The public wants a diverse and free press that doesn't abuse its position

Our newspapers could be one step away from the sort of political control that would make an Ayatollah embarrassed

Share
Related Topics

If we believed half of what we had been told, this Monday was to be the most important day in British political history since the signing of the Magna Carta.

You can't blame the newspapers for making a big deal of the Commons vote on press regulation - efforts are still being made at this late hour to find cross-party consensus - but something highly significant has indeed been at stake, even if it is doesn't quite threaten the future of democracy itself. It has been difficult to preserve a sense of perspective amid the blizzard of hyperbole and moral blackmail, and hard to steer a course between vested interests and honest conviction.

All the while, as if to remind us why we're here in the first place, people are still being dragged from their beds at dawn to answer questions on phone-hacking, including last week a woman who is seven months pregnant. (Well done to the Metropolitan Police for showing such courage in this relentless pursuit of the truth: if only they'd been as assiduous in refusing the Murdoch shilling.)

I find it almost impossible to know what to think about the Leveson fall-out any more, a natural consequence of being assailed by so much certainty on either side. Our newspapers are one step away from the sort of political control that would make an Ayatollah embarrassed. That's according to the newspapers. Or they're going to be allowed to roam wild, corrupting public life and hounding ordinary people. That's according to Hugh Grant.

Whatever we may think of his viewpoint, it is hard not to admire Mr Grant: the command of his brief, his articulacy, his determination, and his moral courage, are an example to all politicians. But he is not a politician, and I feel uncomfortable about the position accorded to his Hacked Off group, who, in the post-Leveson discussions, have been treated by as if they are a bona fide political party.

They certainly represent the victims of phone-hacking, but they cannot claim to speak for the great British public, who - in case you may have forgotten - bought the News of the World in their millions, lapping up the tales of private indiscretions by public figures without a thought about how those stories reached them. And while no one can gainsay the poor Dowler family, I don't believe it's right that they should be the sole arbiters of whether a new form of regulation to curb the excesses of the Press is strong enough or not. On the other hand, the newspapers shouldn't take the public for patsys.

Don't they have enough faith in people who have, throughout history, defended life and liberty, and who have fought for freedom of speech at home and abroad, rising up in rebellion against our political masters if they truly tried to shackle those who are holding them to account? The public knows what it wants: a diverse and raucous press that's free to give politicians, business leaders and maybe even movie stars a right old chasing, but that doesn't abuse its power and position. It's up to government to ensure the former, and let the law of the land look after the latter.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

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

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The demise of a Sixties monster

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
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?