11 July 2011

What good is law........

Its strange how things change. Only a few weeks ago the people of Britain were reportedly consuming 2.9 million copies of the News of the World (copies reportedly read by something over 7 million of the population) and today, because of commercial and political expediency, the NotW is no longer. Stranger still, today we see our political class distancing itself from News International and questioning whether or not it was right for politicians and parties to have been so close to one particular media empire.

But what we haven't seen is those self-same politicians going head to head with News International and its representatives. That particularly difficult task has been left to people like Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan and from my viewpoint, they've done a damn sight better job of it than Cameron, Clegg or Milliband. Take the BBC's 'Question Time' last thursday.

Hugh Grant (included on the panel because he has been a target of the tabloid media) made the most telling point when he proposed that most politicians lived in fear of News International and the personal damage that could be done to them by News International if they moved against the interests of News International. Panelist Jon Gaunt, broadcaster and ex-Sun columnist, made Hugh's point by attacking Hugh during a discussion about 'press regulation'. Gaunt sought to denegrate Grant with comments about Grant's need to 'keep it in your trousers', a comment which simply underscored Gaunt's journalistic heritage.

But, to a certain extent, the discussion ignored the central issue which is that there is law and legislation which regulates the Press but that law and legislation is meaningless if it is not enforced. The Press Complaints Commission did nothing to constrain the activities of the Press and a seemingly substantial police investigation claimed to find only isolated instances of wrongdoing. But it now seems that abuses were widespread and endemic throughout the tabloid press and beyond, and it is only the widespread outrage generated by the 'hacking scandal' that has forced our politicians to consider action.

If I turn to Somerton, there is plenty of legilslation which is intended to regulate town and parish councils and these regulations, it is fair to assume, were introduced for good reason, possibly to avoid abuse or exploitation of public office. But what good are they if they are not enforced? Wapping and Somerton are not too far apart.

Till next time, I'm Niall Connolly