The Miliband/Mail argument rumbles on. It is now likely to stay a live story as Parliament will make a decision next week on what kind of Royal Charter will follow the Leveson Inquiry. Sure as night follows day, or creepy paparazzi follow Britney, the argument about the standards of one Newpaper group has been widened to continue the discussion of the standard of the whole of the press.
Many voices have been raised today from those traditionally defending the press against any form of regulation – Light touch Leveson or otherwise – saying that the Leveson inquiry is about more than one act, more than one (well two) papers reprehensible behavior on this one occasion. That the Mail’s attempted monstoring of Miliband through attacking his father has nothing to do with the Leveson Inquiry.
They are right. When the Leveson Inquiry was set up in July 2011, this attack on Ed and his father was more than two years off. It was also two years before a bullying and hideous column in the Daly Mail was connected – by a coroner - to the suicide of a young transgendered woman. Though it was two years after another infamous smear on a dead man who happened to be gay.
The Leveson Inquiry wasn’t set up to investigate these incidents. It was set up to investigate the culture that has led to these incidents being considered an acceptable part of the rough and tumble of newspaper journalism. If that industry can’t behave with propriety just one week before they try to convince the country to give them one last chance at self-regulation, what chance to they have of doing so once the spotlight has passed on.
So the press are right, the Leveson inquiry isn’t about the Miliband attacks. It isn’t about the attacks on Lucy Meadows or Stephen Gately. It isn’t even about the hacking of Millie Dowler’s phone. That was the catalyst that thrust the whole sordid, sorry side of the industry into the light.
But they are very, very wrong to think that these incidents don’t won’t or shouldn’t influence thinking around the set up of a Royal Commission. The Daily Mail have given those making this choice yet another timely and stark reminder of just how feral our unregulated press have become. And that is completely relevant to the decisions to be made next week.