Sunday, 13 October 2013

Leveson and Regulation of the Press

The press are still at it. Wittering on about how important they are to a free democratic society as if anyone still believed anything they read in the papers. I've got some news for them. We are increasingly getting our news from the internet and social media. But they still go on in their precious way about being the guardians of freedom despite being controlled, as I've said before by a few self important families or individuals. About the only things they are really good for is telling us what all the other media told us yesterday, mopping up large spillages and training puppies where and where not to piss.

If the press are so important in holding governments to account then that is really a case for giving them fewer powers, because they have usurped the role of democracy and the democratic process. Governments should be being held to account by the democratic process and if the press are doing that job then it is surely the democratic process which needs to be more powerful and not the press.

And when it comes to holding institutions to account, where were the press during the phone hacking that went on for years until it eventually had to come to the surface because it jeopardised a murder investigation? Many of the papers did it and most of them knew. Where was the holding to account when it came to holding their own to account? Criminal conduct was ignored because knowing which celebrity was kissing which other celebrity was clearly in the public interest, or so they would have us believe. Going through pop stars' bins was vital to uncovering … I'm not sure what.

But I've never seen a 'kiss and tell' story published by a newspaper, even a 'quality' newspaper, exposing the peccadilloes of the proprietor or editor of another paper. They must all be real paragons of virtue. But they all knew about Robert Maxwell's conduct and published not a sniff of it until he died falling off a luxury yacht and the workers, as usual, were left without a pension. Where was the holding to account? As I said, they all knew.

Just as they all knew about the systematic corruption of police and other public officials by many newspapers, but said not a word until it all came crashing down around their ears at Leveson. Where was the holding to account when it came to their own? Nowhere in sight, that's where.

So I say again, I'd rather governments were held to account by people I have elected to do the job rather than a troop of Tory 'grandees' wielding more power than they should have and exercising it in their own interests. They want to be above the law and not have their conduct regulated by law. But they have had many opportunities to put their house in order and they are being offered what should be their last chance to act responsibly. They should be told, 'Take it or leave it', and if they won't commit to behaving responsibly and having an oversight body which regulates that behaviour, then there should be legislation to make sure they do. It will take a 60% vote in both houses of Parliament and in the Scottish Parliament to change the deal they are being offered, and to be honest, if all of that lot agrees you're no good then chances are you're bloody awful. They should sign up, and sign up right now.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Leveson and a Free Press

I see that a lot of press people are unhappy with the regulation proposals following on from the Leveson Enquiry so let me throw in my tuppence worth.

We all support a free press, but the fact of the matter is that the United Kingdom hasn't had a free press for many years. It has always been totally under the control of a few powerful families who exercise that control in a completely scurrilous way. They have absolutely no problem in publishing half truths and complete falsehoods to the ruination of peoples' lives and for the sake of, and in the name of, something that will be wrapping a fish supper tomorrow. Provided always that it makes them money.

They are completely undemocratic, setting the agenda that their masters want and even claiming to decide who governs the country, if we are to believe the 'Sun wot won it' headlines. And who wouldn't believe the Sun.

All that is asked of them is that they stay within the law and tell the truth. Is that so very difficult for them. Those are the same rules that the rest of a free society seems to have few problems with. But they want to be completely outwith the law, they want to ride roughshod over everyone else's rights not to be defamed because they know that few if any ordinary people can afford to go to law against them.

So however distasteful, it has become necessary to rein their excesses, and it is only their excesses that are being restricted, because if we don't exercise some sort of democratic control over law-breakers and corrupters in the press and everywhere else then we risk losing democracy itself. But perhaps that is the ultimate objective of the press barons. They want to exercise that ultimate power that ordinary people having a right to vote denies them.

Royal Mail Privatisation

Any good neo-liberal economist will tell you that the value of anything is simply what someone else is prepared to pay for it.

So as the shares of the Royal Mail go on sale today we can know exactly what they were worth using the preferred theory of value of Cameron and his hedge fund and banker pals.  And knowing what they were worth and knowing what they were sold for it is easy to see that this was a major robbery of the taxpayer to benefit the already discredited financial system of the City of London.

And the saddest part is that it is ordinary working people who will have to fork out the difference in the form of cuts to schools, hospitals and other public services which could have been funded by that difference.  It's a bloody disgrace and an affront to all of the people who already dug deep to bail out the banks.

This was our Royal Mail and come independence it will be again. I only hope that our government, once we grasp the thistle, has the balls to take our share of it back into public ownership with minimal compensation for the greedy pigs who stole it.