Stephen Glover: Too much heat, too little light. We need cooler heads at the inquiry

Media Studies: Too much heat, too little light. We need cooler heads at the inquiry

Lord Justice Leveson has warned newspapers not to victimise witnesses who have
spoken out against press intrusion in front of his tribunal. Although I shall
naturally respect his Lordship's instructions, perhaps I might be allowed a few
reflections about Alastair Campbell, who appeared last week. For when Tony
Blair's former spin doctor climbs sententiously into the pulpit, it is time for
us to count the prayer books.

Mr Campbell described parts of the press as "frankly putrid". No doubt he is right. But I would take the accusation more seriously if it did not come from him. More than any person in government, Mr Campbell nourished the red tops. He urged Tony Blair to genuflect in front of Rupert Murdoch, and The Sun subsequently became part of the project. Before the Iraq war it was an uncritical cheerleader for Bush and Blair, and afterwards dutifully suppressed bad news from Baghdad. Mr Campbell was so close to the paper that he leaked it the date of the 2001 general election before No 10 had bothered to inform the Queen.

This is not the time to dwell on Mr Campbell's tampering with the evidence behind the Labour government's crucial September 2002 dossier that made the case for war, or on his second, misleading dossier of February 2003, which he covertly plagiarised from sources already in the public arena. All we need to know is that Mr Campbell was a red-top journalist through and through, working for the Daily Mirror in its most rumbustious years, and idolising its corrupt owner, Robert Maxwell, who makes Rupert Murdoch look like a saint.

Why should such a man be allowed to vilify the press without his own highly dubious role being mentioned? For me his appearance marked the low-point of this so far one-sided inquiry. We have had a stream of celebrities making accusations against the press, some of them deeply shaming to journalists, others unsubstantiated. Lawyers, journalists and others have also lined up to demonise the tabloids, sometimes making perfectly justifiable points. There will be more of the same this week, with so far unnamed "media academics" being given the chance on Thursday to comment in a way that will probably be hostile to the principle of self-regulation.

In fact, I can't think of anyone who has yet been permitted to make an even-handed but sympathetic critique of the press. Before the hearings began, we had an eloquent defence of the tabloids from Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, but he is inevitably parti pris. Outside the inquiry, we have had a stirring argument in favour of self-regulation from the Lord Chief Justice, Igor Judge, but he lacks detailed knowledge of the workings of the press. What we have not yet had - amid all the relentless rubbishing of the tabloids - is a disinterested, expert, proportionate voice.

Will we ever? I am told that in many months the fourth part of the hearings called "The Future" may allow neutral witnesses to do the kind of thing I am talking about. Let's hope people will still be prepared to listen. I would like to nominate as my star disinterested witness Peter Preston, for 20 years editor of The Guardian and now a media columnist on The Observer. Though he has never worked for a tabloid, he does not yearn for their extinction. He is a cussed, fair and incorruptible man, whose evidence and recommendations I would trust and accept. Will the likes of him ever get a hearing?

A no-holds-barred memoir from Lord Black

Conrad Black, the former proprietor of The Daily Telegraph, has written a defiantly unrepentant and thrillingly indiscreet account of his tribulations called A Matter of Principle. For what I presume may be legal reasons, the book is not on sale in this country, but it can easily be obtained from Amazon.

Lord Black's main purpose is to establish his innocence, and he portrays himself as "the victim, not the author of crimes", though he does concede moral fault. In his eyes, the chief culprit was his business partner, David Radler. The arguments in favour of his own innocence are involved, and readers will have to make up their own minds. My faith in his accuracy was shaken by several serious factual bloomers. For example, he states that the Berry family - from whom he bought The Daily Telegraph in 1986 - acquired the paper "in late Victorian times", though in fact they took it over in 1928. Surely he should have known this.

But the book is mesmerising for its gossipy revelations (he claims the Barclay brothers, current owners of the Telegraph titles, have built a replica of the dining room of Mark's Club in their Channel Island redoubt) and its devastating character assassinations. Former Daily Telegraph editor Max Hastings is described as "dashing and irrepressible but with a short concentration span and even shorter temper, at times an almost Monty Python-like awkwardness, and a hotchpotch of dissonant, half-formed opinions". Sir Max is treated lightly in comparison with his real enemies. Lord Black evidently feels he has little to lose, and the result is a Fleet Street cracker.

The rival suitors for Lady Mary Crawley

Who will win the hand of Lady Mary Crawley? I am not talking about the choice between her cousin Matthew Crawley, heir to Downton Abbey and the earldom, and the slimy press baron, Sir Richard Carlisle. I mean the much more passionate and hard fought contest between The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Some will think the Telegraph has Lady Mary in the bag. It is socially more eligible, despite some recent vulgarities. Its broadsheet format enables it to display large and prominent pictures of its beloved, though it sometimes allows its affections to veer in the direction of her no-less-attractive sister, Lady Sybil. But last week the paper embraced Lady Mary again on its front page, assuring readers that she would offer a "Christmas teaser". You bet she will. She's that kinda gal.

However, I wouldn't write off the Mail, which the week before last ran a very fetching picture of her on its front page. Its tabloid shape is obviously a disadvantage, offering Lady Mary less space than she is accustomed to. On the other hand, the paper doesn't like losing. It may, in the end, simply have her on the front page more often than its rival because it has more staying power, and the Telegraph could be forced to seek comfort in the arms of Lady Sybil.

As in all these romances, there is a dark horse. I wouldn't put it beyond The Times to slip in between these two desperate suitors, and claim Lady Mary at the 11th hour. It is admittedly also hampered by its tabloid shape. But it is supposedly the "top people's paper" and, if it made its intentions clear, who could be sure that Lady Mary would not succumb?

s.glover@independent.co.uk

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Graduate Consultant - Sales Recruitment - £35k ote

£18000 - £25000 per annum + £35k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for your first s...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Media Sales - Print, Online & Mobile

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing house has been ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Award winning Peterborough base...

Day In a Page

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
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?