Was the Leveson Inquiry into media standards just an incredibly lengthy distraction from the ravages being wrought on the British system of government by the Coalition? In the light of current evidence, it seems so.
The inquiry found, and I quote from the executive summary, “the political parties of UK national Government and of UK official Opposition, have had or developed too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest. In part, this has simply been a matter of spending a disproportionate amount of time, attention and resource on this relationship in comparison to, and at the expense of, other legitimate claims in relation to the conduct of public affairs.”
We know that the Coalition government has resisted efforts to put Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations into practice.
Now we see that UKIP leader Nigel Farage is courting Rupert Murdoch, the long-time boss of News Corporation, which owns many British newspapers and a huge stake in BSkyB satellite broadcasting. Murdoch was cast as one of the principal villains in the inquiry, as staff at his newspapers were responsible for hacking the phones of celebrities and other people in the news – most notably the family of Milly Dowler – thereby hindering police investigations.
“Too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest”. Although UKIP came second in the Eastleigh by-election, that party is in no position to call itself an official Opposition, but the BBC report saying Murdoch is “interested” to find out more about it is disturbing.
Even more disturbing is the fact that Farage would not comment on what was discussed during the meeting.
From Leveson, again: “The evidence suggests that politicians have conducted themselves in relation to the press in ways which have not served the public interest. They have placed themselves in positions in which they risked becoming vulnerable to influences which are neither known about nor transparent.”
The Daily Telegraph seems to think Mr Farage discussed the possibility of an electoral pact with the Conservatives if David Cameron stood down as leader. If that is true, then he was seeking an assurance of support from Murdoch, whose newspapers can do much to sway public opinion – often in spite of the facts.
Would this serve the public interest? No.
If Murdoch wished to influence Farage on such matters, would we be allowed to know about it? No. Would it be transparent? No, because that would show that the press was manipulating politicians, a situation strongly opposed – not only by Leveson but by the general public.
So the details of the meeting are kept from us. Never mind.
The fact that it took place at all is damning enough.
Still, we can thank Farage and Murdoch for several things.
First, the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press was lengthy, expensive and pointless. Nothing has changed.
Second, the press – the Murdoch press, at the very least – is still keen to influence British politics for its own purposes.
Third, politicians – as represented here by Nigel Farage – are equally keen to be influenced and corrupted by the press, if it will help them gain power.
Do not trust the Murdoch press.
Do not trust Farage or UKIP.
Do not trust any UK administration that does not, at the very least, follow the Leveson recommendations.