Lord Leveson, the big legal cheese heading up the Inquiry into media behaviour and, it appears everything else in infinity and beyond, had his bewigged fronds bruised by the audacity of a member of a government duly elected by a majority of British voters who said
the Leveson Inquiry had created a ‘chilling atmosphere’ towards freedom of expression and any attempt to tighten regulation of newspapers could result in ‘a cure worse than the original disease’.
It is alleged that the noble lord was deeply aggrieved by such abusive language and perhaps he almost considered referring the matter to his unelected mates at the European Court of Human Rights. But, instead, he took the UK Establishment route. The unelected judge complained to an unelected civil servant, no less a figure than Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary and Britain’s pen pusher supreme.
Memos obviously went back and forth. Quiet words were probably whispered into certain ears. Attempts to unruffle feathers were made. No doubt the golden mantra of avoiding a “fuss” could be heard in the corridors of power. So when Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, the minister who had so rattled the Levesonian cage, was summoned to give evidence to the Inquiry himself it was expected that, still smarting from rapped knuckles, he would, like Henry II in 1174, crawl on his knees in penance across the room, clothed in sackcloth and covered with ashes.
Instead the noble judge was shocked to find Mr. Gove not only defiant but openly aggressive in his attitude towards the Inquiry in general and His Levesonianship in particular.
Mr. Gove, the Education Secretary, gave an impassioned defence of the right to offend people as he gave evidence to the hearing on media ethics. Mr. Gove clashed with the judge several times, as he warned against knee-jerk decisions to put new restrictions on newspapers and broadcasters. “The cry, ‘Something must be done’ often leads to people doing something which isn’t always wise,”
Moreover he actually had the nerve to rebuke His Legal Lordship
The judge said he was concerned that the Education Secretary was prepared to put up with “unacceptable, albeit not necessarily criminal” behaviour from journalists because of the right to freedom of speech.
Mr. Gove said some cases of press misbehaviour were “deplorable” but argued that these could be punished under existing laws, such as defamation. “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean anything unless some people are going to be offended some of the time,” the minister said. Defending the “rough-edged” trade of journalism, the minister said it “twas ever thus” that reporters are unpopular. “Politicians and journalists have always tended to be held in relatively low regard,” he said
Politicians and journalists have always tended to be held in relatively low regard
He might easily have added lawyers and judges…….
Mick Hume at Spiked sums up this farce in his usual straight from the hip style
We are faced with an almost medieval spectacle of a judge and his top lawyer acting as priestly men of wisdom, apparently drawing their authority from some higher power, to interrogate and pass judgement on elected politicians and other public figures from the mortal world. That might have seemed strange and worrying enough. Stranger and more worrying still, however, is that so many rational and liberal-minded figures have chosen not merely to kowtow to the unreasonable power of the inquisition, but to cheer on the inquisitors
Cameron’s attempt to hit this hacking affair into the long grass by setting up the Inquiry has been a signal failure. Instead of allowing the courts to decide if actual laws had been broken by examining evidence he merely provided an additional trough into which well heeled lawyers and celebrity weasels can plunge their snouts.
Full marks. then, to Mr Gove for pricking the Levesonian balloon. However, even more satisfying, it seems clear that the general public have already filed this as a circus of relevance only to the Westminster village. With the Eurozone imploding and the UK economy at ground zero the noble lord and his underlings are prancing around the sawdust to a rapidly dwindling audience.