To Millbank Tower last night – from where we ran the 1997 and 2001 election landslides – to a staging post of another important winning campaign, namely the one to get proper independent regulation of the press.
A year on from all parties agreeing to support the Leveson plan for an independent self-regulator underpinned by Royal Charter, Hacked Off held a reception to remind people of the press barons’ continuing attempts to thwart an independent judge, the will of Parliament and public opinion.
Steve Coogan, in best luvviedom tradition, could not be there, but sent in a hilarious video as Alan Partridge, acting as spokesman for the Paul Dacres, ‘Lord’ Blacks, Rothermeres and Rupert Murdochs, protesting about judges and politicians having any say in preventing the abuse of power they have been enjoying for decades. I don’t know if the video will be put on YouTube, but I do hope so.
Yesterday Hacked Off published this impressive list of names backing the call for independent self-regulator, and making clear it is a way of guaranteeing rather than damaging a free press. Look at some of the names, and then compare and contrast what they have done for freedom of thought and expression in this country with the Dacres and Murdochs, whose aim is to maintain a monopoly hold on their warped and self-interested view of the world. Brian Cathcart, the director of Hacked Off, spoke well in pointing out where majority opinion lay – both among public and among what I might term the chattering classes – and in pointing out the importance of making sure the public understand that IPSO, the Independent (sic) Press Standards (sic) Organisation put forward by Dacre and Black is basically the Press Complaints Commission in drag
Hugh Grant and Anne Diamond both spoke about the need to keep heads above the parapet, keep going despite the press attempts to intimidate anyone prepared to speak out against them. Like Brian Cathcart, despite all the media bluster, I believe the battle is being won, but it is vital IPSO is seen off for what it is, an attempt by the press to make sure the self-regulator is anything but independent (of them) and that it stops well short of being what Leveson recommended and the political parties all supported.
In addition to seeing some surprising and impressive names on the list, it was good to see supporters as varied as actor and comedian John Bishop, former editors Will Hutton and David Yelland, businessman and Labour peer Clive Hollick, film-maker Molly Dineen, historian Antony Beevor among the few hundred people present. I also met for the first time Gerry McCann, and told him how close I had come to contacting him in the early days when I could see how the press were setting him and his wife up then to try to crucify them. My daughter was with me, and heard for the first time some of the stories about the way the McCanns were treated by the press following the disappearance of Madeleine. Hearing him, and seeing members of Milly Dowler’s family, and others whose lives were ripped to shreds in the spurious name of press freedom, a cause perverted by the Dacres of this world, was a reminder of just how important this fight is and how it must be, and will be won.
What that list of names shows is that even among what they would consider to be their own folk, writers and thinkers and cultural contributors, the Dacres and Blacks and Murdochs are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the argument, and it has all been their own doing.
Onwards and upwards. Fight on for Leveson to be implemented. And stand by for a new barrage of lies when IPSO is launched. But these will be the last snarlings of a dying breed whose time has been called. The Dacre-Murdoch generation has had its day and an opportunity beckons for a new, more democratic, cleverer and more representative generation to take over.