Matthew Norman: Press watchdog bites back at toothless claim

It is with some distress that we turn to the unseemly spat between the Media Standards Trust and Sir Christopher Meyer, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. Sir Christopher took deepest umbrage, you may recall, at the report in which the Trust dismissed the PCC as a toothless old mutt (I translate "unaccountable and opaque" with a little licence) that nuzzles up to its master and rolls over for a tummy rub.

No wonder this elegant soul came as close to sounding cross as his diplomatic politesse allows. This report is a disgrace, the Trust apparently regarding the PCC less as watchdog keeping its eye out for infringements than guard dog devoted to protecting its masters from trouble. What it fails to grasp is that the PCC is the same ferocious paragon of independent scrutiny it's been ever since the days when Guy Black juggled his duties running the show with his obligations as Rebekah Wade's regular holiday companion; when the then People editor Neil Wallis retained his berth on committee long after endorsing the code of practise by publishing long lens shots of Sara Cox naked on honeymoon; and when the PCC brokered the deal whereby Joan Collins abandoned a complaint about a Daily Mail reporter conning her way into her Alzheimer's-stricken mother-in-law's care home bedroom in return for a startlingly generous serialisation deal for her book of beauty tips.

So on behalf of us all, I'd like to congratulate its outgoing chairman on the magisterial disdain with which he dismissed the fact that the PCC upholds one complaint out of every 250 it receives as "the statistics of the madhouse".

Science versus fiction

Yet even the finest bodies have room for improvement, and if Sir Christopher is looking for a swansong, I have an idea. He might consider setting up a sub-committee to monitor scientific reporting. The allegation that Dr Andrew Wakefield flammed up the evidence on which he based his claim about the link between the MMR jab and autism reminds us that a public apology for peddling that cobblers is expected imminently from Mad Mel Phillips and others. But it can't be right to depute the task of exposing misleading and plain deceitful reporting to the likes of Ben Goldacre, brilliantly though he writes about bad science. A few formal guidelines designed to prevent papers manufacturing further public health crises might be handy.

Neo-cons out in the cold

It isn't only our lot who put in the work on scientific study, of course, and the scent of the rigour the frothing right bring to its researches drifts over from the US where Fred Barnes of the neo-con Weekly Standard has attacked Al Gore. "The more the case for man-made global warming falls apart," writes Fred, the only high-profile American pundit to predict a John McCain win on the eve of the election, "the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe." Invited to flesh out "falling apart" by Talking Points Memo, Fred explained – and the point will be familiar to fans of our own top ranked journo-climatologists – that it's been a bit chilly lately. Asked for further particulars, he mentioned a "cooling spell", but refused to cite the evidence on the grounds that "I'm not going to do your research for you" before hanging up.

Diction in the dock

Rumpole fans will rejoice to hear that the novelist Kathy Lette, who continues to battle Genital Tourette's so bravely, hopes to complete a story left unfinished by her friend John Mortimer. It's such a natural fit. "It is for you, members of the jury, and for you alone, to decide whether the defendant should be convicted for no more than for a tragic addiction to atrocious punnilingus..." "Mr Rumpole," erupted the Mad Bull, his face its familiar shade of crimson, "What did you just say?" "Only that my client has magical diction, M'Lud, and is a most cunning linguist." "Very well, Mr Rumpole, I suppose you'd better continue." Can't wait.

School of hard knocks

I was saddened by the tone of Pandora's account on Friday about Derek Draper losing his rag with the Guardian's David Hencke. Derek was upset at the revelation that he succumbed to confusion about his academic qualifications, claiming his MA in clinical psychology came from the world-renowned Berkeley branch of the University of California, rather than a less revered college in the vicinity. Frankly, it ill behoves any of us to impute even a tinge of Archerian charlatanism to one who journeyed from Peter Mandelson's best little helper to mental health practitioner via a stint selling New Age crystals in Los Angeles. Derek's back in the fold now, tutoring Labour folk in the arts of communication, and no wonder. Jabbing a finger at a respected political reporter and promising to end his career ... ach, you just can't put a price on that level of media-handling expertise.

Lecturing the point home

If there's one area on which Dolly might lavish his didactic talents, I don't think we're hearing anything like enough of the phrases "I've been very clear about this already," "as I've stated very clearly," "the point I made, John, and I don't think I could have been any clearer...," from the likes of Yvette Cooper, David Miliband and the PM himself. If some genius at High Command believes that these formulations more than compensate for oblique and impenetrable waffling, the message clearly hasn't got through yet.

No Bender to the madness

A civil servant by the name of Brian Bender stars in a splendidly synthetic scandal about corporate hospitality, finally, and a line at the bottom of a Daily Mail page reads "Littlejohn returns next week". Is there not a shred of justice in this wicked old world?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics rally to defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
John Cleese is promoting his new book
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
peopleUS footballer said he had hoped Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out might have helped
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game