Even after all that emerged at Leveson yesterday, the Tory strategy to undermine the Inquiry continues. Boris Johnson, journalist and Mayor, talked about the need for ‘the caravan to move on’.
Not quite on a par with Michael Gove’s ridiculous claim that the inquiry was having a ‘chilling’ effect on free speech, but in the same space.
The line of thinking is roughly this … ‘Look, we didn’t want an inquiry and while the whole phone-hacking thing was about a few celebs and MPs, we could hold out, but Milly Dowler took it to a new level, and what with the Cameron-Coulson thing in the background, we had to do something to buy a bit of space … Hence the inquiry … But what we want is for a bit of steam to be let off, then go back to a different sort of self-regulation, perhaps change the name of the PCC, warn them this is the last last chance, and provided that most of the papers support us, we will water down whatever Leveson comes up with anyway.’
Judging by his barb at Mr Gove yesterday, Lord Justice Leveson appears to be aware of what is going on. Given Gove’s experience in the media and in politics, I wonder if he is being lined up as a witness to Module 3 (politics and the press) when he could perhaps be asked to give examples of where the existence of the Inquiry has curbed free speech, and explain why he has quite so many meetings with Mr Murdoch and Co.
Last week at PMQs, Cameron danced rather uncomfortably around the question of whether Gove’s silly (but highly strategic) outburst was made on behalf of the government. I hope that someone returns to the same question at PMQs tomorrow.
Because after what emerged yesterday, the extent of alleged corruption, the extent of police laxity, and what amounts to an abuse of power, Mr Gove’s and Mr Johnson’s contributions look like nothing more than attempts to continue with a culture, no matter how depraved, provided it suits their own political purposes.
One of the reasons Mr Gove gets a good press is because he doubles as the Rt Hon Member for the press alongside his day job. But having seen fit to give his running commentary on the Inquiry last week, someone needs to get a microphone in front of him and get his reaction to all that emerged yesterday. I suspect in these circumstances he might see the sense of suggesting the Inquiry is allowed to take its course.
One thing I know – the fact that right-wing voices have loudly protested at the Inquiry, and at the current police investigation, shows there has been no impact on freedom of speech at all. And what is emerging about what has gone on inside News Corp, and the police, is far more chilling than the threat Gove and Johnson claim to see from Leveson.