetian Doge ? No. The whole thing is profoundly worrying and deeply illiberal.

  • Daniel Maris

    You seem to have found your voice on this subject Fraser. You are ringing loud and true. :)

  • Curnonsky

    His striking resemblance to a blini-gorged commissar himself does not help Jim Dowd’s case.


    For once I agree with Lindsay (I know I know . . . . ), I don’t think we have a free press.

    Fraser is the Editor here and is entitled to print what he wants, but from comments I’ve been reading here over the years, I’m not the only one find him circumspect.
    It’s all very well speaking up for Press Freedom, though I recommend removing the gloves, but where was the Press during the enactment over more than a decade when so many of our freedoms were being removed in countless ways with no discomfort at all being applied to the perpetraitors (sic), resulting not just in us being criminalised for what should be regarded as nothing more than petty differences of opinion, but now we must be, by necessity, the most self-censoring society I know?

    Oh yes I remember, telling us all how brill Camoron was, he who continues even today to extend the tentacles of totalitarian control.
    So if any editor thinks it worth going to prison for speaking up for freedom, then why not expose the real machinations of Government, and those of ones competitors, exposing who the puppetmasters are instead of pondering where Dave wants the Chocolate Oranges to be sited.
    You might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.

  • Thomas Paine

    Hear Hear Fraser. A principled stance is the only possible way here. Name names I say!

    • Dimoto

      I do wonder whether the proprietors will remain supportive …..

  • eeore

    Without knowing the personnel at the various levels of the proposed regulator. Without knowing what the regulations process will be, and more importantly what areas will not be allowed to be reported. Without knowing what safeguards there will be for journalists handling material that is clearly in the public interest – corruption, treason, gross impropriety, criminal activity, etc. Without knowing if the proposed regulator will be confined to newspapers, or if it applies to parish magazines, fanzines and hobby newsletters.

    I find it odd that Mr Dowd should make these claims.

    And it should be noted that in relation to the areas I mentioned, it is of little use looking to Leveson for the answers, because this cannot be known until the proposed body starts work.

  • Matthew Wilson

    Well said, Fraser.
    It would be helpful if newspaper owners could agree a way forward on self-regulation sooner rather than later, but the reverse of this is that the proponents of statutory regulation (and statutory regulation that they falsely claim isn’t any such thing) aren’t going to find it easy to reach a consensus on the small print either. At least, that’s my fervent hope.

  • Magnolia

    Well done Fraser, keep it up.
    I would like to know about Jeremy Warner.
    One of my spouse’s relatives was a conscientious objector during the second world war. He shot himself because he wouldn’t shoot the enemy.
    I don’t understand though how someone who takes such a principled view on this can be a supporter of the authoritarian EU. How can you support press freedom while at the same time supporting a system which is subjecting Greece to cruel economic failure with no escape? I’ve a horrible feeling that Dave will cave. Be prepared (Scouts/Guides motto). I’d start going to the gym and working with weights if I were you. Take some boxing classes. It seems to be all the rage.

    • pjt

      “supporting a system which is subjecting Greece to cruel economic failure with no escape?”

      Who’s subjecting Greece to cruel economic failure? Not others. Greece has borrowed itself to bankruptcy. No one forced it to do so, and no one forces the country to take any additional loans (which do come with conditions, obviously).

      Not that other countries are so much better, of course. All West European countries seem to be spending more than they can afford.

      • Magnolia

        I find there’s often two sides to a story especially when debts are involved.
        If the debtor can’t pay then that might be because of bad luck or an accident or dishonesty or it might be because the creditor lent money on terms that were unreasonable in order to take advantage of the debtor for their own ends.
        Does anyone think payday loans to pay for Christmas are a good idea?
        Well someone does because they exist but what kind of society and past successive governments allow their fellow countrymen to become so poor that they have to resort to these means in order to have a basic celebration once a year. The answer is incompetent and cowardly politicians who cannot tell the electorate the truth, which is that wealth has to be earned and we’re not earning enough of it. It’s the same for Greece but they also have a currency which is not under their own control.

        Germany has benefited from having an undervalued currency in the Euro for years which has helped her exports. This might have been at the expense of the false housing booms in the PIGS who maxed out on the cheap credit in order to keep their GDPs up. Why do you think Mr Boles wants to concrete over the countryside? It’s not for homes, silly, it’s for the spurious increase in GDP.
        The Euro countries are entwined in a circle of mutual destruction and all are at fault and the unelected officials at the centre are the incompetents in charge of it all.
        End of rant.

  • David B

    Apparently the media regulator will be pointed by a board to audit the regulatory framework set up by the press (or so a Labour spin doctor told 5live today). Two questions:

    1. Who will appoint the board that appoints the media regulator. – if this board is appointed in a political way then the regulator will be politic
    2. If the audit says the new framework is unsatisfactory then what happens.

    • Colonel Mustard

      One only has to look at New Labour’s record from 1997-2010 to understand how their place men and fellow travellers were appointed to do the unaccountable and unelected work of government. Cameron never got rid of them and is now suffering the consequences, although since there seem to be very few conservatives of any standing these days it is difficult to see how he might have sourced his own place men anyway, even had he been minded to and strong enough. The situation is exacerbated by the fact, as David Lindsay points out, that a great number of so-called Conservative MPs are in fact liberal democrat if not labour by inclination.

      • David Lindsay

        And that last is largely Cameron’s own fault.

        At best he brought in people like the then Louise Bagshawe, who joined the Labour Party for a while but who never understood what it was, and who was obviously never active in it or else she would have been under no illusion at to what the life of an MP actually entailed. But she was a purely frivolous figure, although that did not stop her from being given both a Telegraph Blog and a Contributing Editorship of this magazine because she was Cameron’s court favourite at the time. So much for the free press there.

        Cameron is surrounded by former stalwarts of the SDP; there are more of them as Conservative Ministers than there are as Lib Dem Ministers. In keeping on the Blairites, he has kept on numerous people who were members of the Communist Party or of Trotskyist groupuscules into the 1990s; he had wanted Mandelson, Milburn and Byers (as well as Purnell and Adonis) in the Cabinet, and he did in fact appoint Chris Huhne, who was an International Marxist Group activist before he joined the SDP.

        The influence of the NUS is also pronounced, while several rising starts of the allegedly brilliant 2010 intake both joined and left the Labour Party long after I did, well into the last Parliament. The heavily publicised Elizabeth Truss’s unrecanted past is well-known: an anti-monarchist, anti-marriage Lib Dem. Anna Soubry came up through representing the SDP in the NUS while sleeping with a leading Communist Party figure in that organisation, to the point at which she can campaign for assisted suicide (do you miss Gordon Brown yet?) and close the Government’s consultation on abortion on the grounds that she and it frankly didn’t care what anyone thought.

        Rehman Chishti was Francis Maude’s Labour opponent in 2005 while working for Benazir Bhutto, whom he assisted from 1991 until her assassination in 2007 in her leadership of a party the motto of which includes both “Islam is our Faith” and “Socialism is our Economy”; he was still doing that job when he defected to the Conservative Party in 2006 and became an aide to Maude as its Chairman. The length and breadth of the land, it is the Conservative Party that is the fully functioning British political vehicle of the Far Left, of Islamism, and of South Asian communalism.

        But then, the Conservative Party has always been the product of successive takeovers of the age-old Tory machine by Country Whigs, Patriot Whigs, Liberal Unionists, Liberal Imperialists, National Liberals (such as Michael Heseltine), Alfred Roberts’s daughter (although he himself never joined), the Institute of Economic Affairs (although its founders and their backer never joined), Owenites (although Owen himself never joined), and now the Lib Dems and all the rest. More of the Tory populist tradition was carried over into the nascent Labour Party than was retained by the Conservatives.

      • David Lindsay

        My comment detailing the SDP, Lib Dem, New Labour, Communist, Trotskyist and Islamist pasts and presents of numerous figures in the Conservative Party was removed within seconds. Not minutes. Seconds. So much for the free press. There isn’t one. If there were, then you would all have known those things already.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          Somebody who is charged with protecting the spectator from litigatiom probably decided your comment was defamatory or could be perceided as such. They would be the ones sued, not you. Do you have a problem with that? Newspapers have to make such judgments daily. Nobody is proposing freedom to write whatever they like without consequence. No proposed press legislation in Leveson is going to prevent Murdoch et al from having the influence you plainly dislike, therefore any support of state control is in fact aimed at reducing that influence. And is therefore exactly what the freedom of the press argument is really about.

  • Trebles All Round

    Clearly the Spectator is going to be a bastion of integrity and not committing obvious contempt of court that any night course lawyer would have caught or libelling the Director of Public Prosecutions that would give cause for the sort of regulation Lord Leveson is proposing. Can’t imagine a man like Fraser Nelson ever allowing that to happen on his watch without regulation, oh no sir. God Speed in your quest!

  • Archimedes

    Listening to these guys speak you get the impression that they think that “in these modern times” corruption within the Commons is inconceivable, that all that is behind them, that the correct controls are in place, and that the media is actually just a channel through which they can send their message. I think they’ve lost their understanding of accountability. Rees-Mogg was fantastic though.

    • David Lindsay

      He was a good turn. But that is all that he ever is.

      Entertaining. Nothing more.

  • Julian Kavanagh

    Mr. Dowd appears to be wearing a scarf in the chamber. He cannot be taken seriously on the back of this satorial faux pas alone.

    And David Lindsay – a piece of advice – when your comments are longer than the original post, it’s definitive proof that you are mad or don’t have enough to do with your time or both.

    • David Lindsay

      It just proves that you can’t understand them. That, in turn, just proves that they were not written for you.

      • IRISHBOY

        That’ll be the logical twin of the law which states that if someone finds a remark racist, then it is indeed a racist remark.
        No logic, no law. But we expect nothing different.

      • Andy

        Because they needed a bleedin good edit.

        • David Lindsay

          Point proved.

          • Hexhamgeezer


          • Andy

            Send me all your posts and I will edit them for you.

    • eeore

      “.je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire.”

    • Vulture

      Julian – You are clearly not familiar with Mr L’s posts. They often exceed the Blogs on which they comment. He is indeed, as you rightly guess, a slightly sad – no, make that, very sad – figure. Indeed until I was disabused, I guessed that he was an OAP with pee stains on his underwear and no-one to wash them. I have often suggested that he gets out more and gets a life, but alas, to no avail.

      Like Jon Snow and Gordon Brown he is, he has informed us, a son of a Cleric: do we see a pattern here?

  • Trevor Kavanagh

    Mr Dowd seems to forget that he (and everyone else in Parliament) is elected by “the people” and answerable to them. Just as newspapers are to their readers…who happen, by chance, to be those same people.

  • AnotherDaveB

    “Our mistake was not to protect these liberties in a referendum, as the Americans did.”

    Should that be ‘in a constitution’?

  • David Lindsay

    How about a referendum (which “entrenches” nothing in a parliamentary system, but you raised the idea) on Leveson, then?

    Milton, of all people, is being invoked in the cause of liberty. Milton was a high-ranking official in the only true tyranny in English, never mind Irish, history.

    The line is being trotted out that was tried over the hunting ban, a ban to which I was and remain opposed, but the answer is the same now as it was then: you are only “criminalised” if you break the law, in defiance of the Crown in Parliament.

    And there continues apace the hysteria of bullies to whom someone has finally stood up. Suddenly, they love the ECHR. Beyond parody. Miliband has called this right: winning elections now means siding *against* the lawless, sadistic, sociopathic, foreign, pseudo-Tory press. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

    However, get beyond the (largely foreign) corporate giants with the broadcasters (the largest of which is also foreign – yes, that means Sky, not the BBC) and the politicians in their pockets, and the Parliamentary Lobby lists 53 of what are therefore State-licensed print newspapers and magazines.

    The most diverse press in the world, based on that list. That list of State licensees, most of which would probably or certainly not survive the loss of such State licensing. The problem is that we are never allowed to hear from most of them.

    There is already the Parliamentary Lobby. There is already the registration of newspapers with the Post Office. There is already publication by limited companies and by trusts, both of which are defined in, and regulated pursuant to, the Statute Law. What is all the fuss about?

    What has become of Toryism stands exposed again: a vicious hostility to all civic life and institutions, including Parliament, and therefore to all public activity. Apart from wars for
    Israel. Of course.

    Even papers that are not owned by Rupert Murdoch pretend that they are. National sovereignty, of which Murdoch’s ownership of British newspapers is a material breach of the highest seriousness, can go hang. Meanwhile, competition is only for the likes of steelworkers.

    If Government policy on this were being determined by anything other than Cameron’s penis, then the only votes against the full implementation of Leveson would be those of a few Murdoch loyalist MPs, a position with a wide range of policy implications and all of them thoroughly pernicious, whom both parties could thus identify in order to deselect them. Probably not 50 in the entire House. Certainly not 100. And certainly not including the Prime Minister, of all people.

    But instead, we have this. We can all see why. A dog’s dinner is being made of a country supper.

    • David B

      Sorry I lost the will to read this half way through

      • David Lindsay


      • IRISHBOY

        Half way through?! But that man a drink – the spirit of mallory lives on!

        • Austin Barry

          I put on the crampons and climbed to an overnight bivi on the friable East Face of Lindsay’s post.

          Next morning, recovering from the thin air of intellectual prolixity, I attempted a traverse of the Lindsay Wall of Incoherence but was beaten back by a kind of pulmonary edema of logic and had to abseil to ground level.

          The air down here is like wine.

          • David Lindsay

            It is always fun to hear from the losers.

            The losers on an enormous scale in this case: the split between Tories and anarcho-capitalist Parliament-haters has been a long time coming, as
            has that between the corresponding tendencies within the Labour Party.

            Here, we have at last its presenting issue. And everyone can see which side is going to win on the floor of the House, in the Labour Party
            immediately, and in the Conservative Party (or whatever replaces it)
            very rapidly as a result of the Commons victory.

          • Hexhamgeezer 3-0

            Funniest Spec Post of the Month

            and so fckng apposite too.

    • stereodog


      You mention a referendum on the issue. One question for you. Do you believe that anything that commands the support of a majority is always right? If a referendum was won tomorrow by people wanting to execute you would they have the right to do it? Sometimes it is the job of parliament to stand against majority opinion for the sake of the greater good. I assume that as a Labour supporter you agree that parliament should protect the rights of immigrants against generally hostile public opinion? It is weak for an MP to argue that a law should be made because it is popular.

      • David Lindsay

        It was the writer above the line who bemoaned the absence of such “entrenchment”. He appeared to be calling for one. Was he?

        Every single Fleet Street title is already subject to essentially the Leveson system, due to being published in the Irish Republic. They seem to survive.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          There is a great deal of corruption in the Irish political system. Is the press there able to deal with it? Evidently Irish regulation applied to non-irish papers makes no difference to the situation, because irish politics is never covered in any case.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Ah, Cameron’s penis. You, sir, are a paedophile. I have it on excellent authority and anyone everyone knows it.

      • David Lindsay

        I know that you are old, Fergus. But I think that we can safely say that there is no longer anything boyish about Cameron’s. It would be useful to have that from the horse’s mouth.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        Cam does not have a penis. He has a John Thomas who ‘does’

        • David Lindsay

          That’s no way to talk about Rebekkah Brooks.

  • John Moss

    As they say in the best dining clubs when somebody hasn’t paid their dues, “Name Names!”

  • Colonel Mustard

    Labour’s presumption again and again. The public this the public that. They’ve never bothered asking me what I think and I suspect that I am not alone.

    You must expect this from a party whose erstwhile leader described them as “the political wing of nothing less than the British people as a whole”. They all believe so and in their divine right to rule us. As does their mighty army of advocates in the public sector, quangocracy and fake charity industry. It’s why they connive together at bringing legitimate governments down rather than just opposing them in Parliament as they should.

    I agree with LMS, also, that you should name and shame the bounder.

    • Dimoto

      I think Fraser is developing a martyr complex. He seems to be enjoying himself.

      • David Lindsay

        You are right, but it is worse than that.

        By far the most powerful people in the country, answerable to absolutely no one as they routinely ruin lives out of pure sadism and impose catastrophic public policies on everything from the non-regulation of the City to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now demanding that mere elected parliamentarians continue to bend silently to their will rather than bringing them within even the outermost limits of the law and of civilised standards of behaviour.

        But for the first time, possibly in living memory, and certainly in two generations, Parliament seems to have recovered some sense of itself. Do we literally get to lynch Rupert Murdoch? He is an American citizen, so I suppose not. But that son of his is British. To the hanging tree with him. And let Neil Kinnock do the honours. A YouTube classic in the making. First off, burn the shape of an old-fashioned light bulb onto his torso. Or should that one be saved for MacKenzie, to be done in Liverpool?

        • Hugh

          Interesting that your last complaint has nothing to do with intrusions into privacy or press hacking – or causing the Iraq war (who knew?) – but the Sun’s front page against Kinnock. Should that have been banned, then?

      • Malfleur

        Why should he not? For the first time in a long while he is on the right side of an issue. We do not, however, forget Neathergate.

  • LMS

    Fraser, name the chump who tried to get you to chastise the journalist. He isn’t a source, there should be no problem. You are right about the “les gens, c’est moi” complex that fat Labour MPs in safe seats develop. It still amazes me (although it shouldn’t) that there are MPs who are willing to sacrifice press freedom for their own political gain. It’s disgusting.

    • David Lindsay

      He is hardly in any position to comment. He himself holds one of Fleet Street’s numerous positions held at the pleasure of the Leader of the Conservative Party. Free press, indeed!

    • wanderer

      What should worry us even more is that so many of our MPs don’t seem to grasp the free press argument at all. They are ignorant of their history and the principles of democracy. They were not fit to be elected if that was so.

    • Swiss Bob

      It was that sack of shite Ed Balls IIRC.

    • Andrew

      MP was Tom Watson the journalist was Harry Cole

      • Swiss Bob

        He’s still a SoS though.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    That is the deal we all have with the law. If you don’t agree with it and break it, you must expect to take the consequences. Unless you are an MP.

    (Still wondering what part of the Spectators content is going to cause any breach of the proposed law though. The only sin I have you down for is ignoring Rhoda)

    • David Lindsay

      A great line has just been uttered by Jonathan Reynolds MP: “No one wants State control of the media, but what we have long had in this country has been closer to media control of the State.”

      Not before time, parliamentary sovereignty is being reasserted. More, please. Next up, the City.

      Let the message go out loud and clear to the media moguls and the money men, to the EU and the US, to Israel and the Gulf monarchs, to China and the Russian oligarchs, to separatists and communalists, to the Executive and the Judiciary.

      The Spectator ought to be delighted. Why isn’t it?

      • anyfool

        media control of the State.”

        You really are a useful idiot, not quite idiot enough to make it through Labour selection.

        When has the press run the government, in three hundred years it has sometimes had a degree of influence but never control, since 92 it was treated with fawning sycophancy by Blair at the same time a tool by Campbell.
        What control do they have of Cameron when almost every paper is squawking that he will not do what they want depending on the way they lean, either cut or spend for growth.
        This is revenge by MPs for the exposure of their thieving and it is loudest from Labour because they stole most.
        The same old Labour, lie lie and lie again eventually some will believe and some like you know they are lying but do not care as long as it gets your fellow travellers back in power.

        • David Lindsay

          At least 40, and possibly 70, Tories are going to vote in favour of this. If Cameron were not riding the horse, then only 50 or fewer Murdoch courtiers in the entire House would be voting against it.

          As for that expenses business, who even remembers it now? It was mostly a non-story, anyway: not a penny was ever paid out either for the moat or for the duck house. The highly partisan authorities have since tried to suck up to Cameron, whom they had expected to win outright, but chasing Labour figures but not Coalition ones; no one stole more than David Laws, who is back attending Cabinet.

          But that was never the point, which was the arrival of the right-wing press at a position of psychotic hatred of all civil and communal life, and therefore of all public institutions, including Parliament. The split between people like that and Tories, and between the corresponding, not unconnected tendencies within the Labour Party, has been a long time coming. We now have its presenting issue.

          • Archimedes

            You seem to be under the impression that this is going to deliver for you some kind of utopian Britain. It won’t. Politicians are not the only ones that will take advantage of this new regulatory regime – so too will pressure groups, and the Guardian probably, to muzzle the content they don’t like. When that happens, it really isn’t going to go your way.

            • David Lindsay

              No change there, then.

          • Colonel Mustard

            I have a great deal of time for much of what you write but on this I fear you are adrift. I do not recognise the “right-wing press” you describe or its hatred of civil and communal life unless by that you mean a growing discomfort with the barminess of local councils, EU edicts (real and imagined) and the world of Political Correctness.

            I presume, but I might be wrong, that you are incorporating Blair and Blairites into this right-wing grouping?

            Since the 40 and maybe 70 Tories story there has been a drawing back by Miliband and more neutral appraisals (even in the Guardian) of Leveson. I think the idea that his report and statutory regulation will address only the failings and abuses of the “right-wing Murdoch press”, whilst no doubt fervently subscribed to by monsters like Watson and his cohorts, is in fact absolute folly of the highest order. It is this polarised, cartoon, Animal Farm characterisation (Murdoch bad, Leveson good) that distorts and devalues so much modern political debate but which seems to be the stock in trade of the left-wing rump left by the departure of Blair and Brown. The rump contains personalities who are far from attractive as a potential government and looking to them for anything beyond self-serving and cynical manipulation of a gullible public is naive.

            Parliament has failed. MPs have collectively failed. Our heritage of a good but not perfect Parliament, our unwritten constitution and our Common Law has been recklessly damaged, disregarded and distorted by a generation of political louts. I don’t believe it redeemable. I think we stand on the cusp of another great turnaround in our nation history, like 1215 or 1688, or we face the abyss.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            As for that expenses business, who even remembers it now?

            You must be an MP’s partner. No sentient being could seriously write that.

            One for the scrapbook.

            • David Lindsay

              It had nothing to do with policy or policy’s underlying philosophy, and it revolved around two things that had never happened. But the right-wing press hate the State and all manifestations thereof, indeed all expressions of any collective life. Including Parliament. That was all that the whole thing was ever about.

              • Mike

                The State comprises people who earn their income from public sector employment and therefore are not neutral . I have never heard of a public sector employee say their their position is a waste of money or that they should work longers hours, accept lower pay or accept more responsibility. Thomas Jefferson was correct in saying

                I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

                Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

                Where the press is free and every man able to read, all
                is safe.

                I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

                It would appear the Founding Fathers steeped in their knowledge of the Classics, British Law and the tradition of Liberty: being of independent means and therefore free of state support; had far better understanding of the encroachment of the State on the liberty of the individual than many of today’s progressives.

      • Thomas Paine

        The failings of the OFT are not the issue here. Media concentration is a quite separate issue from press freedom and, indeed, ought to be the subject of scrutiny. But this if as far from the point!

        • David Lindsay

          It is almost entirely the point.

      • Dimoto

        You do realise, don’t you, that the only reason the Spectator tolerates your verbose drivel, is to demonstrate it’s belief in the freedom of the press ?

        • David Lindsay

          See below.

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