THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES.
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.
PEOPLE’S HISTORY MUSEUM.
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.