Donald Macintyre's Sketch: MPs fail to land punches in trial of Hacked Off

 

If Monday’s Commons debate was post-Leveson showdown lite, today’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing was the real thing. We had Max Mosley, who famously won a 2008 court action against the (late) News of the World after it turned over his private life. And we had at least three Tory MPs who could barely contain their fury at Hacked Off’s starring role in the Ed Miliband-hosted talks which secured the cross-party regulation deal with David Cameron.

True, the 72-year-old Mosley raised eyebrows when he said he was “just an ordinary member of the public”. Philip Davies, a self-confessed advocate of self-regulation who voted against the deal on Monday night, accused him of not being “straight”. “You are not here to represent a free press… You’re here representing the Hugh Grants of the world.”

But Mosley, who has given financial help to hacking victims, said Davies had “absolutely no right” to say that. “Everything that’s happened to me has happened. My interest is to see that it doesn’t happen to other people, and that if it does happen they can afford the costs of the proceedings I brought. Don’t say I’m not straight.”

This set the tone for what Davies and his colleagues appeared anxious to turn into the Trial of Hacked Off. Tory MP Conor Burns conducted a vigorous cross-examination on “why did you need to be in the room eating pizza with Ed Miliband doing a deal to change the system of press regulation in this country?” (“Nobody offered us pizza,” protested Hacked Off director Brian Cathcart).

The interrogators had two problems, one of which was the witnesses’ robustness. Mr Tomlinson is the kind of QC who has the confidence to say (when asked by Tory MP Angie Bray about an ennobled fellow silk’s criticism of the exemplary damages to which newspapers who opt out of the new system could be subjected): “I have the greatest respect for David Pannick... but on this point he is just wrong.”

The Tory trio were also getting angry with the wrong people. A frustrated Burns asked if David Cameron’s “ambassador” Oliver Letwin had been “surprised” to find Hacked Off sitting in the room. No. The unspoken sub-text of the questioning was “Why the hell not?”, but that would have required a politically much more awkward interrogation of Letwin, not to mention the Prime Minister.

Earlier, opening a startling second front, Labour MP Jim Sheridan said: “What concerns me is the parasitical elements within the press who abuse their position in here… hiding behind their pen and calling people names… I don’t understand why they are allowed to come into this place and behave in the way that they do.”

Some seasoned Westminster observers suggested he was referring to sketch writers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks