Hacked off

The press regulation lobby represent the few, not the many

Those pushing for press regulation claim to have the people on their side, and since the phone-hacking scandal, Hacked Off has posed as warriors for the victims of press intrusion, standing up to the big media barons. Today, MPs vote on amendments to the Data Protection Bill that would effectively force publications into state-backed regulation for the first time in 300 years. The amendments, tabled by Labour’s Tom Watson and Ed Miliband, would also kickstart the second part of the Leveson inquiry. Watson claims this is ‘for the many, not the few’. But if that’s really the case, why are these plans being sneaked into obscure amendments to a dry-sounding piece

Keep the press free

It is said that the case for freedom of expression needs to be restated in every generation, but things move faster in the digital era. Just three years after an attempt at state regulation of the press ended in ignominious failure, a fresh effort is being made. The government has begun a consultation on a plan to impose stiff financial penalties on newspapers who refuse to sign up to a state-approved regulator. Anyone wishing to give their opinion on such a regime has until 10 January. It is odd, for a start, that Theresa May’s government feels the need to consult on whether it has a duty to uphold fundamental

Hacked Off Hugh’s magical birthday

When Hacked Off first launched in 2011, Hugh Grant was its lead spokesman — regularly appearing on shows such as Newsnight and Question Time to preach the importance of press regulation. While the Notting Hill actor donated the damages he received from News International over phone hacking to Hacked Off, the group were accused by the Register of being a ‘secretive pressure group of wealthy and powerful individuals and celebrities’. So, Mr S was curious to learn of a gathering of wealthy, powerful individuals and celebrities over the weekend. Steerpike understands that Hacked Off’s joint executive director Dr Evan Harris threw Grant a special birthday party on Friday. Held at the House of Magic in London, the

Fit to print

For weeks, Westminster has been full of rumours about the private life of a certain cabinet member. It was said he had started to visit a dominatrix in Earl’s Court but ended up falling in love with her and taking her to official functions. Like a Westminster remake of the film Pretty Woman, in fact, but with the Culture Secretary, John Whitting-dale, playing the part of Richard Gere. There was much comment in Parliament about this, and jokes about what London is coming to if an MP has to travel all the way to Earl’s Court for such services, when they used to be available a stone’s throw away from

The Whittingdale ‘scandal’ shows why Britain’s free press is more responsible than its critics

For weeks, Westminster has been full of rumours about the private life of a certain cabinet member. It was said he had started to visit a dominatrix in Earl’s Court but ended up falling in love with her and taking her to official functions. Like a Westminster remake of the film Pretty Woman, in fact, but with the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, playing the part of Richard Gere. There was much comment in Parliament about this, and jokes about what London is coming to if an MP has to travel all the way to Earl’s Court for such services, when they used to be available a stone’s throw away from


Ed Miliband is reunited with his Hacked Off pals

Last night John Whittingdale’s 2014 relationship with a dominatrix was made public by Newsnight in an interview with Hacked Off founder Brain Cathcart. However, Hacked Off members were soon branded ‘hypocrites’ for forcing a cabinet minister to admit he unknowingly had a relationship with a prostitute — given that they claim to rally against press intrusion. While Cathcart says that the right-wing media had conspired to hide the story of Whitto’s relationship for their own benefit, the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade has dismissed their claims as ‘pure speculation’. So, a good time to distance oneself from Hacked Off supporters? Apparently not. In fact, as this was being played out on the BBC, former Labour

This is Leveson’s legacy: a great new way for bullies to muzzle the press

One of the fundamental principles of English common law is that you are innocent until proven guilty. And rightly so, for imagine how unfair it would be if any old loon with an axe to grind had only to lodge a trumped-up complaint with the relevant authorities in order to have you punished for no reason whatsoever. Actually, though, this cruel and capricious system exists in Britain. It’s called the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) and, as might be expected of the bastard offspring of the Leveson inquiry, it’s doing an absolutely first-rate job of empowering bullies and curbing freedom of speech in order to assuage the spite of that

Paul Dacre: The free press is the last genuinely free aspect of modern Britain

Northcliffe House was host to a Fleet Street reunion last night, for the launch of Mail executive Robin Esser’s memoir ‘Crusaders in Chains’. After sixty years a newspaper man, Esser’s tome takes us from the glory days to the ‘chilling’ Leveson Inquiry. With inky old-timers Les Hinton, Dame Ann Leslie, Richard Kay and Eve Pollard all tucking into the white wine, Mail editor Paul Dacre took to the microphone for some rare public speaking. He did not disappoint, giving a searing defence of a free press and raging against the ‘authoritarian’ British state: ‘The book’s title could not be more apt. All newspapers, from the so called ‘qualities’, to the

If it’s not ok to hound Sienna Miller and Steve Coogan, why is it ok to hound Nigel Farage?

Faragephobia reached dizzy new heights on Sunday afternoon, when a bunch of thespians and circus freaks invaded Nigel Farage’s local pub and hounded him and his family out. Behaving with grating and probably knowing irony like small-minded Little Englanders, though dolled up as punkish outsiders, the protesters were basically saying to Nige: ‘Your sort aren’t welcome here — you’re barred!’ And so was a public figure humiliated while doing that utterly non-public thing of lunching with his wife and young daughters — turfed out of his own local hangout by people who don’t like his policies on immigration, the NHS, and other stuff. But this was more that Faragephobia, more than

Paul Dacre: Watch out, BBC. The political class may come for you next

The below is an edited version of a speech given yesterday by Paul Dacre to the NewstrAid Benevolent Fund, a charity for those who sell and distribute newspapers and magazines. Newspapers are all only too painfully aware of how we are having to adapt to survive in today’s modern, fast-paced, ever-changing digital media world. But the way I look at it, we have always had to fight to survive, ever since the birth of the mass media in the 1890s – the decade, if I may indulge in a little product placement, in which Alfred Harmsworth launched the Daily Mail. In more than a century since then, we’ve grown and we’ve

Hacked Off deliver ludicrous blessing of the Rotherham investigation

Andrew Norfolk, the Times journalist that blew open the Rotherham child abuse scandal, can sleep well in his bed tonight, for he has been completely vindicated now. Forget the Jay Report, and the resignation of the Leader of Rotherham Council. No, Norfolk has been blessed with great reward from a far higher power; from the the fathers of the nation: Hacked Off. The campaign for regulation of the press have released a statement praising this Murdoch stooge: ‘Hacked Off Executive Director Joan Smith said: “This is investigative journalism at its best. Andrew Norfolk has uncovered a dreadful story of abuse, in Rotherham and elsewhere, which has been ignored or brushed aside

Convict the guilty. Keep the press free

We have not heard much from Hugh Grant this week. Nor from Max Mosley, Steve Coogan or any of the other bizarre array of celebrities and moguls who wanted to use the phonehacking scandal as an excuse to end British press freedom. For some time, they argued that the press had become a law unto itself, and it was time for politicians to regulate it. We have just seen why such a draconian step is not necessary. Hacking is already against the law, which is why £100 million has just been spent trying former executives of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. The woman who used to run the company, Rebekah Brooks,

Podcast: Terror’s comeback kids and Steve Coogan, foe of press censorship?

Why do Iraq’s jihadists keep on coming back? On this week’s View from 22 podcast, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Freddy Gray (1 min, 29 sec) examine why groups such as ISIS have a habit of disappearing, losing their territorial gains and reappearing more deadly than ever. What can the West do, if anything, to combat the ISIS threat in Iraq? Are we going to see instability in the region for years? James Forsyth and Isabel Hardman (10 min, 29 sec) also look at the disappearance of hawks in Westminster and why Parliament is so reluctant to intervene in foreign lands. Does the ghost of Tony Blair and Iraq scare off MPs from voicing

Nick Cohen

Since when has Steve Coogan stood against censorship?

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_19_June_2014.mp3″ title=”Paul Staines from Guido Fawkes and Evan Harris of Hacked Off debating Steve Coogan’s involvement with Index” startat=1508] Listen [/audioplayer]I have looked everywhere. I have Googled, and asked around. But I can find no evidence that Steve Coogan has ever taken the trouble to defend freedom of speech at home or abroad. I promised myself I would never again mock ‘luvvies’ in politics after I saw Tim Minchin, Dave Gorman, Robin Ince and Dara Ó Briain give up their time to help Index on Censorship’s campaign against Britain’s repressive libel laws. Steve Coogan did not stand alongside them. I have heard Sir Ian McKellen and Sienna Miller protest

Rod Liddle: Is Hugh Grant a pawn of the mad metropolitan left?

It is a peculiar alliance, when you think of it, which wishes to bring to an end 300 years of press freedom in this country. The handsome actor Hugh Grant would rather the press didn’t find out about him being ‘noshed’, as I believe the term has it, by a prostitute on some Los Angeles freeway. I can understand that, even if I do not think he has the right to make that call, given the image he adopts to sell himself to the public. The absolutist metro liberal left, meanwhile, would have no doubt -whatsoever who was the victim in that particular scenario: the nosher, not the noshee. Grant should

Pizzas banned as politicians get set for crunch press talks

It’s funny that the pizzas that ministers, advisers and lobbyists munched as they thrashed out a deal on press regulation in March have become a symbol of all that was wrong with those late-night negotiations. Today when Maria Miller decided to distance herself from the talks in Ed Miliband’s office, a source close to the Culture Secretary explained that this included ‘the Miliband office, the pizza, it was the presence of Hacked Off’. Obviously the presence of Hacked Off was more menacing than a few boxes of ham and pineapple pizza, but both have been banned from the three days of talks that the parties will now go into, ahead

Sorry, Privy Council – press freedom was never yours to reject

The Queen need not bother attending Wednesday’s meeting of the Privy Council: the decision over press regulation has already been taken according to BBC Newsnight. And it has leaked. An octet of MPs has decided to reject the newspapers’ attempt to preserve press freedom (or self-regulation) and defer until 30 October  judgment on the politicians’ rival plan for press regulation. Here’s the audio:- listen to ‘Newsnight on Privy Council’s press regulation decision 7 Oct 13’ on Audioboo

Lord, actually

Lord Ashcroft’s Lunch Offensive continues, mercilessly. When he’s not entertaining Tom Watson and other animals, the former Tory donor can be spotted plotting with naughtier Cabinet ministers and loose-lipped journalists. Today’s luncheon companions would have had the PM choking into his packed lunch at the Tory away day: his lordship was clocked wooing Hugh Grant in Gran Paradiso, in Victoria. Grant was accompanied by Dr Evan Harris, with whom he fronts the anti-media lobbying group Hacked Off. As it happens, Lord Ashcroft has had more than a few run-ins with the press over the years, most notably with the Times. He recorded the details of that spat in his punchy

Trevor Kavanagh vs Hacked Off’s Brian Cathcart on press freedom

Hacked Off are feeling pretty hacked off. John Prescott has resigned as a Privy Councillor, depriving the Queen of his advice. And why? Because the press has come up with its own plans for regulation, and the enemies of press freedom hate it. Mr Steerpike enjoyed last night’s debate between Hacked Off’s Brian Cathcart, a professor of journalism (yes, such things exist) and living legend Trevor Kavanagh, of The Sun. Here it is, for those who didn’t hear it. From R4’s World Tonight:- listen to ‘Press regulation debate – Trevor Kavanagh vs Brian Cathcart’ on Audioboo

It’s down to the House of Lords to save the bloggers

On Monday, Parliament will decide the future of blogging in this country. As the government’s press regulation proposals stand, blogs big and small would come under the new press regulator. This would make bloggers liable for significant compensation sums (aka exemplary damages), fees for joining the regulator as an ‘associated member’ (newspapers join as full members) as well as for increased legal costs. While the proposals could send bloggers rogue, to host their sites abroad and out of Parliament’s jurisdiction, others who can’t face the hassle may decide to close down. The problem stems from Leveson’s lack of concern for (or understanding of) the Internet. His report devoted just one page to the