Shadow chancellor Ed Balls told the annual Journalists’ Charity lunch in London yesterday that it was important to prevent a “lurch to privacy against the public interest”.
He was speaking on the same day that Justice Secretary Ken Clarke told the House of Commons that a new Privacy Act might be the best way to deal will the furore over before-publication injunctions and ‘super-injunctions’.
Balls said that any Government inquiry would have to address the issue of whether it is possible to ensure the same privacy rules apply to Twitter and the internet as constrain mainstream newspapers and broadcasters.
He said that politicians should have “no expectation of privacy in the event of legal wrong-doing or double standards or… immoral behaviour”, but were entitled to demand that their children’s privacy is respected.
And he added: “I am affronted by the powerful – those who trade on their image – using the law to protect their privacy, by which I mean the exposing of their hypocrisy.
“But I do not think this means that there is a public interest in the public knowing all the details of the lives of every person whose name they have heard of – and even less so of their relatives, who they have never heard of.
“The fact is that these have always been – and will always be – very difficult judgments, necessarily made case by case – and there must always be recourse to the courts if self-regulation fails. But we should be as vigilant against a lurch to privacy against the public interest as we should be determined to prevent a free-for-all.”
Talking about the constant surveillance modern media subjects politicians to Balls said: ‘Today we are watched all time – and reported in real time on Twitter: ‘Ed Balls is on the night bus’ or ‘I am sitting in the same carriage as Ed Balls – the bastard!
‘Quite how that will hamper the next ‘Facebook generation’ of politicians remains to be seen.”