The ideal successor to Lord Wakeham

The press has found it well worth £3,000 a week for the part-time services of Lord Wakeham as chairman, public face and successful defender of the body that stands between self-regulation and state regulation.

Attempts by commentators to identify even a half-decent successor say it all. The Press Complaints Commission has to be led by a true believer with political clout and a talent for the slick fix. The ideal successor to Wakeham, should he survive his current misfortune, looks very much like Wakeham.

But does it follow that we must all stuff wax in our ears to blot out those broadsheet editors who see the vacuum as an opportunity for, at least, a review of the way the operation is conducted?

The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger is concerned at the perception that the PCC is not "completely effective and robust". The Independent’s Simon Kelner sees a need "to get away from the idea that it cosies up to the rich and powerful".

The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Moore is exercised about informal social contact between the regulatory body and tabloid editors, in particular the holiday shared by PCC director Guy Black, News of the World editor Rebekah Wade and their respective partners.

What must complainants think about such cosying up between the PCC and the usual suspects? Indeed, what must editors think of parallel cosying up between the regulatory body and high-profile complainants?

Newspapers would be screaming the place down if there were any such contacts by those involved in judging broadcasting complaints and those in the dock.

Moore’s campaign has brought down forked lightning from Wade. She labelled him The Hypocrite of Fleet Street, and assisted readers unaware of the existence of her tormentor by providing 10 Things You Never Knew About Moore. (Some appeared to be at the input end of an Enigma decoder.)

It was probably too much to hope that Moore and Wade would each take the other to the PCC under Clause 1 (Accuracy). Or Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock).

Or maybe Clause 13 (Discrimination) covering pejorative references to old Etonians and Savoy lunches. And to News of the World editors with scoops worth 3,600 words (and a shovel-load of disparagement) in next day’s Telegraph.

We shall see just how Professor Robert Pinker performs as stand-in chairman. He is a feet-on-the-ground intellectual, a fan of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) whose epithet, "Nasty, brutish and short", was coined before even the first red-top leader.

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