The Great Debate UK
If you ask a lawyer what to do, he’ll recommend a legal remedy – what do you expect? In the same way, many of our politicians have a background as lawyers, so no wonder we have such a proliferation of unnecessary laws. Besides, it does provide plenty of work for old pals…
The Leveson Report fits the pattern. From the welter of reaction to it, I am amazed at how rarely the word “whitewash” seems to crop up, because that is what it is. It not only appears to be totally relaxed about the close, not to say intimate relationships between press and politicians we have seen exposed in recent months but, even worse, it is apparently unconcerned about the role played by the police – which is the most disturbing aspect of the whole sorry tale.
Since there was obviously no public interest defence for hacking the phones of the Dowlers, it was plainly a criminal offence, for which the perpetrators should go to jail for a longish stretch. But if Leveson had left matters there, the question of why the police had been so inert and of why they could not be relied on in the future in similar situations would have been thrown into sharp focus. We would have been left with the (correct) conclusion that there was no gap in the law, only in the failure to apply it on the part of a police force that was in an extremely unhealthy relationship with parts of the Fourth Estate.
Instead, the report apparently glides over police failings to reach the conclusion that Something Must Be Done – even if it makes things worse.
Listening to the interminable Leveson Inquiry hearings, it is impossible not to feel revulsion at some of the antics of the hacks. How could anyone be heartless enough to hack into the phone of a murder victim, let alone to tamper with the voice messages she left behind? How could they invent stories to try to incriminate parents who have been through the nightmare that the McCanns have faced since their toddler disappeared? And, having behaved with such heartlessness, how could they present the stories they invented in such a self-righteous tone? There is nothing the tabloids like more than posing as crusaders for decency in a wicked world, yet their own behaviour was beneath contempt.
At the same time, however, you also have to ask why the press feel the urge to sink so low in the first place. Why are they willing to go to such lengths as to hack into the phone conversations of the Dowlers or the McCanns, or indeed of genuine celebs?