Press regulation and parliamentary sovereignty
Mon 25th Mar 2013
Patriotism is meaningless unless it extends to active participation in the fight against each and all of the threats to our sovereignty, to our liberty, and to our parliamentary and municipal democracy. Whether from the Executive or the Judiciary, from the European Union or the US, from Israel or the Gulf monarchs, from China or the Russian oligarchs, from money markets or media moguls, from separatists or communalists, from over-mighty civil servants or over-mighty local government officers, from anything or anyone whatever.
Therefore, you simply cannot, by definition, believe in national and parliamentary sovereignty while having any truck with Rupert Murdoch. The Press in this country has not been free since the day that Murdoch, a kind of state in himself, was first allowed to own any of it. And it may have taken him some 50 years, but, without realising it, he was always going to bring about its statutory regulation in addition to, indeed in an attempt to correct, that erosion of our sovereignty, liberty and democracy which is effected, exemplified and embodied by the simple fact of his ownership of media interests in the United Kingdom.
In any case, the powers that be in this country can only ever be delighted for so long, and one day, they were no longer going to find him amusing. That day has arrived. Ownership was outside Leveson's remit. So he said nothing about the thing that really matters. In that case, let Parliament act instead. It seems to have regrown its spine at last.
Anyone who really believed in the Freedom of the Press would, if eligible, have signed EDM 1334 (look it up, if you have to), and would be supporting Jonathan Ashworth's campaign from the Labour Whips' Office for Departments of State to take this country's original anti-EU newspaper. That newspaper was entirely excluded from David Cameron's post-Leveson paying of court to what looked for all the world like the real Cabinet.
If the members of the Press are only doing what we are all free to do, then they do not need a Press Gallery. They should just have to take their chance at getting into the Public Gallery like everyone else. But they are not, so they do, and they shouldn't. Certain additional conditions therefore apply to what are not their rights, but their privileges. Whichever conditions Parliament chooses to impose, in fact.
Like the registration of newspapers with the Post Office, the Parliamentary Lobby is already a form of the apparently feared "State licensing", which is nothing remotely new in this country in the modern era. The publications granted Parliamentary Lobby access should be required to be balanced among themselves, even if not necessarily within themselves.
Subject to that condition, such access should be enjoyed by all and only those publicly certified for the purpose by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons, or possibly of either House, whose staffs would enjoy no less access to the Palace of Westminster than that enjoyed by members of the Lobby. After all, who is in charge? Who is sovereign?
Along with the million pound fines and so on, which proprietors would pay once but not twice, so that editors who repeatedly incurred them would merely render themselves unemployable, let MPs say, entirely correctly, that getting this sort of thing through is what the Parliament Act is for, and that the European Courts can just clear off, exactly as the newspapers in question have been saying for years. Do you believe in the sovereignty of the Parliament of the UK? Or do you not?