Something awful happened at Leveson yesterday. The editor of The Sun – the fifth most senior commoner in the land – abased himself before the Inquiry. He's supposed to be a Chaucerian figure from the belly of British culture but we got something lamentably modernised.
Dominic Mohan sounded like something out of the end of 1984. This perky gossip columnist had been through Room 101 and lived his worst nightmare (not starving rats chewing through his face): a course in responsible journalism. All the tabloid life had been dashed out of him. He told the committee in a robotic voice that he had been criticised for describing "a teacher's assistant as a teacher". He wasn't going to do that again. The editor of The Sun! Worried what teachers' assistants think! It was all "Freddie Starr didn't eat my hamster".
He had attended a language sensitivity course helping him not to refer to Broadmoor patients and Travellers as "Banged-up Pikies Going Bonkers". It's political correctness suffering from a personality disorder.
But what about Sun headlines like Moron Terror, mocking the 21/7 bombers? You can't say "moron" any more without the relevant pressure group gathering round your house with pitchforks. They are People of Increased Negative Intelligence.
He didn't call them "private detectives" either, he called them "search agents". That might have been for a different reason – you can use search agents to do things that private detectives do but you can't use private detectives to do them any more. He'd been preceded by Kelvin MacKenzie, surely the grandfather of Sun editors, certainly old enough to be Mohan's grandfather. He was responsible for that greatest of Sun headlines during the Falklands, "Kill an Argie, win a Metro". Didn't he? That was the Sun wasn't it? "It feels right, lob it in" as he himself told the Inquiry. He was asked about getting facts right – "the ascertainable facts" as Lord Leveson phrased it, referring to a judgment he'd had a hand in, later misrepresented by MacKenzie.
"Lay off all this winky-wonky high-table drivel," MacKenzie said. "I've got prostate cancer and my love rat won't stand up even though he hasn't had a piece of cheese for over two years." Odd sort of way to address the Inquiry. Didn't he say that either? Lob it in, it'll be all right.