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I hope the Mail’s Irish fraud catches the eye of the Leveson Inquiry

Posted on 18 November 2011 | 11:11am

What with my best friend dying, too many speeches I’d contracted to do, too many charity gigs I’d committed to, my film on bagpipes taking me to the Hebrides, not to mention an inability to live without exercise every day, I am reaching the end of the week in a state close to exhaustion.

That state won’t be helped by another early hours charity gig tonight when I am compering an event for wonderful Labour adman Trevor Beattie who is launching a foundation in memory of his parents Jack and Ada, and an early start tomorrow to get to Burnley for the lunchtime kick-off v Leeds (oh, and to collect my BBC Football Focus predictions champion trophy – a proud moment indeed ho hum).

And amid it all on the day of Philip Gould’s funeral I heard that I have been called to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry, to which I have sent a long paper on media practices at their request, which I understand will be published on the day I appear. So between now and November 30 I will be trying to get my head in gear for that. I have given evidence to a fair few inquiries, and as Benjamin Franklin once said, fail to prepare and you are preparing to fail. So prepare I will. The inquiry represents an important moment for media and politics, and deserves to be taken seriously, a lesson Kelvin Mackenzie may have learned by now (or maybe not).

As is already becoming clear, phone-hacking may be the specific cause of the inquiry, and the Milly Dowler case the trigger that ensured politicians finally and belatedly decided to act, but problems in the culture and practices of the press go far wider and deeper, and have been building for years.

It is the Murdoch group that has found itself most in the dock, but questions are emerging that several other groups will have to face, and to which I doubt they have convincing answers. In particular I look forward to Paul Dacre of the Mail being asked to square his confident assertion in the House of Lords that they never published a story based on illegally obtained information with the fact that his papers are Number 1 and Number 4 in the league table of private detective hiring exposed by the Information Commissioner.

The Mail’s practices and culture of hate and negativity are now, alas, extending to other parts of the world. You may remember I was in Ireland when the Sunday Tribune closed, and the Irish Mail on Sunday tried to con readers with a four page wraparound pretending to be the Tribune, with their own paper inside. In human terms, think jumping into a grave and stealing a few jewels from the corpse.

Now the Mail is battling in court to justify the four-page wrap, complete with Sunday Tribune masthead. One of the reasons I always loved going to Ireland when we were in government – beyond the obvious challenge of the peace process – was that the Irish press was more serious and more committed to real political coverage. The Mail’s invasion alongside other UK titles is helping to erode that.

Newspaper publishing is a tough, competitive trade, but to try and pass yourself off as your competitor when 40 plus journalists have just lost their jobs after one of the country’s most reputable newspapers goes into receivership is immoral at best.

And amorality is what is emerging so far in the submissions by victims of media excesses to the inquiry; a total loss of any moral compass beyond sales, impact and an abuse of unchecked power.

The Tribune stunt is both shocking, yet also unsurprising. Nothing surprises me about the Mail any more. And one of the worries of the inevitable focus on phone-hacking is that while it may weaken Murdoch, the fallout could strengthen the Mail.

Don’t get me wrong. I have whacked the Murdoch empire hard on here, and burnt a few bridges in the process. Also, I hope the Murdoch phone-hackers get the justice and comeuppance they deserve. But the Tribune case going through the Irish courts is worth bearing in mind as a symbol of the Mail’s near permanent malevolence.

One role of newspapers is to provide a check on power. Today’s newspapers have become political powerbases in their own right, yet without any real checks upon them, self regulation that works to their not the public’s advantage, and an ability to control the terms of debate about themselves so that anyone who dares raise a voice against them is both targeted with negative coverage but also accused of wanting a descent to totalitarianism.

Another recent Irish example of Mailspeak. On Sunday the ‘Irish’ Mail on Sunday’s headline screamed — “Secret Deal Gives TDs €3m Raise.”

Shocking stuff in a time of austerity, until you examine the facts. The €3m was not a “rise” in salary for Irish MPs as the headline would have led most normal readers to believe. It was in fact an increase in the overall Parliamentary budget for 2012. And the sum is a fraction of the cost of Mr Dacre’s Scottish estate and his antique collection.

Irish people are quickly becoming aware the last thing this newspaper cherishes is news. In October, the Mail published a ‘news’ report on its website headlined, “Guilty: Amanda Knox looks stunned as appeal against murder conviction is rejected”.

The Mail saw nothing wrong in trying to scoop the judge before he had actually announced his verdict, which was, unluckily for the Mail, not guilty. The report and its invented quotes were removed after it became clear Knox had actually won her appeal. But what type of ‘news’ paper shows such disregard for the facts and the truth?

This paper has for too long been a thoroughly damaging influence on British life, politics and culture. If left unchecked it will also erode standards in Irish journalism and society as it feeds on its readers’ insecurities and promotes Dacre’s bitter and twisted, narrow-minded, non-inclusive, conservative agenda. Let’s hope its Irish readers wake up to reality a bit more quickly than the Brits have. And let’s hope their little Tribune stunt catches the eye of the inquiry too. The word fraud springs to mind.

  • MediaBite Miriam Cotton

    It’s a stinky auld rag for sure but from time to time it is the only paper in Ireland prepared to publish certain stories – cf Frank Connolly’s Dublin Docklands expose of pretty shocking corruption when Bertie Ahern was in power.  The rest of the media ignored that story – too terrified of Ahern by all accounts.  It also gave a regular column to Socialist Party Joe Higgins.  So it aint all a bad story about the Mail in Ireland.  Still’n’all it has to be treated with extreme caution – most recent example was an attempt to smear Michael D Higgins with a ‘sex scandal’.  Appalling.

    Media coverage in Ireland is no better than anywhere else.

  • Please go easy with the pace of things – there is only one of you and that is very much needed indeed!

  • Richard

    As a former journo and spinner of webs of deceit, Al, you should throw no stones! You are surrounded by glass!
    Ultimately are you hoping for legislation and controls on freedom of speech and the press, so you political friends can rule the roost unchallenged?

  • Anonymous

    Entirely share your hatred of the Mail.  But always disappointed when someone I know claims to buy it ‘just for the horoscope’.  I tend to think you either buy into its nasty vision of the world or you don’t.  ‘Daily Mail reader’  has become a recognised term of abuse – and one I’ve used myself.  

  • MicheleB

    Most publishers seem to be completely disinterested in good news and are responsible for how negatively some feel about life.

    Did many hear much about the relatively peaceful tuition fee protests of last week?  What lesson does that give future protestors?

    My negativity is that I can’t believe that hacks’ hackers didn’t also raid contact lists nor that as well as hacking messages they didn’t also listen in on conversations.

    As to how simple facts are reported or not …. ! 
    I watched the Select Committee questioning of Brodie Clark live on Wednesday morning. 
    I quite clearly heard him say that at certain times fingerprint checks had since 2007 been at the discretion of border officials.
    I quite clearly heard him say that that was the status quo upon which new discretionary policies had been placed.
    There was no mention of the new policies superseding or replacing what had previously been in place, the new policies were additional to it.
    He was asked whether he would expect Theresa May to have known about the terms they’d been working under since 2007 and he said it was inconceivable that she or her officials didn’t.
    He was very clear about this and it was repeat questioned a couple of times.

    I didn’t hear that reported in any TV or radio bulletin that afternoon or since and in fact the perception given was the opposite …. that Theresa May was now in a less vulnerable position.

    Do we really deserve what we get?

  • Quinney

    It would be nice if the enquiry asked Darce about the misinformation his paper printed about the MMR jab .Many worried parents chose to either not vaccinate their children or to try and have seperate innoculations. This has led to clusters of measles, mumps and rubella breaking out all over the country as what’s known as the “herd effect” (where the vast majority of innoculations given keep diseaes at bay) breaking down.
    As usual Dacre tried to blame it on Tony Blair when TB refused to say whether or not his children had been immunised against MMR. 

  • Olli Issakainen

    I am so fed up with the daily lies of the Western media owned by the elite on eurozone “crisis”, Libya, Iran etc. that I have started to watch Russia Today and Al Jazeera English.
    Needless to say that Rupert Murdoch and Donald E. Graham (Washington Post) are Bilderbergers. So are many journalists and editors.
    Yet whenever this secretive strategy group meets, there is total silence in the mainstream media. Why?
    George Osborne attended the last Bilderberg meeting as the chancellor, not as a private person.
    I am sure many British taxpayers would like to know what he talked about with the powerful bankers attending the meeting.
    Media ownership has been concentrating into the hands of few companies. These days it is possible to find the truth only from the internet.
    But a couple of people dare to tell the truth also in the quality papers. Christopher Booker of the Telegraph is one. According to him the architects of EU never meant it to be a DEMOCRACY.
    The aim of Jean Monnet was a United States of Europe ruled by unelected technocrats.
    The European Project from 1950 onwards has been towards superstate. When Mrs T opposed this, she was replaced by the alliance of the European elite and Tory Europhiles led by Howe and Heseltine.
    And the idea that a country should be led by experts goes back to socialist thinker Saint-Simon.
    Technocracy was once a big idea of international left. Totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia loved unchecked rule by bureaucrats.
    George Orwell described technocracy as a precursor to fascism.
    The EU is now planning to introduce Soviet-style CENTRAL PLANNING on the economy. Future EU superstate will be reincarnation of the Soviet Union.
    I recommend people to re-read Orwell´s 1984 and Aldous Huxley´s Brave New World.
    Big Brother is already watching us. And War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery and Ignorance Is Strenght.
    In the future all people will be microchipped.
    The conditioning of human beings has already started.
    According to Stephen Foley (Independent 18.11.2011) Ottmar Issing of Bundesbank and ECB has also worked for Goldman Sachs. He is one of the founders of the euro.
    IMF´s recent head of Europe was also a former employee of Goldman Sachs which has more power than most governments.
    The “Goldman Sachs Project” is to hug governments close.
    Traders, bond markets and banks are now replacing democracy. EU is being turned into undemocratic union.
    Next step for globalists appear to be to get gold from the governments.
    By attacking the US dollar globalits will force the US into the North American Union with Canada and Mexico with amero as the new currency.
    James Delingpole in the Telegraph is one of the few writers who openly write about New World Order which is supposed to be in place in 2012.
    NWO will be a mix of communism and capitalism. 6,000 richest people will own everything, but collectivism will be used as the method of social control.
    Utopian socialism meets the elite.
    Globalist elite believes in Gnosticism with Hegel as the peak of this thinking. This is why the elite backs Occupy movement and “resource economy”.
    Hegelian dialectics ensures that it is always on the side of the winner.
    Europe now speaks German.
    Germany´s finance minister just said that Britain will be joining the euro soon! Does he know something we do not know?
    Secret German memo obtained by the Telegraph tells that Germany plans to create a “stability union” that will immediately be followed by moves towards a political union.
    Result will be a European superstate with spending and tax plans set in Brussells.
    Now more than ever we need vigilant and diverse media. Orwell´s message for all of us today is: Ignorance Is Not Strenght!


  • Quinney

    BTW, sorry not to have posted this earler Ally, FC United of Manchester volunteers organised another MH coaching session, the piece below is taken from the FCUM’s fans forum:

    FC United, in conjunction with Street League, is holding a football coaching session for mental health service users on Monday, 14th November, 12 while 2pm, at Albert’s, Albert Park, Lower Broughton. The session will be on an outdoor pitch. Please bring some boots or trainers and wear something that will be OK for football. This session is for all service users – don’t be put off if you don’t play football already. You are welcome to attend. If you know anyone who may be interested, please let them know.

    FC United are also organising “Big Coat Day” where we ask for old clothes, espiecially coats, jumpers and trousers that can be given to the homeless of Greater Manchester this winter.The clothing will be handed over on Boxing Day before our match versus Ashton United to two charities, the Boaz Trust and Mustard Tree, last year we collected three tonnes.

    Any time you wish to come along and visit a real community football club let me know.
    Any time you wish to come along and visit a real community football club let me know.

  • Dave Simons

    I think you need to examine the credentials of some of the people you quote before you give them your approval. Christopher Booker was on the ‘Private Eye’ team of ex-Shrewsbury public schoolboys back in the early 1960s – along with future revolutionary socialist, Paul Foot, but Booker moved in the opposite political direction in revulsion against 1960s ‘permissivism’. He wrote a book at the end of the 1960s called ‘The Neophiliacs’ which was a sustained attack on what he saw as the fantasy culture of the 1960s, with a personal reversion to the solid Christian values with which he had been brought up. He’s been entrenched on the Right ever since.
    As for Mrs T, good riddance to her and let’s hope we can soon say the same to the political culture she embraced and promoted. However it wasn’t just Tory Europhiles like Howe and Heseltine who saw her off at the end of 1990 but US! Remember the Poll Tax riots and the mass non-payment, especially in Scotland?
    If we moved things then we can move things now, no matter how big the conspiracy, whether fact or paranoid theory.

  • MicheleB

    “…………….. the Irish Mail on Sunday tried to con readers with a four page
    wraparound pretending to be the Tribune, with their own paper inside.”

    In most trades/types of commodity or merchandise, this itself would lead to a law suit!

  • MicheleB

    You’re moving now from far-fetched scenarios of a total world order and on to something smaller that is far more likely (or is inevitable). 

    It was never possible for a Euro currency being doled out to all and sundry want-in nations that still had widely varying Govts and taxing / spending systems. 

    In fact one brave attendee at the meeting a couple of weeks said as much.

  • ambrosian

    I note that you have not burned all your bridges with the Murdoch empire because you are making your bagpipe programme for Sky Arts.
    Meanwhile that other scourge of Murdoch, Steve Coogan, is reported to be selling a show to Sky Atlantic.
    I don’t wish to get on a high moral horse over this; inconsistency is part of being human. But I’d be interested to hear an explanation from all those who lambast Murdoch whilst still taking the Murdoch shilling.

  • Ehtch

    Agreed Olli, Russia Today is quite interesting to watch. Their live coverage of any space rocket launch is excellent especially. And their news coverage of World events has an interesting and I think an healthy slant, unlike the BBC, who tend to be chameleon in order not to upset certain people, and also Sky/Fox news, but them for obvious different reasons.

    Interesting coverage in the last day or two on evidence and inquiry into all this phone hacking, and on how most tomorrows chip paper has fallen into the gutter before it has even come off the pressess.

  • MicheleB

    I’ve never subscribed to a Sky item or package myself and was surprised to hear a couple of weeks ago that there have been no scandals of the NoW type about any of RM’s other possessions. 

    It really is looking as if his empire has been brought down by the scruffiest weediest contractees and his entrusting of its (titter) management to his weedy but Harvard-decorated son.

  • MicheleB

    Aaaaagh …. here he comes 🙁

  • Iain

    Give it all up and have a rest.  We would be grateful

  • Ehtch

    Slightly off topic Alastair… hard cheese yesterday vee Leeds. Although I supported Leeds in my younger days like a passion, but fell in with the Toshack/Swans age afterwards, but still have a soft spot for Leeds United AFC, the Peacocks as they were once known as. Thought it would end in a draw, while I was watching it live on “the tory” BBC (funny comment that was before, you getting your prophecy gong), while watching the HC rugger on my PC, pirated from sky, via Kubrekinstan or somewhere, and wished it really ended in a draw, but that is sport for you.

    A limerick for you Alastair – you must have heard it before, about a man from Leeds? Anyway,

    There once was a man from Leeds,
    who swollowed a packet of seeds.
    Great turfs of grass,
    shot out of his arse,
    and his cock was covered in weeds.

    boom-boom. But it is an old one.

  • Ehtch

    Good quote from someone influential here, that “Computers are so middle-class”. Good blog article for the near future for discussion Alastair?
    Oh yes, from,
    No need to post this, just a suggestion for debate.

  • MicheleB

    A single post in ‘history’, perhaps you found yourself here by accident, registered on auto-pilot and then bothered to post?

    Take your malice and have your own nice long rest.

  • MicheleB

    Got to agree with Martha L-F about some advantages of t’net but on the other hand I’d hate all post to stop, I love RM (bravo to new companies like …. yummy garlicky peppery stuff that’s sent out by RM and arrives punctually through the letterbox). 

  • Richard

    Your sense of humour certainly knocked this lot dead.
    You represent the reason why people do not take women in polittics seriously as you are incapable of debate!

  • Richard

    TB could have shut the issue down if he had told the public that they had given their children MMR. Privacy was no excuse in such an important public health issue. It showed indecision and lack of leadership of which GB would have been proud.

  • Chris lancashire

    And we’ll all be interested to see how The Mirror does in all this.

  • MicheleB

    am sickened to see Piers Morgan’s comment about Hugh Grant’s testimony.

    Everything does not need to be compared to the worst possible experience that any-other-body has had to endure; for Morgan to invoke starving children in order to mock HG’s experiences is typical of that exploitative profiteer.

    I’d imagine that once your privacy has been invaded you can’t know what part of your life or your territory or home is private any more.  You can’t even be sure you’re not exposing all your contacts to similar fates.

    Amanda Platell, ye gods ….. could she and Morgan be tied together and set adrift somewhere?

  • Dave Simons

    There’s definitely a case for reactivating Offa’s Dyke.

  • MicheleB

    Oooops, hadn’t realised that would land as a link!

  • MicheleB

    Cough ….. ahem.
    I don’t consider attacking people in public as debate, I consider it spiteful pointless exhibitionism and playing to an audience.

    There are plenty of oppos for debate on this blog, you rarely present yourself for any of it.

    Shoooooooo, get back to the playground.

  • Ehtch

    Interesting suggestion Dave Simons. Would you use that same spade that you’d use to build it up again to dig a hole to bury your head as well? And would you use the same spade to fill in the Channel train tunnels from France as well, while you’re at it?

    Anyway, a celt song just for you Dave, for being so “heathily” suggestive – enjoy, while you Morris Dance, which by the way, believe it or not, is old welsh celt england type of thing lost in memory, I believe,
    All I am trying to say, all, is re-discover your past, and try not fooling yourselves what you are not. We all once walked around with shoes not on our feet, once.

  • MicheleB

    Most people are not sheep and those that are should not be manipulated, especially by politicians.

    TB was quite right that his children’s health records were/are confidential and whatever he and Mrs B did or didn’t do was their business alone. 

    Just imagine the cynical reaction there would have been among certain types if TB had even tried playing Pied Piper.

  • Dave Simons

    The Welsh are renowned for poetry and they have used demanding structures like cynganedd in which to intensify and beautify their thoughts and sentiments. Your limerick does not pass the Welsh test for poetry, so you should take your limerick back to the drawing board and work on it. I know that sloppiness has been in fashion all over the place for about five or six decades but that doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate it. By the way I like what I’ve read of Dafydd ap Gwilym and was thrilled to spend a holiday in Aberystwyth last summer, near where he came from. I also like some of George Borrow’s book, ‘Wild Wales’, in which he goes in quest of Welsh poets. One day maybe I’ll get round to learning Welsh. Offa’s Dyke might help protect Welsh poetry from some of the rampant sloppiness in poetry on my side of the border. 

  • Quinney

    You miss the point. Dacre told lies .

  • Ehtch

    It is not my limerick, it was written by someone circa 1970’s, not by me at all, honest. Read it then when I was about eleven I think, and have remembered it ever since. So stop flattering me. And I think the Offa’s Dyke was built to keep us out from England with our sense poems, rather than the other way. Do you want Rob Brydon’s and Tom Jones’ turning up all over the place in english land? If not, get your spade out and shore up that dyke, and be quick about it.

  • Ehtch

    By the way Dave, have you ever seen the drama documentary called Akenfield made in 1974 by the beeb, based in East Anglia? This great woman was in it, and all in it were local non-actors. Brilliant thing – BBC4 should show it again, and also show the documentary made of that great lady, Peggy Cole – she was Boudicca-like. She must have some remnants of welsh blood from then in her….