But who is he backing in England?
Guido popped down to Hacked Off’s parliamentary rally this lunchtime to watch a panel discussion with well-known friends of the press John Cleese, Harriet Harman and Simon Hughes, hosted by “Dr” Evan Harris. Cleese had the audience laughing nervously when he compared journalists to murderers, claiming:
“Of course they want to regulate themselves, we’d all like to regulate ourselves wouldn’t we? Builders, accountants, murderers, they’d all like to regulate themselves. The murderers would make a very good case – they’d say we murdered a lot of people, we know people who have murdered people. We really are best qualified to regulate”
About 20 minutes later, Harris halted proceedings to inform the room that “a journalist is here tweeting”, naming and singling out WikiGuido and bizarrely referencing the Brooks Newmark story. Harris told the room that Guido had tweeted about Cleese’s ‘murderer’ comparison. The exchange below is not verbatim, but is backed up by multiple witnesses and video.
WikiGuido: [From across the room] It was a direct quote.
Harris: You clearly don’t understand context.
WikiGuido: It was a direct quote.
[Audience members begin to heckle.]
Audience member: How do you sleep at night?
Another audience member: Let him speak!
[At this point most of the room began chanting “stand, stand, stand” at WikiGuido. He did.]
Harris: He’s Alex Wickham, who writes for Guido Fawkes website. And also did the work on the Brooks Newmark thing. I don’t think we want to give him a platform…
WikiGuido: Well the room wants me to speak. I thought you believed in freedom of speech? It was a direct quote.
[Several audience members shout “let him speak”]
Harris: We are not going to give you the dignity of a platform.
As the Press Association reports:
Video also via PA:
Dissent will not be tolerated…
Hugh Grant probably wishes he stayed in bed this morning, instead of bungling a Today programme outing in which he openly admitted to being a puppet for Evan Harris and his Hacked Off cronies. In an excruciating debate, Grant admitted he did not know the details after making a dopey allegation that the journalist who even the Guardian credit with triggering the entire RIPA/Met scandal, had nothing to do with the change in the law:
Hugh Grant: Tom Newton’s contribution was brief
BBC: Really, you’re saying it’s simply not the case that Tom Newton Dunn, who was one of the journalists concerned,
Hugh Grant: Yes.
BBC: …intimately involved. You’re saying he didn’t…
Grant: …that’s my understanding of it…
BBC: That’s quite an allegation to make, that basically the paper likes to be in a position where they feel like victims and are perfectly happy with the status quo, and their phone records to be gone through. Are you seriously saying that?
Hugh Grant: Well in the case of Tom Newton Dunn, I don’t know the exact details of how much he contributed to this particular campaign to get the law changed.
BBC: so you’re not accepting he contributed a lot?
Grant: that’s not what I’ve been told.
Grant’s blind, frothing hatred for anything or anyone linked to Murdoch has left him high and dry. TND tells Media Guido:
“It’s just not true to say editors and newspaper companies did nothing to fight the police abuse of RIPA. My own, The Sun, has invested considerable amounts in legal resources as we continue to pursue the Met through various channels, and newspapers from ours to the Mail, Telegraph and Guardian have all ran powerful leaders recently condemning the police in a very united stand. Not for the first time, Hugh Grant appears to be shoehorning myth to suit his own agenda.”
“That’s not what I’ve been told”? Pull yourself together, man.
“A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.” That is the view of Hacked Off, who have just been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading the public. An ASA investigation found a Hacked Off advert endorsed by celebs including Benedict Cumberbatch and Gary Lineker “breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising)” and was “likely to mislead”. Yet, despite this significant inaccuracy, misleading statement and distortion, there is no correction on the Hacked Off website this morning and no apology published. Instead, they are whinging that the decision was “political”, a unlikely story giving the leanings of the ASA. What would Leveson say?
Hacked Off would never exploit a tragedy to launch an opportunistic PR campaign to promote themselves in the media, would they? Arriving in journalists’ inboxes this morning came a headline-grabbing Hacked Off press release demanding the chair of IPSO, the new press regulator, condemn “breaches” of the PCC Editor’s Code over the Robin Williams story today. Hacked Off director Joan Smith spent the day offering herself for comment. Don’t all rush at once…
Incidentally, whatever you think of the coverage, it doesn’t even appear that the front pages did breach the Editor’s Code. Media law consultant David Banks explains:
Another great Hacked Off success…
After Sajid Javid signalled that he wanted to put the issue of press regulation “to bed”, Hacked Off last night called for an EU directive to force through new laws and overrule the Culture Secretary. Evan Harris and Natalie Fenton, two of the group’s directors, endorsed a new campaign aiming to secure a petition of one million signatures and seek a diktat from Brussels to set limits on media ownership at a European level.
The campaign, which has the somewhat sinister name ‘Reclaim the Media’, is backed by the Green MP Caroline Lucas, the National Union of Journalists, the Trades Union Council and Labour’s Tom Watson, who was due to chair last night’s meeting but failed to attend after he was “unavoidably detained in his constituency”. Evan Harris’ face told you everything you need to know about the prospects for Hacked Off’s latest doomed venture…
MediaGuido was particularly interested by a series of graphs provided at the meeting. Reclaim the Media’s campaign for plurality focuses on the Murdoch and Rothermere titles, despite their own evidence showing that it is actually the BBC that enjoys unrivalled dominance in the news industry. Confused Labour MP John McDonnell suggested the motives were personal: “there are thousands of asylum seekers locked up because the government is pandering to the racism of the Daily Mail”, adding that MPs were “petrified by the bucket of sh*t that The Sun pours on you”. Yet according to their own evidence it isn’t the Mail or the Sun that threaten press plurality, it is the BBC…
Brian Cathcart, the painfully tedious professor who runs celebrity lobbyists Hacked Off, never ceases to talk about journalistic intrusion into private grief and exploitation of tragedy. Just last week he was extolling the virtues of the Royal Charter for press regulation, saying it would end such behaviour. Guido has always thought the public, rather than failed journalists turned pseudo-academics and politicians, should be the judge of what is appropriate and vote with their wallets if they find such behaviour distasteful. Cathcart himself should know more than anyone that the public are good judges of this sort of thing.
Take for example his own 2001 book ‘Jill Dando: Her Life and Death’ that ‘recounts Jill Dando’s development from gawky schoolgirl to glamorous celebrity’:
‘She was attractive, successful and, at the age of 37, about to marry the man she loved. Then, with a single bullet to the head, on her own doorstep, and in broad daylight, she became Britain’s most famous murder victim.’
What would Hacked Off have to say if say about a newspaper asked of the dead ‘the key question: Was she what she seemed?’ The public have had their say though; Amazon lists the book for a measly £1.97, though bargain hunters should note that there ‘63 used copies from £0.01’. As the caustic Tabloid Troll says: ‘I suppose the one saving grace for the Dando family is that this man is nowhere near victims of our publishing media nowadays’. Another tragedy for him to capitalise on?