Stars who only want fame on their own terms
21:41 GMT, 2 December 2012
Casting her spell over the media: Emma Watson wants state control
The Hacked Off campaign demanding state control of the Press collects more than 80,000 signatures — and the support of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, entertainer Stephen Fry and actress Emma Watson.
It also provides a rallying cry for Labour leader Ed Miliband, who appears to hope the issue will destroy the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, paving the way for a General Election his party will win.
That would be interesting. Earlier this year, his deputy, Harriet Harman MP, declared in an Oxford speech that she stood four square behind Press freedom, saying: ‘I think it would help Leveson if newspaper editors got together and came forward with a solution, and I challenge them to do that … I would like to see them frame the solution rather than have one imposed upon them.’
They did so. A new, voluntary system was devised to curb Press excesses, including 1 million fines, and explained to Lord Justice Leveson. So why has Labour changed its mind now
Miliband is evidently impressed by the big-name, anti-Press barrage from Hacked Off. Does he calculate that it might propel him into No 10
Labour activist Dan Hodges (son of Labour MP Glenda Jackson) reveals in a Telegraph article: ‘Labour and the Left’s stance on Leveson isn’t motivated by high principle; it’s motivated by a desire for political retribution.
‘Yes, it’s about victims. But in this instance the victims are Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot and the lost dreams of the Centre-Left.
‘Miliband and Harman have been deeply moved by their meetings with the parents of Milly Dowler and Madeleine McCann … But their agenda is the product of political calculation, not high moral purpose…The Left wants the Press, especially the Right-wing papers, to feel fear. The knock on the door, the “phone call late at night…” ’
Hacked Off, the pressure group for statutory regulation of the Press, has provided a rallying cry for Labour leader Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband came under fire for agreeing to support the Leveson Report without even seeing its contents
If Miliband and Harman can’t get state control of the Press in a Commons vote, they might be tempted to ask us to vote for it in Labour’s next General Election manifesto, although Miliband seems to be rowing back from his first-flush, Leveson-at-all-costs position. But might he have trouble with some of his own back-benchers
After all, the party does not emerge with distinction from the report. They claimed the Conservatives did ‘a deal’ with News International over BSkyB in exchange for their support (Leveson says they didn’t). That Jeremy Hunt ‘was not judging the [BSkyB] bid, he was backing it’ (Leveson said there ‘no credible evidence of actual bias’). That ‘Cameron should never have given the decision to Hunt in the first place’ (Leveson said he was ‘the obvious candidate…’).
Vocal: Hugh Grant, seen here outside the Houses of Parliament in London, has been a strong supporter of press regulation and gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry
Moreover, some MPs are worried about the role all-powerful, Labour-dominated Ofcom will play. Some are troubled about policemen being banned from talking to reporters.
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Leveson’s lack of understanding about how journalism actually works is almost comic. ‘Cameron said he’d accept Leveson’s report if it wasn’t bonkers, but lots of it is just that,’ says a Westminster source. ‘Does Labour really want to have a manifesto committing themselves to implementing a report which only a few of them will have got around to reading by then’
But can we ignore the wishes of celebrities such as J. K. Rowling, Stephen Fry and Emma Watson, far less Hugh Grant and Max Mosley, who is said to be a guiding spirit of the Leveson report
They are dear to many of us. And surely they know what they’re talking about, having had dealings with the Press
Conceivably they might want a Press more respectful of them, which prints the publicity helping them sell books, DVDs and films (and in Mosley’s case, his privacy campaign) but doesn’t probe into aspects of their lives, or attitudes, they’d sooner conceal.
They may say they’re acting on behalf of previously unknown people who, because of some tragedy, appear in the Press. If so, shouldn’t they also rise against crooked policemen, fraudulent bankers as well as politicians and their supporters who start wars we can’t win
As for Miliband, his critic Dan Hodges added yesterday that his response to Leveson ‘again exposes the greatest weakness facing him and his party; his own political immaturity. Ed Miliband has, literally, not thought this thing through.’
I hope David Cameron stands firm against this posse of questionable stars.
It’s all OK in Gove’s book . . .
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, aka Miriam Clegg — wife of the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg — supports a charity, Booktrust, which has received 12 million of public money.
Her husband confirms that he asked for Booktrust to be so rewarded but he denies this was to please Spanish-born Mrs Clegg, or that there was any wrongdoing. Two MPs — Tory Peter Bone and Labour’s John Mann — are looking into the matter. Booktrust seems a commendable outfit, having given 40 million books to schoolchildren over the past 20 years.
And the decision was supported by Education Secretary Michael Gove and Prime Minister David Cameron, who no doubt knew of Mrs Clegg’s interest. So I imagine they’re hoping to get something out of making Cleggie look heroic for his missus.
Should ex-MI6 spy Charles Farr, 53, become Permanent Secretary at the Home Office under Home Secretary Theresa May
Farr is canoodling with Mrs May’s special adviser, Fiona Cunningham, 39. He hoped to become head of MI6 after field work that included the delivery of U.S. bribes to Afghan warlords.
But the job went to Foreign Office show-off John Sawers, who once posed in his Speedos on Facebook. An anonymous Tory, briefing against Farr, says:
Tricky position: Theresa May may be put in a difficult position due to Mr Farr's relationship with her special adviser Ms Cunningham
‘He was not popular at MI6 and his secretive manner is not in keeping with the requirements of modern Whitehall. Having a Permanent Secretary who is in a relationship with a Conservative official who works for Mrs May could put the Home Secretary in a tricky position.’
A ‘friend’ of Ms Cunningham says: ‘Fiona works for the Home Secretary, not the Permanent Secretary. There is a clear separation between the two.’
Quite so but we’ve all seen Yes Minister. Permanent secretaries and ministers are often at loggerheads. Poor Fiona might end up being viewed as a cuckoo in Mrs May’s nest. Perhaps for Ms Cunningham’s sake, Farr — Mrs May’s Director of Security and Counter Terrorism — should seek promotion elsewhere.
Tanya Gold, who married Andrew Watts over the weekend
Mums are never wrong
Invited to the wedding of a friend, journalist Tanya Gold, at the weekend, I rang to see if there was a wedding list. Tanya said: ‘No, I wrote an article attacking them in The Guardian.’
The ecumenical service, conducted by a rabbi and a retired vicar, was very enjoyable. The bride was beautiful, the groom Andrew Watts handsome and wise and the rabbi and vicar reminded me of the BBC4 series, Old Jews Telling Jokes. My favourite is about the young man who tells his possessive mother he is to marry. ‘Who is she’ demands Mama. The son says he’s bringing three beautiful women home and his mother has to guess which one he plans to marry.
‘The redhead!’ says his mother shortly after the ladies arrive.
The son, astonished, replies: ‘How on earth did you work that out’ Mother: ‘Because I don’t like her.’
Pulling a fast one
Naughty motorists are proud to learn that the 100 ‘speed awareness courses’ we’re obliged to attend — if we want to avoid three points on our licences — are funding a new generation of roadside cameras.
So are the private companies that organise the courses, those who sell the cameras and the Government — the so-called ‘safety partnership’
Increasingly the Government finds ways of screwing money out of motorists — on the basis that everyone hates them, and they loathe each other — and shares the proceeds with private firms.
I don’t think the Great communist Karl Marx ever envisaged such safety partnerships.
Michelle Conroy, 21, had a bed in a Plymouth hostel but chose instead to spend a stormy November night in a tent outside Exeter with her homeless boyfriend, David Browning, 27, and was killed by a falling tree.
Tragic: Michelle Conroy, 21, who died when she was hit by a falling tree in Exeter
A plump, pleasant-faced girl from Guernsey, where her mother, Carole, still lives, Michelle didn’t have difficulties with alcohol or drugs. Nor did she have mental problems.
But the ‘quiet, polite girl’ seemed to have cast herself adrift from her mother and younger brother, although friends said they talked regularily on the telephone.
Canon missioner Anna Norman-Walker, of Exeter Cathedral, who knew Michelle, says: ‘She was a lonely soul with a sad, broken childhood who simply couldn’t sustain an independent life.’
A bleak but beautifully expressed summary of a life few of us would have known about, were it not for the freakish way it ended. The kind of life lived by an untold number of HM’s young subjects, for whom we are asked to give special consideration at this time of year.