When John Whittingdale was offered the Cabinet post which involved press regulation, why did he not disclose to the Prime Minister that some papers knew of his previous relationship with a woman who had tried to sell her story to said papers?

The government, and Whittingdale in particular has gone soft on press regulation. The Secretary of State is “not convinced” of the case to incentivize papers to sign up to a regulation panel under Royal Charter by exposing them to high costs in civil libel cases if they do not. Nor is there any sign of the second part of the Leveson Inquiry into the original failed police investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World.

The code of conduct for Ministers speaks of the need, not only for there to be no conflict of interest, but no “perceived” conflict of interest. The perception is certainly clear and the actual conflict possibly too. The press clearly had this embarrassing piece of information on Whittingdale and we can “perceive” that he may consider it wise to treat the press gently for fear of exposure.

His fear could be justified by the current press fury and frustration that they are injuncted from reporting on the affairs of a well known entertainer. That sits curiously with their decision that there was no public interest in publishing the story of Whittingdale and the dominatrix. Certainly Max Mosley, the former motor racing chief, thinks it’s odd bearing in mind how he was done over in a similar situation.

Whittingdale may have resigned by the time you read this, otherwise he must be moved in the post referendum reshuffle.


David Cameron made a horlicks over his tax affairs but the explanation that that was because he was trying to defend his late father, I found refreshingly frank.

The government need to take account of the growing public clamour for the fat cats not to be allowed to get away with it. If that means trimming the freedom of our overseas territories, hiring more tax officials and voting for tougher European Union action, then so be it.

Labour will be wise to concentrate on those measures and not imply that if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister, they would threaten normal legal tax planning.


The Labour leader was in his element at a House of Commons event I attended this week. It was to celebrate the People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester and their fund-raising, Radical Heroes, campaign. On the banks of the Irwell in the centre of town, it is a great resource for telling the story of the struggle of people in the North for economic and political equality.

It is not just a Labour Party institution. Liberal Democrat MPs like John Pugh from Southport was at the event and in the nineteenth century Bury’s Robert Peel was the radical who abolished the Corn Laws and created the modern Conservative Party.

But most of the people there were Labour including former leader Neil Kinnock, who told me he thinks the party is in a worse position now than when he took over in 1983. He had previously told the New Statesman that he found it “difficult to see” Corbyn being elected.

We won’t have to wait long now for the new leader’s first nationwide test in May’s elections.



What do the Hillsborough families, the victims of phone hacking and the brave soldiers who fought in Iraq have in common? They are being strung along by legal and political bureaucracies that need to remember the old maxim that justice delayed is justice denied.


Hillsborough happened in 1989,the Iraq War was in 2003, Leveson reported last November amid press and politician promises of swift action.




There are plenty of explanations for why those responsible for Hillsborough haven’t been brought to justice, why the verdict on the politicians who took us to war in Iraq has still not been delivered and why we still haven’t got an agreed structure to stop the press plundering people’s privacy. It is all taking too long and the result is that the Hillsborough agony is prolonged, the doubts about the Iraq war remain as we contemplate what to do about Syria, and the press remains defiant about legislation underpinning a new code of practice.


Of course accused people, whether they be South Yorkshire police officers, Tony Blair or press barons are entitled to time to defend themselves, but not this much time.


As Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son at Hillsborough, said recently “ I am really tired of this now. I want it over.” The euphoria after the quashing of the original verdicts has now been replaced by a realisation that justice is going to take a long time. The authorities are not moving as fast as they could. For instance at a pre inquest hearing recently the judge was told there had been delays in the Home Office signing off the recruitment of officers for the investigation. Inexcusable. This week the Home Affairs Select committee has said the Independent Police Complaints Commission is “woefully under equipped” for investigating the South Yorkshire force.


Meanwhile Anne Williams, who also lost a son, has died. Only after the new inquest verdicts are delivered (and depending on what they are) can any prosecutions begin. Am I alone in thinking the passage of time, and the apparent lethargy of some of those involved, could lead to the whole thing petering out to the intense frustration of the Hillsborough victims?




Kate and Gerry McCann were subject to gross misreporting and intrusion after the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine. The Dowlers’ missing daughter’s phone was hacked. Yet seven months after the Leveson Report politicians and the press are in a stand off that is a disrespectful to the victims of press excess. The political parties reached a deal on what should be done. Some press barons don’t like it, so what? As Lord Denning said “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.” Get on with legislation, there’s plenty of parliamentary time.




Four years ago Sir John Chilcot launched his inquiry into the Iraq War which took place ten years ago. Some people are speculating it could be next year before it reports. Presumably one of the reasons for mounting this expensive exercise was to inform future decisions about Britain’s foreign entanglements. So it would have been handy to have had the findings before us as we contemplate arming the rebels in Syria.


So what’s the delay? Officially it centres on the release of secret government documents but recently former Foreign Secretary David Owen gave a much more serious reason for the delay. He said Tony Blair and David Cameron were blocking the inquiry from seeing extracts of exchanges with former President Bush “using conventions totally inappropriate given the nature of the inquiry.”


Owen went on to suggest this was part of a strategy by Cameron to keep Tony Blair on side and to detach Tony Blair from Ed Miliband and the Labour Party.


True or not, the fact remains that the issues of Hillsborough, Iraq and the press are taking too long to resolve and ordinary people are left in suffering limbo.