Michael Gove and Boris Johnson might want a free press, but have they run it by Nick Clegg

Our diarist notes that, among the political class, some former journalists care about press freedom more than others (Clegg flirted with journalism but rejected it)


Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has incurred the wrath of Lord Leveson again with a barbed joke at an award ceremony at the expense of his impending report on the press. Invited to present The Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards, the minister suggested that he was giving the Bureau of Investigative Journalism Award to Lord Leveson. The Bureau was behind the disastrous Newsnight report which libelled Lord McAlpine.

During the same lunchtime ceremony, another journalist turned politician, Boris Johnson, delivered a speech as he accepted the Politician of the Year Award, in which he pronounced: “Don't you think for one minute of regulating the press!” This evoked loud applause – unsurprisingly, given the critical mass of journalists in the audience. Leading the applause, up on stage, was Michael Gove.

In February, Gove gave a speech to the Parliamentary Press Gallery in which he implied that the upshot of the Leveson could be an erosion of the free press. The judge was sufficiently disturbed by these comments, which he feared might be the collective view of the Cabinet, that he complained privately to Cabinet Secretary. When Gove appeared before him in May, the judge told him: “Mr Gove, I don't need to be told about the importance of free speech, I really don't.”

A Downing Street spokesman reiterated yesterday that Michael Gove speaks for the government – on education. On Tuesday, speaking as Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg repeated that “if (Leveson’s) recommendations are workable and proportionate, we should … implement them.”

How to apologise, Clegg-style

At Liberal Democrat headquarters, they are very excited about a soon-to-be-launched new magazine for party members called AD LIB. To whet our appetites, they have released an image of the front cover of the first issue, featuring a statesmanlike picture of Nick Clegg, with the caption ‘Lurch to the right? I won’t let it happen.’

Or if he does, he will make a long apology for promising not to lurch when he should have realised that the realities of being in government made lurching inevitable. Yesterday, Nick Clegg’s classic “I’m sorry” video, with music supplied by The Poke, earned him the Apology of the Year at the Spectator awards.

Monty, Maxwell and the Mirror

Trinity Mirror, owners of the Daily Mirror have bought a 20 per cent stake in Local World, a conglomerate which has bought up almost 100 local newspapers, freesheets and websites. One of their partners in the new venture is Lord Ashcroft, the billionaire Tory peer. It might seem odd that the owners of the country’s leading Labour newspaper should climb into bed with the man who has given more money to the Conservative Party than anyone else, but actually, it is not odd at all. The Mirror has been owned and run by Tories for over 20 years, ever since the demise of Robert Maxwell. He was Labour, but sadly he was also a thief.

Modern Manure (1)

The Mirror is being unkind to the Tory MP Glyn Davies. First, they exposed him to the wrath of animal lovers by drawing attention to a tweet in which he wished for a shotgun to eliminate a deer that had wandered into his garden. As a follow up, they have retold the story of how Davies was stopped by police driving a lorry with a faulty tail light, dressed in nothing but a jumper, underpants and wellies. He explained that he had slipped when while he was loading sheep onto the lorry and had covered his trousers his manure.

Modern Manure (2)

Meanwhile the This is the West Country website records the strange case of a man who apparently has some sort of fixation with manure. He has been up in court for the third time over his habit of stripping naked, rolling in cow dung, and pleasuring himself. Beneath this report, readers have posted their furious reactions. They are not furious about what he did, but about a misleading headline implying that it happened in Devon when actually the offence was committed in Redruth, by a man from Camborne, both of which are in Cornwall. One respondent spluttered: “Readers unfamiliar with the geography of Britain may inappropriately be led to believe that this sort of thing could possibly be allowed to happen in Devon!”.

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