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Spouting from the bully pulpit is the easy bit. It is when Dacre is questioned we may get to truth about him

Posted on 13 October 2011 | 6:10am

At the risk of offending my extremely hospitable hosts in Skopje (capital of Republic on Macedonia or The Former Yuglosav Republic of Macedonia, depending which side of the long and bitter name dispute you’re on)’ I wish I had been in London last night. Because Newsnight asked me to go on to discuss Paul Dacre’s self-serving, sanctimonious, hypocritical, dishonest speech to the Leveson Inquiry.

Skopje is not a bad place from which to survey the usually low profile Dacre and his low, rather damaged view of everything in the world apart from his papers. This is a place where you can meet journalists who have been arrested without cause. You can meet editors of newspapers which have been shut down by the government. You can meet TV reporters who have suffered the same fate. And as I said in a TV interview last night, I would rather have our media for all its lies, nastiness, bias and negativity than a media like that.

So for Dacre to bleat on about a threat to the freedom of the press from an inquiry into its standards, ethics and values … These people who call for inquiries into every other aspect of our public life based on a fraction of the media wrongdoing exposed in recent years. indeed, I would argue the freedom of the press has already been threatened by the narrowness of ownership, the debasing of culture, and a decline in standards for which he and less than a handful of others have been responsible.

I only have a few minutes before I have to be on my feet speaking at a conference, so I will leave detailed analysis of his offerings until another day. Like him, I have also been asked to make a contribution to the Leveson Inquiry, which I submitted this week, and I have also volunteered to give oral evidence if they think it appropriate.

I assume Dacre will be called too. It is one thing to stand at a bully-pulpit and to try the same intimidation methods on a judge and panel as he uses every day on his staff. It is quite another to be forensically examined by a judge who will hopefully see the attempted undermining of the make-up of his panel for what it is. Jonathan Caplan QC indeed – to argue that because none of Dacre’s poodles are on the panel, nobody understands the press.

We have to hope that Dacre will be asked about the invented stories which turn out not to be true. I know of some victims of such stories who are volunteering to the Inquiry their experiences. I would encourage others to do so. All those made up stories on the back of made up quotes. All those question mark innuendo headlines to which the answer is invariably No. We have to hope he will be asked to explain, in detail, how he squares his statement to a Lords committee that he never published a story based on illegally obtained information with the fact that his papers were Number 1 and Number 4 in the Information Commissioner’s report, What Price Privacy, on the illegal trade in private information. It will be interesting to see if they have kept all the invoices. We have to hope he will be pressed on why he believes that, alome among all other parts of our national life, the press can regulate itself.

I have always worried that the focus on phone-hacking, important though this criminality is, would narrow the scope and significance of the inquiry. Now that Dacre has put his head above the parapet, I am more confident the real issues here – the culture of debasement and denigration, a collapse in standards of accuracy and fairness, a failed system of regulation and media ownership – will also be firmly on the agenda.

Could it be that Dacre has unwittingly performed something of a public service, without realising it?

Ps, it was touching to see him stand up for the BBC, an organisation his papers, Murdoch’s and Desmond’s attack for their own political and commercial reasons (another issue for the inquiry) day in day out. His support for the BBC during our dispute with them in 2003 was entirely driven by the fact that in the many loathings and hatreds which consume him and drive his papers’ agenda, the Blair government, TB and I came a lot higher than the BBC.

I have very few hatreds in my heart. Life is too short. But Dacre gets close. Yesterday he showed once more why. But for all that he will have gone back to his office to the congratulatory growls of his terrified execs, I think yesterday was a turning point in the Dacre journey, and not in the way he thinks.

  • Ehtch

    Biggotry seems to be engrained in Whithall establishment – them this, or them that, or them the other, Total Public School inverse bollshie talk, as if they have got an empire still to defend. And these unhealthy oxbridge clubs continue it, but Oxford is the worse in high falauted bigottry. Carlton Club? Give me a rest. A club for capitalist biggots which this country, these days, can do well without.

    Righ,t off my soap box now, and a song by the very recently late Bert Jansch, with his box of strings under his arm, with his great folk english singing great mate, Martin Carthy,

  • Ehtch

    What do you expect from a bloke mired in the present media world, a world away from the rest of us on the streets, living in his own warped fantasy world. Fleet Street must be turning in it’s old high publication rate grave as we speak.

    Had a gutsful of them in the 1980’s with their thatcherism misinformation. C*nts the lot of them, self centred right c*nts.

  • Jacquie R

    The impact of the Daily Mail is vast, and not just in the UK. Its online version is the second most highly read online paper in the world – mainly for its stream of celebrity banality, but also as a vehicle for news and the extremist opinions of its near hysterical right-wing columnists.

    Dacre claims it represent what ordinary people are thinking (well, if it does, it’s thanks to him!) and scoffs at the “Hampstead liberals”, while he owns shed loads of money. Meanwhile, the Mail is hatching plans to publish a Sunday red-top, alongside The Mail on Sunday. I keep harping on about this but the fact is, while Leveson and everyone are having deep discussions, the Mail will be mopping up even more readers and spreading its political propaganda still further.

    Both Dacre and his columnist, the shy and retiring Kelvin MacKenzie, gave their usual bullying, swaggering performances at Leveson yesterday. Interestingly, and revealingly, they turned their guns on Cameron (rather than Blair or other PMs) for hiring Coulson, sucking up to Murdoch, and seeking revenge by allowing this inquiry. Dacre was prepared to make some concessions (e.g. more prominent corrections and the appointment of an independent ombudsman to oversee complaints) but considered anything more to be a threat the freedom of his beloved press.

    No, guys, you threaten the freedom of the press. Some of it may have been in the gutter, but you have dragged your bits into the sewer.

  • Chris lancashire

    Oh dear, what a nasty, venomous, slanted piece Mr Campbell. Mr Dacre has an equal right to make a contribution to this debate as Mr Rusbridger.

    And I think we should view any attempt at licencing press or journalists or any other sort of state regulation with a great deal of circumspection. We are very lucky in this country with the whole spectrum of our free press. For those traduced there is already sufficient redress available through the courts. The Press is yet another area which should be kept free of state control.

    And Mr Dacre does not deserve this sort of vitriol for voicing an honest opinion – and no, I don’t read the Mail.

  • What an excellent post! I had a good rant about it yesterday but far less eloquently than you.

    What got me was the hypocrisy. 

  • ambrosian

    Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary, made a revealing comment on The Daily Politics yesterday in a discussion on the Human Rights Act. He said you had to ask if something passed the “tabloid reader test”: would a tabloid reader think ‘this is crazy’.

    The problem with this test is that if you feed people lies about human rights (or anything else), then of course they will say ‘this is crazy’.
    If I were to tell you that I spend every afternoon discussing quantum physics with the pink unicorn that lives in my garden shed and then asked you “do you think I am sane?”, I think I know what your answer would be.

    Politicians are complicit with the tabloids in propagating lies for their own purposes. Invented stories from the tabloids appear in politicians’ speeches and the Government issue press releases to selected tabloids, written for and targeted at their readership and the paper’s political stance. So those who bleat about the value of a ‘free press’ and the dangers of ‘state control’ conveniently overlook the fact that the tabloid press and the politicians (the former, with one exception, right-wing) already work hand in glove to manipulate public opinion through an informal but potent conspiracy to lie and distort that undermines the democratic process.

  • Ehtch

    BRITISH INDUSTRY ALERT! Some positive, on the north-east Wales and Cheshire border. It has happened, it seems, when I thought it would have been kicked into touch with the way things are. Welsh around there and english around there have an excellent cros-border relationship, since my brilliant times in nearby RAF Sealand, which many are now working at Airbus there, Broughton, which is on the Welsh side, so mind you.

    Song in celebration, for Broughton,

    They’ll know what I on about.

  • Ehtch

    To see a maiden, high or low, new healithily unwrapped to a new spring, walking up to a mountain lake to bath with friends, is an old sight to behold, long lost. Used to be an old tradition, and any lads that approached there, before they returned to the dancing circles half way, never got a girl. There are many dancing circles near where I live, where the girls returned, and sorted men for themselves out.

  • Ehtch

    Gilbert and George, the living artists, living somewhere in East London somewhere, saying as I do, by some proxy or other on youtube. G’n’ T? My arse.

  • MicheleB

    Can you describe what you find ‘venomous’ about the OP?

    There is something so cynical (for everyone) about business empires that assume so little about their market that they force its quality ever downwards.

    Does its being for filthy lucre make it acceptable?  Is popularism the same as popularity?  Ooooooooh you are awful but Ai laike you 🙂

    Have we gained by ugly words like ‘p*ss’ and ‘c*ck up’ becoming common parlance even on Beeb news programmes?  If we have, what is it please?

    Have we gained by having snoops among us?  If I’d been a fellow member at Princess Di’s health club I’d have been anticipating minicams  down WC pans.  Perhaps you think we’ve gained because the snoops bosses have become boastful about their ‘finds’?

    Steve Coogan was in a top class rant again last night about the invasions made on people’s privacy; Louise Mensch was quite relaxed/resigned  about it all but given that she’s employed spookiness herself perhaps that’s understandable (after tipping her hat as soon as she met the married Mr Mensch she wrote a ‘book’ about a chick in a similar situation that spooked out the bloke’s present wife and got her man …. I only hope Mrs Mensch #1 hadn’t received her copy of it by post …….. mirror mirror on the wall etc).

    Oh I say, perhaps I sound venomous for such a digress ….?   LOL.

  • Olli Issakainen

    We may or may not have ousted the power of Rupert Murdoch from the British public life.
    But Paul Dacre and his libertarian-authoritarian Conservatism needs to be dealt with, too.
    There is a strong rightwing tendency in the British press. If we want better press and journalism, practices at the Daily Mail must be checked.
    50 journalists at the Mail hired private investigator Steven Whittamore 952 times.
    We need to know why?
    Beaverbrook and Northcliffe used their papers to bend government policy. Even before the closure of the NoW, it was said that the Mail Group had more influence at Dowinng Street than Murdoch who dictated the British stand on Europe.
    David Cameron was ready to give BSkyB to News Corp leading to Foxification of the UK TV. David Cameron hired Andy Coulson to please Mr Murdoch.
    We now know that Mr Coulson and Rebekah Brooks knew more about phone-hacking than they have told.
    Paul Dacre mentioned “Hampstead liberals”. In a 2008 speech he said that liberal, leftish culture is destroying free debate in Britain. Really?
    The market share of the Mail titles is 20%. At the time of 2010 general election 75% of the press supported The Tories.
    What is the influence of the press on British politics?
    Most of British national newspapers are unshamefully partisan spinning stories to promote the party they favour or to denigrate the opposition.
    They have daily political agenda. Paul Dacre particularly shows his hand on daily basis on the pages of the Mail.
    The Telegraph has always supported the Tories. So has the Daily Mail with the execption of Oct 1974 when it called for a Tory-Lib coalition.
    Daily Express was Tory until 2001. Richard Desmond reverted to Tories in 2004.
    Daily Mirror has always supported Labour. It is sometimes the only paper to back Labour party.
    The Guardian has offered its support for the Lib Dems, like the Observer.
    With the execption of 1945 and 1997, most elections are decided by relatively small margins.
    The Sun is read by the greatest number of people who have switched allegiance, so it is the most valuable paper to the parties.
    Leaders´ TV debates have changed the equation.
    But proprietors and editors still have influence.
    In 1997 29% of the Mail readers said they were voting for Labour. 2005 57% of Daily Mail readers intended to vote Tory while 22% supported Labour and 14% Lib Dems.
    According to Kelvin MacKenzie the decision by the Sun not to back Gordon Brown was taken by James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks.
    Conservative MP Louise Mensch says that Dacre is pandering to the public´s worst fears and prejudices.
    Operation Motorman, 2006 inquiry, found that the Daily Mail topped the list of newspapers believed to have been illegally obtaining information.
    It is interesting how the elite uses media to “brainwash” people.
    The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute were created to promote neoliberalism.
    They developed ideas and language to mask the real intent of the programme which was the restoration of the power of the elite.
    By using TV and newspapers a small group of people managed to make their socially and economically destructive neoliberalism sound like common sense.
    If only these people would get filthy rich others would get richer too, was their claim. And the masses believed this nonsense.
    But the super-rich never intended to share their wealth. People have now realised this, and are occupying Wall Street.
    Mainstream media in the US owned by the elite keeps its mouth shut about this.
    The corporations sold the idea of neoliberalism by reframing political language.
    They invented terms like “wealth creators”, “big government”, “red tape” and “benefit cheats” which were then parroted by their friends in the media.
    Now these terms sound almost neutral.
    The world is now facing the worst financial crisis ever. Today´s globalist elite, which owns big banks, financial institutions and most of the big corporations (including media companies), aims to take advantage of this crisis to which banks themselves have contributed.
    The elite wants to take down national sovereignty, impose drastic austerity measures, hold fire sales on national assets and consolidate wealth and power.
    The globalist elite wants a world dominated by big corporations with a single global currency.
    It wants to turn the European Union into a federalist superstate using the economic crisis as a pretext.
    This elite wants to take down national economies and the dollar.
    But where is our brave press on all this?
    It is keeping its mouth shut. And the media barons use their empires to ridicule or ignore everyone who stands in the way of their interests.

    Ps. Unemployment in Britain has risen to 2.57m. There is no growth, and will not be any in 2012. For every 2.7 jobs lost in public sector, only one is created in the private sector. UK rating downgrade is now inevitable because the Tory-led government will miss both its targets of eliminating the structural deficit and having the debt-to-GDP ratio falling by 2015 because tax receipts will decline as unemployment remains high. How long it will take for the rightwing press to realise that George Osborne cannot walk on the water..? 


  • MicheleB

    ………………………….”For those traduced there is already sufficient redress available through
    the courts”…………….
    Traduce – such a pretty word.   Have you ever looked in to the costs of traducing in return?

    …………………….”The Press is yet another area which should be kept free of
    state control.”………………………..
    Yeah, right, so it can be controlled instead by the need to know …. but to know what?

    You believe in such rags.  I wonder for which reason/s.

  • Libdem

    Credit where credit is due Olli, you managed to mention neoliberalism just once I think. It’s a pretty good summary of the press in the UK, they are a shower and we should all follow the example of Liverpool vis a vis The Sun. Following the reporting on the Hillsborough disaster under that jolly chap Kelvin MacKenzie, The Sun was unofficially banned in the city.

  • No revolution can be complete until the peacocks are slaughtered. Self-adulatory preening, ear-piercing self-obsessed screams and strutting bombast. Dacre and the peacocks both.

  • notjarvis

    Good post.

    I share the worries that the Phone Hacking stuff will obscure the bigger issues of basic press dishonesty. 

    Phone hacking was always illegal and there should be full investigation into how it was allowed to carry on so long without police action, especially when the police had lots of information it didn’t act on.
    However – basic press honesty is a big issue too, and we need a PCC that has teeth to stop incorrect, misleading headlines.

    I also found it extraordinary that Kelvin Mc said he never checked stories (as if that was something to be proud of)

  • Matt

    Among the many many irritating parts of his speech, I think the most irritating was the argument that the press shouldn’t be regulated any more firmly “because you should have seen how bad it was in the 70s”.  Perhaps this should be called the Life On Mars defence.

    @ ChrisLancashire, maybe there’s a middle ground between a pointless PCC and state licensing of journalists?  Dacre et al have failed to land a serious blow on Ofcom, which regulates my industry, telly, beyond saying that it costs too much.  Broadcasters live in fear of it – but also know that if they have a good defence they will prevail.

    • Chris lancashire

      Could be right on a beefed up PCC Matt but I am just very wary of increased state regulation into what is, overall, an excellent press. Granted, the PCC currently is pretty useless but then so are some of the full blown state regulators like the risible Gangmasters Licencing Authority and the bureaucratic Care Quality Commission.

  • MicheleB

    Some Liverpudlians also did their best or worst (?) to humiliate Andy Burnham MP, for what on earth reason I have no clue.

    Thank heavens he behaved as he did, classily.

  • Richard

    The Daily Mail is a laughable rag. Dacre is an irrelevance. The Express unspeakable, for example, in it’s campaign against the McCanns.

    The paranoid way you all treat the media, BBC etc assumes that the public are thick and have no ability to decide for themselves, and make their own judgements.

    Nanny knows best? You are wanting more state control, more regulation? Off to the Gulag with those who do not agree with you.

    Al, you no longer dictate the agenda from No 10. You were “The Daddy”, but your powers of dictatorship have gone. Your political crusading days are over.

    Off to the desert with you and Miliband’s Labour!

  • ambrosian

    Yet more of this global conspiracy nonsense, leading to a a world government and single currency (as predicted in the bible apparently).

    The globalist elite “wants to turn the European Union into a federalist superstate” you say, a phrase that could have come straight from the Mail, Telegraph, Sun or Express. So presumably Murdoch, Rothermere, Desmond, the Barclays, are not part of this globalist conspiracy although you seem to think they are.
    Your claim that the British conservative press want to destroy national sovereignty and the pound is bizarre, maybe explained by your distance from the British media.

  • Quinney

    I hope they ask Dacre about his papers lies about the MMR jab. At the end of the inquiry I hope they judge that the press should be regulated just like the BBC and there should be a right to reply. Also if a scum newspaper runs a headline story running to eg four full pages then any subsequent apology should be given the same coverage not a few lines near the back pages.

  • Gilliebc

    I think your post is spot-on Olli.  You’ve certainly come a long way since you wrote that the only conspiracy theory you gave any credence to was the Kennedy assasination.  More and more people are now saying that the “conspiracy theorists” (I prefer the term truth seekers) were right all along.

    It’s all become so blindingly obvious in the last few months in  particular what exactly is going on.

    I noticed this quote recently on another site which together with several other well known quotes from this family, just serve to confirm many peoples justified suspicions.   The wife of Meyer Amschell Rothschild the founder of that dynastic family is reputed to have replied when asked if there was going to be a war said  “there will only be a war if my boys say so”  her boys being the sons that old man Rothschild sent out to various european countries to gain control of their monetary systems.
    I think it is quite well known by now that the Rothschilds have financed both sides in all big wars since Waterloo up to and including both World Wars.

  • Libdem

    Probably because he’s an Evertonian, i.e. a loser, they have a sense of humour like that.

  • Chris

    Alistair, please don’t come to visit Macedonia if you can’t resist using FYROM. Please go to Greece instead, they will love you there for that.

  • Dave Simons

    I think Rothschild’s wife suffers from delusions of grandeur, perhaps understandably in her position. I’m sure there are such things as conspiracies but not as many as conspiracy therorists claim to identify. A lot of conspiracy theorists want to believe in simple explanations for complex problems. I agree with Ambrosian – I think Olli weakens his economic analyses with all his global conspiracy theory nonsense.

  • Quinney

    The new A350 wing courtesy of Peter Mandelson when he backed Airbus UK with the launch aid needed as again Labour did with the A380 to the tune of £500m.
    The Vauxhall factory in nearby Ellesmere Port was saved by Mandelson too. Ken Clarke called it an election stunt, it’s pity the tories can’t do about a dozen or so election stunts today……..

  • MicheleB

    …………..”More and more people”….
    On Toxigraph blogs by any chance? 

    …………. “is reputed to have said” ………
    Reputed by whom?

    When you find yourself in sympathy with and placing faith in any old critic of the Rothschilds you should ask where their own origins lie (wayyyy back even before the Nazis).

  • MicheleB

    I don’t think it was anything to do with teams and apologies if you’re just trying a joke but I saw it as mean-minded and horrible exploitative usage of a tragedy.

  • Gilliebc

    An ex MI5 officer actually.  Not David Shayler though!

    The things I write on this blog occasionally are tame compared with what’s really going on.

  • MicheleB

    Yes and a lot of what is put in print about Bilderberg is covert anti-Semitism.

    Whatever we think of the massive error about Israel, the worst one can think of Bilderberg gets nowhere near the hatefulness of the EDL and their connections.  It’s bizarre that that group is/was ever so fond of Toxigraph blogs.

  • Gilliebc

    I have never written a single word about Bilderberg.

    In my opinion Bilderberg is old hat.  Everyone knows about that particular talking shop by now.

    For the umteenth unnecessary time I am not and never will be anti-semitic.  Also, I have never belonged to any political party even, let alone any loonie extreme right wing group such as the EDL (spit) whose founder member is of Irish origin so I understand.

    Quite frankly Michele I am very disappointed that you think so badly of me
    to write such a post as this.

    I know full well what the Telegraph is and who it represents.  But there are a few of us who like to post on their comment pages to put an alternative point of view.  Although it has to be said that a great many of those posting there now are well and truly up to speed with the state of play as it exists now.

    Just a little reminder of who I am Michele, as you seem to have forgotten what I’ve said in previous posts.  I am just a boring middle-aged housewife now, who used to work in financial services.  My husband is a retired firefighter, a veteran of the 1977 ten week all-out strike. He is still a union member (OOT) Our son is a serving firefighter.  So I shall soon have the next dispute to get my claws into.  Bring it on barstewards!

    Michele, if I’ve read you correctly and I’d be amazed if I haven’t.  We are basically on the same side here.  So why do you feel the need to still have an occasional and personal “go at me”   Some people might be tempted to think that you yourself have a different agenda.  I don’t think that btw.

    May I just ask politely, that you read this properly and have a little think about it before and if you decide to reply.