With the press machine in over drive as to what the ramifications of Lord Justices Leveson’s report will be, the media savvy amongst you may have a far greater concern over the festive period; the fear of fielding countless questions from friends and loved ones simply trying to understand, “what’s it all about?’ Help is at hand. Below we bring you our top five phrases to help you knock back even the toughest Leveson-related question that comes your way.
1. ‘The press has had one drink too many at the last chance saloon.’
With the Christmas party season fast approaching and a need to think about our unit consumption, remind your friends that a bloated and bellicose press has been drinking at the last chance saloon for decades. “The press – the popular press – is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon” said David Mellor QC in December 1991, interviewed following the set up of the Calcutt Committee inquiring into press standards. They have had ‘just one more’ once too often, according to Lord Justice Leveson. It is time to take away the press’s keys and ensure that it gets out of the driving seat to avoid causing havoc to the lives of vulnerable people along the way. Ringing the bar bell, Lord Justice Leveson asserted at his press conference on Thursday ‘I cannot recommend another last chance saloon for the press.’
2. ‘Crossing the Rubicon’.
When Julius Caesar’s army crossed the shallow north-eastern river in Italy in 49 BC, considered at the time an act of insurrection, it had crossed the point of no return. David Cameron gave the House of Commons to believe on Thursday that requiring independent regulation with an underpinning of statute would be as heinous. Given the reluctance with which he has embraced the recommendations, one might have thought that the river the PM was being asked to cross was the River Styx. Similarly, the majority of Fleet Street would have you believe that statutory regulation sounds the death knell of free speech and a free press in this country as we know it. But as any good lawyer will know the devil is in the detail; tell your friends that the Report sets out just what the statutory underpinning is intended to do. And read any number of excellent Inforrm articles to explain the detail.
3. ‘The press cannot be allowed to mark its own homework’.
Remember the heady, happy-go-lucky school days when we swapped tests with each other and generously marked our best friend’s work giving them the benefit of the doubt on every question? That’s what the press and the ‘ineffective’ PCC have been doing for years. The proposed Black/Hunt revamped PCC would allow editors to go on gathering in each other’s homework and marking it themselves. Which explains why the press is unhappy with Mr Leveson’s report card: ‘must try harder’.
4: ‘The ball moves back into the politicians’ court: they must decide who guards the guardians’.
The ball was handed very firmly by Lord Justice Leveson to the politicians at the end of his speech last Thursday with the Judge making clear that he would make no further comment on his report and that his job was done. Let’s make no mistake, the regulation of the press is no game, but it is certainly now in the court of the politicians who have already shown, from the dissembling speeches of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband last Thursday, that there is still all to play for.
5. “I don’t remember” or “I don’t recall”
This phrase was reported to have been used 49 times by David Cameron and 30 times by Rupert Murdoch during their Leveson appearances. If asked this Christmas about the detail of the monstrous 2,000 page Leveson report, take a leaf out of Cameron or Murdoch’s books; if it worked for them it will surely work for you.
Maybe David Cameron was listening on his iPod to the wise words of Dizzee Rascal last year, when he promised phone hacking victims that he’d implement the recommendations provided they weren’t ‘bonkers’. His current stance gives every impression of letting those victims down. You may be asked over the mince pies whether Leveson’s report is a turkey or whether Cameron is being a chicken; why not misquote Mr Rascal’s seminal 2009 hit to your inquiring companion, ‘Some people think It’s bonkers, it certainly wasn’t free; we just want to live our lives without invasions of priv-a-cy’.
Amber Melville-Brown, partner; Rupert Cowper-Coles, associate; Sam Ahuja, trainee, are all part of the Reputation Management Team at Withers LLP: