Sunday, December 2, 2012

Leveson On Political Spin

All the focus following the publication of the Leveson report has been on the big issue of press regulation and whether or not we want our newspapers answerable to politicians (i.e. statutory "underpinning"). This is a big question and one that deserves extensive coverage and public debate.

But there are a myriad of other questions addressed by The Lord Justice, not least, Labour's serious accusations about the Tories relationship with News International and Cameron's handling of the BSkyB bid. Leveson's findings here also deserve attention but won't get it due to the gravity of the press regulation debate. However, Guido helpfully distils Leveson's judgements:

Labour claimed the Conservatives did ‘a deal’ with NI over BSkyB and other policy in exchange for their support.
But Lord Justice Leveson says ‘The evidence does not, of course, establish anything resembling a “deal”’.

Labour claimed Jeremy Hunt ‘was not judging the [BSkyB] bid he was backing it’.
But Lord Justice Leveson says ‘there is no credible evidence of actual bias on the part of Mr Hunt’.

Labour claimed ‘Cameron should never have given the decision to Hunt in the first place’.
But Lord Justice Leveson says Jeremy Hunt ‘was the obvious candidate to entrust with the decision because of his portfolio… The evidence does not begin to support a conclusion that the choice of Mr Hunt was the product of improper media pressure, still less an attempt to guarantee a particular outcome to the process’.

Labour claimed ‘Jeremy Hunt “was acting as a backchannel for the Murdochs”’
But Lord Justice Leveson says ‘Mr Hunt immediately put in place robust systems to ensure… fairness, impartiality and transparency’ and Jeremy Hunt’s ‘actions as a decision maker were frequently adverse to News Corp’s interests’.

Labour claimed the Prime Minister had discussions with James Murdoch about the BSkyB bid at a dinner on 23 December 2010.
But Lord Justice Leveson says the Prime Minister was ‘perfectly in order’.

God knows there's enough dodgy behaviour going on in public life without this kind of mendacious spinning. Perhaps the next public inquiry should be into the ethics of party political spinning* and the way parties attempt to smear each other at every turn. No wonder politicians are down there with journalists in people's regard.

* Somehow I suspect this is one inquiry Ed Miliband will not be calling for.


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