The fourth series of The Thick of It showed us characters lying and doing shambolic, unethical things as a part of their day-to-day routines. It built up to a parody of the Leveson Inquiry, to which they lied, but we knew which bits were lies and why they’d lied.
Lord Justice Leveson then finally released his real-world report last Thursday. The weeks of cleverly constructed and fascinating testimonies to the inquiry, and it all comes down to this document, which is 1,897 pages long. The main points were that the Press Complaints Commission failed to curb the antics of the press properly, and that it wasn’t properly prepared to do so. It also included a call for the cosy press-politician relationship to end. The politicians are now in a position to make this the key parliamentary debate.
Everyone is worried about limiting press freedom. Charlotte Church assessed this on Question Time on that evening, saying: “it has not been a free press, but a corporate press”. The press has, for too long, existed for its own interests and perpetuating its own power.
The whole saga had a worrying amount of political and headline-grabbing testimonies instead of constructive criticism. Gordon Brown spent his testimony making accusations that he never had the guts to do as prime minister.
Murdoch decided to contradict what others were saying and forget about his own antics in relation to key issues. David Cameron spoke about how the relationship with the press was the status quo. It wasn’t a free and open inquiry, it was a free-for-all inquiry; a one-off chance for a peculiar style of political point scoring.
Given that David Cameron accepted that the cosy press-politician relationship must end, I’m not sure what he has to gain by not accepting the report in full. It asks for reasonable powers to create more ethical and better enforced contracts with the press, and an independent Ofcom-style body. Surely, it is no longer in Cameron’s interests to be trying to appease the Mail? It’s all a bit suspicious still.
The Thick of It showed more frustrated, but more aware and honest politicians in their post-inquiry world. It seems that the coalition’s more willing to split on this and make it a huge issue for conflict and point-scoring. The battle for a fairer press has only just begun – but surely it can’t get any uglier?