Attempted silencing of the Press, or any kind of unholy alliance is cure for Labour’s misery under Jeremy Corbyn
Article below many thanks to Richard Littlejohn
News is something which somebody doesn’t want you to print, all the rest is advertising.
There are a number of variations on this theme, which is attributed to everyone from the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, model for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, to George Orwell, inventor of the totalitarian language Newspeak in his prescient novel 1984.
Perhaps the most pertinent came from Alfred Harmsworth, the first Viscount Northcliffe and founding father of the Daily Mail. In 1903 he wrote: ‘It is part of the business of newspapers to get news and print it. It is part of the business of a politician to prevent certain news being printed.’
In Northcliffe’s day, many politicians were appalled that rising literacy standards had led to an explosion in the sales of popular newspapers, which were filling the impressionable heads of their readers with information they had no business knowing.
Fast forward more than a century and that condescending attitude remains prevalent among the self-regarding, self-perpetuating political class. MPs who favour unfettered Press freedom probably amount to little more than a dozen.
Still smarting from the exposure of their crooked expenses claims and blaming papers like the Mail for swinging the Brexit vote in favour of Leave, many at Westminster yearn to bring Fleet Street to heel.
Now they are relishing an opportunity to seize their chance for revenge, thanks to an obscure clause in a cynical piece of anti-Press legislation nodded through Parliament at the height of the phone-hacking hysteria.
Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act has the potential to bankrupt newspapers who refuse to sign up to a State-controlled regulator. Under its provisions, papers who fail to register with an outfit called Impress will be liable to pay the legal costs of anyone who brings a libel action against them — win or lose.
Not only is this an outrageous inversion of justice, it is an open invitation to malevolents, malcontents and assorted chancers to sue the Press at no risk to themselves. Have no doubt that an avalanche of vexatious and unwarranted lawsuits will be launched immediately the clause passes into law.
Their aim will not be so much to seek redress for any alleged stain on their reputation. It will be a blatant attempt to put some publications of which they disapprove out of business for good.
There’s a real danger that newspapers might shy away from printing potentially damaging material — even if it’s true — for fear of the financial ruin it could bring.
That would be a victory beyond their wildest dreams for the fanatical enemies of the Press, who want to suppress all information and opinion which does not conform to their own warped world-view.
You might think Impress is a bit like other regulatory bodies, stuffed with career civil servants and the usual suspects from the ranks of the Great and Good.
Not so. Impress is funded by the Formula One tycoon Max Mosley, who developed a visceral loathing of newspapers after the now-defunct News of the World exposed his fondness for orgies with prostitutes in military uniform.
In a bizarre case, which seemed to revolve around which type of insignia was featured on the uniforms, Mosley landed a sympathetic judge who ruled against the paper and awarded him £60,000 for invasion of privacy.
The members of the Impress panel include a deeply unimpressive collection of embittered failed journalists, Left-wing lecturers, law professors and full-time anti-Press activists.
Their names would mean nothing to any of you, but you can judge the character and motivation of those who use social media by some of their splenetic, foul-mouthed outbursts, which have labelled popular newspapers, their editors and contributors as ‘scum’.
At least one of them has stated openly that he wants the Daily Mail banned.
Their posts on Twitter and elsewhere border in some cases on mental illness.
They are foaming with hatred and littered with insane allegations linking the popular Press — and the Mail in particular — to ‘fascism’ and ‘Nazi Germany’.
Yet the very suppression of free speech and closure of newspapers they advocate is a classic hallmark of a fascist regime.
Orwell would have recognised them for the tyrannical, intolerant bigots they really are.
And these are the lunatics that politicians see as fit and proper people to regulate the Press.
It would be like putting the Kray Twins in charge of the Police Complaints Commission and forcing the victims of their crimes to pick up the bill.
To conjure up another analogy, how would Max Mosley like it if one of his call girls decided to sue him for spanking her too hard and — win, lose or draw — he was forced to pay all her legal costs?
All this comes at a time when some supporters of Impress are also involved in a campaign called Stop Funding Hate, which attempts to put pressure on companies to withdraw their advertising from newspapers of which they disapprove. The primary purpose is to stop papers like the Mail telling the truth about immigration.
Unlike newspapers — which effectively stand for election every day on the news-stand — these zealots speak for no one but themselves.
The other difference is that most journalists — with the exception of those pompous prigs who regard themselves as part of the ‘liberal elite’ — don’t want to silence those who express different opinions.
The members of Impress can tweet away to their poisonous hearts’ content, as far as I’m concerned. They simply shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a body which seeks to regulate and censor free speech.
Newspapers and their contributors are already subject to the criminal law, as the phone-hacking trials demonstrated, and the laws of libel.
Most mainstream papers submit voluntarily to an independent regulatory body called IPSO, chaired by a distinguished and scrupulously impartial former Appeal Court judge, who has the power to order front page corrections and impose fines of up to £1 million.
Please don’t think this is special pleading. To the surprise of many people — myself included — I’ve never lost a libel action, or even had to appear in a libel trial.
The only time I came close was when I criticised Alan Sugar over his stewardship of Tottenham Hotspur. Sugar is one of those wealthy figures who likes to dish it out — either on social media, or as host of The Apprentice — but has his lawyers on speed dial to respond to any perceived slight to his impeccable character.
In my case, he got nowhere — not even an apology, retraction or guarantee that I wouldn’t repeat my remarks.
But by the time both sides walked away, the meter had been running quicker than one in a London taxi stuck next to a deserted cycle lane, and my brief said the collective costs weren’t far short of £400,000.
If Section 40 goes through, someone like Sugar could bring an action secure in the knowledge that it wouldn’t cost him a penny, even if his claim was laughed out of court.
When I was a young industrial correspondent, we’d get regular legal letters from some leading figures in the Labour movement, such as the NUM’s Arthur Scargill and Clive Jenkins, the pint-sized Welsh crook who ran the white collar union ASTMS.
More often than not, our lawyers would end up giving them a couple of grand to go away — not because there was any merit in their complaint but because it could cost a small fortune to defend the case at trial. Price of doing business, guv.
The union leaders got a few bob, there was a nice drink in it for their solicitors and there was no risk that they, too, could risk a huge bill by taking it to court.
If Section 40 had been in existence, there would have been no disincentive to them dragging out the case in the hope of getting a result before a judge and jury, since the paper would be responsible for picking up their bill even if they lost.
Freedom of expression is under attack everywhere, from outgoing Met Commissioner Bernard Hyphen-Howe effectively criminalising all contact between police officers and reporters, to the deranged ‘safe space’ movement in universities which bans opinions deemed ‘inappropriate’ or ‘offensive’ to fragile students’ minds.
The most appalling aspect of all this is the role of the politicians, especially so called ‘liberals’ such as Nick Clegg and Labour’s Nonce Finder General Tom Watson. This whole punitive plan was carved up over late-night pizza at a meeting in then Labour leader Ed Miliband’s office on a Sunday night.
Yet no one has tried harder to ruin other people’s reputations than Watson — who has abused Parliamentary privilege to falsely accuse leading Tories of child molesting, and who got into bed with a dubious ‘news’ agency to peddle the fantasies of an alleged ‘victim’ known only as Nick.
Ultimately, Section 40 is an attack not just on the Press but on free speech itself, born out of contempt for the newspaper-reading public, whom most politicians consider too stupid to think for themselves.
Britain has the most vibrant and diverse Press in the world. That is now under threat from this Orwellian measure, which could destroy, or at the very least neuter, papers from Fleet Street to the smallest local rag.
Fortunately, there is still time to halt this madness in its tracks.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley is taking consultations until January 10 before deciding whether to implement the clause.
I would urge you all please to fill in the form below and lend us your support. Let’s hope sanity prevails.
Does Theresa May really want to be Prime Minister of a country where a Left-wing rabble of Press-haters has the final say on what appears in our newspapers?
Thanks for staying with me to the bitter end of this column. To be honest, I’d rather have done my usual song and dance act today. But some things are too important to ignore, and nothing is more precious than preserving 300 years of Press freedom.
Normal service will be resumed on Friday. Until then, I leave you with another famous quote from one of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson.
In 1789, he said: ‘Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.’
Left-wing Labour Party Unholy Alliance
Article below many thanks to Yorkshire Post.
ACCORDING to the title of an analysis paper from the left-leaning Fabian Society released this week, the Labour Party is “Stuck; too weak to win, and too strong to die”.
The paper paints a grim picture for Labour saying almost half of its supporters in the 2015 general election have deserted the party, and concludes that an outright victory in the next election – whether in 2020 or before – is “currently unthinkable”.
Because of electoral mathematics, the party needs more than three million more votes than the Conservatives to win – a bigger margin of victory than Tony Blair’s resounding 2001 triumph.
Yet under current polling, the paper argues, Labour may win as little as 20 per cent of the national vote at the next election, giving it as few as 140 to 150 MPs compared with today’s figure of 231.
But Labour will be saved from electoral oblivion by the vagaries of our electoral system, argues the author.
Even if Ukip or the Liberal Democrats were to equal Labour’s share of the vote, they would end up with no more than a handful of seats.
But where does it go from here?
The Fabians argue that Labour should aim for a ‘more plausible’ goal than outright victory, and put itself at the centre of a grand left-of-centre alliance involving the Lib Dems, the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Greens.
This may be a sensible idea, but there are major difficulties in the way.
First of all, Brexit, the defining political issue of our time.
The other parties in this grand left wing alliance are implacably pro-EU, but Labour is far more ambivalent and the current leadership gave only lukewarm support to the Remain campaign in the summer.
The Fabians point out that Labour has lost four times as many votes from Leave supporters than Remainers.
How does the party regain the support of the Brexiteers without alienating the Remainers?
There seems little sign of the current leadership getting to grips with these problems or putting together a strategy to recapture its traditional working class vote.
Another problem is that in many parts of the country Lib Dem and Labour supporters hate each other with a passion, and my spies north of the border tell me that a similar state of enmity exists between the nationalists and what is left of the Labour Party.
It they hate each other more than they hate the Tories, how are they going to work together?
Far-left groups are notoriously disputatious – witness, for example, the Corbyn-supporting group Momentum, which is falling out in lumps over who is the most ideologically pure.
Any grand alliance would need common sense, an ability to compromise and, above all, tolerance of different political views – qualities that are in desperately short supply on the left of the political spectrum.
Truth to power TWENTY years ago, The Yorkshire Post put together a team of reporters to investigate allegations of corruption at Doncaster Borough Council in what, inevitably, became known as ‘Donnygate’.
Reporters were physically threatened on more than one occasion, and The Yorkshire Post was bombarded with threats of legal action – but the newspaper stood its ground, secure in the knowledge that it was acting in the public interest and that it had uncovered incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing.
After months of work a series of reports were published exposing widespread corruption by councillors and council officials, which led to numerous convictions and several prison terms.
If Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, currently under consideration by the Government, is enacted, such investigations are less likely to happen.
This is because crooked councillors and bent businessmen will be able to engage in libel actions against newspapers at no cost to themselves.
Any newspaper that refuses to sign up to a Government-approved regulator will be obliged to pay the other side’s legal costs – even if they are proved 100 per cent correct and win the case.