Saturday 16 March 2013

Freedom of the press, but to do what?

Sometimes in British politics a smart slogan can be very effective. Mrs Thatcher's officially named Community Charge was quickly dubbed the "Poll Tax" and almost as quickly seen off.  The present government is retreating rapidly form its planned removal of a subsidy for those who allegedly under-occupy their social housing now that the label "Bedroom Tax" has stuck.  

Of course smart slogans don't always work to the benefit of social  responsibility.  Gordon Brown's proposal of  a perfectly sensible levy on estates to fund care of the elderly was quickly labelled a "Death Tax" and just as quickly  died the death (no pun intended), and the Tories have been very successful in labelling anyone who makes Keynesian criticisms of their wrong-headed policies  a "Deficit Denier."

Newspaper editors and owners are now trying to persuade us that the implementation of the Leveson proposals would be an attack on the "Freedom of the Press."  It is indeed, but an attack on their "freedom" to invade people's privacy by hacking  phones, snooping with telephoto lenses and, where there isn't a decent story, making one up.

David Cameron promised to implement the Leveson proposals unless they were "barmy."  Well, they are not barmy, and it is clear that he is caving in to the bullying of his mates in the Murdoch empire and others who, he believes, may turn on the Tories if he ties their hands even a little in their quest to make money out our appetite for sensation and salacious gossip.

On Monday parliament has a rare opportunity to stand up to this bullying and uphold the true values of our democracy.  I sincerely hope to see all 57 Liberal Democrat MPs in the pro-Leveson lobby, and hope that the handful of Tories who are in this area prepared to make a principled stand will not, unlike their leader, be bought off.

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