Diary

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The Independent Online
Whatever your political persuasion, it is pretty clear that the Press Complaints Commission, under its new chairman, Lord Wakeham, is in a mess. Sir Bernard Ingham, press secretary to Margaret Thatcher and the most famous member the PCC never had, is busily denouncing it as an "unconstitutional dog's breakfast", having "withdrawn" after weeks of wrangling over his suitability and impartiality. The charge has merit: the PCC's appointments committee only has three members instead of its required five. Some existing members are technically incorrectly appointed; while there are so many vacancies the monthly meetings are grievously under-strength.

But the real issue raised by the affair is whether the former Tory Chief Whip Wakeham, not Ingham, is up to the job. Doubters held their tongues last autumn when headhunters alighted upon Wakeham to replace the unfortunate Lord McGregor, because he possessed the inside-track qualities calculated to hold off privacy legislation. Emboldened by the Ingham fiasco and the consensus that the Government will not act on privacy, they are now out in force saying he's the wrong man for the job.

The Ingham affair has also led to a deep chill in the relationship between Lord Wakeham and Harry Roche, the worthy chairman of the Guardian Media Group, who also chairs Pressbof (the finance body which holds the PCC's purse strings). This is serious and brings us full circle. The two fixers have to alight on two members of the great and the good to bring the PCC appointments committee up to five. Until that happens, the PCC languishes in a state of uncertainty, looking sadder by the day.

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