The curious case of Master Euan Blair

Two newspapers ran the same story. One got a red card from the PCC. One got a yellow (and a pale yellow at that). What are we to make of it all?

The Daily Telegraph was damned for a diary par that Euan Blair, then 17, was applying for a place at Oxford. The Daily Mail reasonably pleaded that it ran the story past Number 10, which made no noises about intrusion.

But would it not have been equally reasonable for the PCC to conclude that, had the Telegraph also consulted Downing Street, it must have received (or deserved to receive) the same response as the Mail?

The Mail also curiously (and successfully) contended that the Telegraph had already put the story in the public domain, thus legitimising its follow-up. If that holds good, any one newspaper breaching the privacy clauses of the Code would allow every newspaper to flood into that breach.

This case is altogether puzzling. Euan’s application was public knowledge to everyone at Trinity College literate enough to read the list posted at the lodge (and articulate enough to spread gossip through gown and town).

The PCC verdict is reported to have delighted Tony and Cherie, though that was the day before the Mail headlined it, "Blairs are warned over son’s privacy," referring to the PCC’s acceptance that the Blairs compromised Euan’s privacy by parading him at a premiere with Kate Winslet.

The Mail undertook to consider resolving matters in a way that would avoid the red card bestowed upon the Telegraph. So that’s all right, then.

Now imagine this had been a Human Rights Act trial. Not only would the right to freedom of expression have been in with a better chance against the right to privacy, but a High Court judge would surely have had something to say about the triviality of damage done.

Indeed, the PCC would have been within its powers to indicate that, on a scale of zero to 10, the actual harm done by publication rated no more than 1 or 2. Its adjudication could usefully have employed a form of words such as: "To this extent, the complaint is upheld."

No wonder Telegraph editor Charles Moore appears to have gone ballistic. How could he be condemned for this when, only the other day, another celebrated 17-year-old had his royal privacy invaded (nay, overwhelmed) with the special blessing of the PCC?

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