No-one can say that Ed Miliband is not brave. His decision to back the Leveson recommendations in full (rather than the “Leveson style” plans proposed by the Prime Minister) will see the press (both right and left) unleash hell upon him. The vitriol in tomorrow’s papers will be a thing to behold. It will be shown in media classes for years to come as an example of a full throated and relentless, 360 degree media attack.
The press would be right to oppose plans that would see them fall under the control of the government (although Leveson’s plans do nothing of the sort). Yet the same press are comfortable with the current arrangement, where all too often politicians seem to fall silently but certainly under the control of the media. There are few (if any) “deals”, but everyone understands the rules of the game. Miliband’s imminent punishment beating will show exactly what happens to anyone who messes with the press consensus.
The best press in the world are about to let themselves down in an orgy of poorly aimed revenge.
As a rule it’s best to be concerned when the media have adopted a cosy consensus. We are currently seeing a cosy consensus motherlode. This is exactly the kind of concentration of power amongst vested interests that both Miliband and Leveson has warned against.
It is exactly why Leveson’s failure to adequately deal with the relationship between the press and politicians is such a huge problem, and shows why the press’s inability to be self critical, and examine the role of their own relationships with politicians and the police (focussing only on their own fears about regulation) is such a monumental failure. Whilst those who have so much to benefit from the way in which the media curently works lambast Leveson for focussing on the regulatory framework, the press should ask themselves why they have fallen into the same trap. In fact, their focus on regulation, as opposed to the other areas of the Leveson remit, may have increased Lord Leveson’s focus on just the area they wanted him to avoid.
If only so many of our most widely praised media commentators could see that Leveson’s proposals are light – modest even – compared with the scope of what has been uncovered. The media, the press and the police became dangerously and devisively intertwined. The independence of politics and politicians came under question. The public suspected – and still suspects – widespread corruption in the corridors of power. Such misdeeds brought into the daylight in any other profession would certainly see the press united in one of those dangerous consensuses, demanding retribution, regulation – severe change.
Yet Lord Leveson did not enact retribution, and the changes he proposes are not severe, but that’s not an pinion that’s likely to receive an airing in the press over the coming days.
How predictable that post-phone hacking Ed Miliband is to be pilloried by the press whilst David Cameron is held up as its defender. After all that we have learned about the collusion between politicians and the press. After Leveson has spoken of Cameron and News International “in it together”. After Ed Miliband led his party on the dangerous and rarely travelled road to criticise some of Britain’s most profoundly vested interests. They are never to be questioned it seems, and their authority must remain untrammeled.
This is not a question of press freedom – it never was – this was about a struggling industry refusing to accept that ordinary people must be allowed redress when they are wronged, and more – should be defended against such wrongs in the first place.
The battle lines are drawn.
Miliband must be sure that the media bloodbath is worth it to gain the respect of the people for his leadership. I hope he’s right.