Tuesday, 19 March 2013

UK press regulation is a matter of freedom

so says City AM editor Allister Heath in today's editorial, commenting on the press regulatory deal between two three parties that pay lip-service to freedom.  It is an editorial that points out very clearly what is wrong and the more fundamental philosophical point.

He's right.  It is worth reading his entire editorial, as he points out that the abuses by the press were illegal, the real issue was enforcement and corruption of the Police who colluded with the press on these actions (and the proposed law does not touch the Police, funnily enough).  

When you consider the reality and truth evasion that is part and parcel of contemporary politics, and the hyperbolic partisanship expressed by the Labour Party on this issue, it ought to send shivers down the spines of anyone who claims to be liberal minded. He says consensus in politics is a disaster, primarily because it means something has been surrendered.   He says:

few people would support cartels in business, so why are cartels of politicians so often welcomed? Ideological and political competition is just as important as commercial competition

Indeed, moreso.  I am far more threatened by a political monopoly, than having only one company selling a product that I am not forced to buy.

Heath says that it is "the thickish end of an enormous wedge, the first time since 1695 that newspapers will be subject to statutory regulation", noting that it is unclear whether the provisions are compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, protecting freedom of speech

UKIP members and supporters, and indeed freedom loving Conservative might be given pause to consider their usual antipathy towards this piece of international law, that was born not from Brussels, but the Helsinki Accords, which opened the first crack onto the totalitarianism of the Soviet bloc in 1975.

Heath points out that the first amendment to the US Constitution would ensure that such a law would never occur, because it would be blatantly unconstitutional.  Constitutional monarchists and other defenders of the "unwritten" British "constitution" would be wise to consider this as well.

The Labour Party has chosen to make this an almost class oriented, even mildly xenophobic war on Rupert Murdoch, presumably for spurning Gordon Brown in 2000.   It pointedly focuses on his newspapers, ignoring those of other proprietors equally guilty of breaking the law and engaging in unethical behaviour.  To be so blatantly partisan about one set of newspapers should have meant it was shut out of any discussions on this matter.  You can't negotiate with a political party which is driven by political vengeance.  It is in itself a threat to freedom of speech, and its record in government is not glowing on this issue.  You can be sure that if the Sun and the Times had warmly embraced Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, a very different stance would be taken by Labour.

It has, of course, been working hand in foot with the Hacked Off campaign, a clever campaign, led by the charismatic and generally well loved Hugh Grant, with a leftwing agenda based on attacking the press for pursuing profit and commercialism, among other things (as if the contributors to that campaign work for free).     It has seconded victims of press criminality to harness their anger (few would sympathise with wealthy celebrities who get caught breaking the law) and garner public sympathy. 

The Liberal Democrats have a strong proud tradition (as the Liberal Party) of being scrupulous on these issues, but have been star struck by the Hacked Off campaign, and has continued to sell out principles it once would hold high.  It ought to drop the "Liberal" moniker once and for all, and replace it with "social" or some other insipid homely to distinguish itself as the socialist party that isn't aligned with the union movement.

Most disgusting though is how the Prime Minister has surrendered principle for political peace.  Not only did he let Hacked Off participate in discussions between the three main parties about press regulation (with the press excluded), he decided he's rather silence the braying mob and his political opponents by, in substance if not in form, agreeing with them.

Conservative MPs who hold freedom dear should cross the floor in disgust, indeed I cannot understand why such MPs who, if it were Gordon Brown proposing such legislation, would fight tooth and nail to oppose it, will tolerate David Cameron leading them anymore.  What freedom supporter in good conscience can now back a Conservative MP who will support this legislation, when the Socialist Democrats and Labour are all one and the same?  Even Dr Sarah Wollaston MP who stood up for free speech in the House of Commons yesterday is a vibrant advocate of minimum priced alcohol.  Most of those who speak of freedom always have a "but not here" in their pet area of control.  

UKIP, of course, has a golden opportunity to lead on this issue by principle.

Heath hits it on the nose with the core issue - freedom.  The public simply don't care.

 "part of the problem is that we have fallen out of love with freedom.  The public supports snooping, paternalism, curtailing civil liberties and endless regulation.  Many have no problem with the state dictating how much people can be paid and telling people what they can eat or drink, and what they can do with their property.  We may recoil in horror at the proposed state looting of bank accounts in Cyprus - but most Brits support wealth taxes.  Freedom , ultimately is indivisible; the only reason why regulation of the media didn't happen any sooner was because newspapers were too influential.  Now that their power is waning, they are fair game, like everything and everybody else"

and it is that, ladies and gentlemen, that is the problem.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and maybe even Ed Miliband, will do more than pay lip-service to freedom when people demand it.  For they are all and the same pragmatists whose key objective is to win and retain power.  

You have to let them all know that your freedoms are not fair game anymore.  Most of the newspapers are going to fight this, it is time you got behind those MPs who will fight it too.  This isn't a left-right issue.   

Index on Censorship has come out against it, you should too.   Cameron, Clegg and Miliband deserve your anger.

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