Rod Liddle

Rod Liddle: Is Hugh Grant a pawn of the mad metropolitan left?

12 October 2013

9:00 AM

12 October 2013

9:00 AM

It is a peculiar alliance, when you think of it, which wishes to bring to an end 300 years of press freedom in this country. The handsome actor Hugh Grant would rather the press didn’t find out about him being ‘noshed’, as I believe the term has it, by a prostitute on some Los Angeles freeway. I can understand that, even if I do not think he has the right to make that call, given the image he adopts to sell himself to the public. The absolutist metro liberal left, meanwhile, would have no doubt -whatsoever who was the victim in that particular scenario: the nosher, not the noshee. Grant should be prosecuted and outed; the, uh, sex–worker, meanwhile, is a victim, oppressed by very real economic and gender (and in the case of Hugh’s illicit young lady) racial imbalances intrinsic to the capitalist system.

This hysterical and intolerant arm of the modern left does not have much time for celebrity, or for wealth, or indeed for privacy as a general concept, although it believes very strongly in its own privacy, as we saw with the case of one of its most cherished scions, Julian Assange. If we’re honest, it doesn’t really have much time for sex, per se; that is simply another means by which powerful men suppress and exploit vulnerable women, and all forms of contact between the two sexes should therefore be rigorously policed, with strict regulations as to how and when and where one might make an advance to a woman, with transgressors punished — in the press, for example (in the case of Lord Rennard), and better still in the courts.

For his part, I don’t suppose Mr Grant signs up to the full panoply of institutionalised intolerance and paranoia which is the manifesto of the liberal left. I always suspected Grant was apolitical verging on wettish Tory — the very sort of person his erstwhile allies most despise. But that’s Hacked Off for you; on the one hand a bunch of slebs who simply wish to stop you knowing how many kilos of gak they shove up their nostrils each evening or how many times they have cheated on their wives or the precise details of their exciting liaison with a professional nosher. And on the other, a tiny but highly voluble minority of the British public who believe that saying stuff with which they fervently disagree should actually be made illegal. The Guardian and its pitiful handful of readers, the middle-class lefties at the BBC, what remains of the Independent, an unlovable tranche of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, and the few thousand -desolate souls who seem to spend their entire lives screeching hatred at people who’ve offended them on the internet, who wish everyone but themselves to be silenced.


Still, it looks very much as though this coalition of antitheses will win the day and henceforth politicians will decide exactly what newspapers can and cannot say. It is not the slebs who have won, they have been duped; it is the metro-left — because whatever happens, actors and pop stars will still have their bad behaviour reported, somehow or other, by the press.

As we have seen recently, what the left wishes to silence are political opinions which differ from its own. That is where the lawyers will have their field day, that is where the journos will find themselves fined, or hauled before the courts and possibly imprisoned. That is where Lord Leveson, with his palpable contempt for the press and — when the facts were presented to him — utter indifference to the much worse behaviour of other professions, most notably lawyers, has left us. I say these people are a tiny minority — and they are: a recent opinion poll suggested that 67 per cent of the public did not wish politicians to have any involvement in regulating what the press can and cannot do — but I suppose they are the new establishment. They have power, that is for sure.

We saw what Leveson and state regulation of newspapers will do in the Miliband/Daily Mail affair; a non-story or maybe at best a half-story which nonetheless was dragged out, by the BBC in particular, but also by the Guardian and the Labour party, for two whole weeks — and still has not gone away.

I have no objection to Ed Miliband taking offence at what was said about his father in the Daily Mail; he was at least partially right to cavil at the headline which accompanied the original, somewhat crudely cobbled-together piece of writing. But his subsequent confected outrage and statements that the ‘culture’ of the Daily Mail needed investigation and must be put right were of course a calculated genuflection to Hacked Off. No such furore would have been occasioned by a sleb angry that his privacy had been invaded; the BBC, for one, would have lost interest within hours.

But not when Geoffrey Levy attacked Ralph Miliband; implicit in the coverage from our state broadcaster and in the comments from Miliband and — as Michael Gove helpfully put it — that blob of furious opinion, is that such views simply should not be allowed. Not simply that they are ‘wrong’, but that there should be laws which stop them being written in the first place. I wonder if Hugh Grant is entirely comfortable with that?

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  • Horatio Mortimer

    Presumably what Hugh Grant was originally upset about was not that he was reported getting noshed, since he was arrested and it was a matter of public record, but that when the press in their endless pursuit of him broke the law, the police would not do anything about it, and the politicians would not make them do anything about it. Since then perhaps he has noticed that it is not just him that has suffered, and that politicians are terrified of doing or saying anything to upset the press because in the end the press do decide what people think of them. When the whole press is owned by two or three non-tax paying like-minded zealots who only hire people who agree with them, then it is not a question of prohibiting these nut-job views, but of stopping them from traducing anyone they disagree with. If only we had some sensible restrictions on how much of the news they were allowed to own, then there might be that ‘free and open encounter’ in which Milton claimed truth would prevail.

    As for the ‘new establishment’, see http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/horatio-mortimer/leveson-is-not-establishment-stich-up

    • s_o_b

      If the press broke the law, let the law deal with them. Politicians do not have the right to mandate statutory press regulation.

      • Godnose

        “Politicians do not have the right to mandate statutory press regulation.”

        Yes they do. To make laws is precisely the purpose for which we elect them.

        The press are clearly out of control, and a degree of regulation is essential. The problem is, how to achieve that without political bias. I think Leveson nailed it and his recommendations should have been followed to the letter. It is the politicians, Cameron in particular, who have screwed them up.

    • Rob Bailey

      This is mad nonsense. First, you use “the press” to conflate a broad range of publishers, many of whom have played no part in the kind of manipulation you describe. Leveson himself said regional papers, for example, should not be punished as a result of the actions of some national newspapers. Hacked Off don’t care… get them all, as long as it hurts Murdoch. It’s acceptable collateral damage. And who cares if a few local papers get lost along the way? What harm could that do?

      Then you talk about media ownership as if the internet doesn’t exist. As if people still get their news fed to them from a discrete and limited number of physical newspapers. As if by silencing Murdoch you will also silence the whole of the internet, put it on a leash, and get it reporting on whatever sanitised brand of public debate you’re prepared to accept. Deluded isn’t the worst of it. You’re driving us into a chasm from which we will never emerge.

      • Horatio Mortimer

        I agree with you about local papers. On the Internet I don’t
        follow your logic. If the internet means that there is no danger of ‘silencing’ public debate, then where is the chasm?

        It may be true that Murdoch is yesterday’s battle, and in
        fact that may be why politicians have felt brave enough to challenge his grip. If so though this is partly because of his pay walls. For those
        newspapers without pay walls, such as the Mail and the Guardian, the internet has only magnified their influence.

        For democracy to function, we need news we can trust. That means facts that are checked and the more news outlets the better. This is because every news organisation has a blind spot around the interests of its proprietors, and we need other organisations, whose proprietors’ interests do not overlap, to shine light into
        those blind spots.

        Journalism costs money, and it’s a public good. That is to
        say that we benefit from journalism not so much from reading it ourselves as from living in a well-informed society. We therefore individually won’t pay the full cost. The people who will pay the full cost though are those who benefit from the influence it gives them over the government. The more consolidated the industry, the more influence they have.

        The network effects and economies of scale on the Internet create an even more intense pressure to consolidate. And when Google decides that the government is acting against their interests, they won’t need to hack any phones. They are already above the law because they can choose any jurisdiction they like. Google is a wonderful company that provides an incredible service, but that is what makes it dangerous. We are already beginning to see what happens when it combines with the state.

        Rod Liddle and others commenting on this page are fighting
        the dangers of the last century. If only Hayek were around today. As he said, there are ‘certain channels of information’ that the market cannot provide.

        • Rob Bailey

          Taking it at face value, you suggest a limit on “how much news they are allowed to own”. If you concede that newspapers are only a small part of the modern media landscape and that if such a quota were imposed purely on physical media it is redundant, then you seem to be suggesting a limit on how much of the internet Murdoch is allowed to use. I’d love to hear how that works… And why, in your zeal to “democratise” news by reducing the influence of powerful individuals, you are backing a charter that you seem to admit is harmful to parts of the media that are just trying to serve their communities. Perverse, no?

          The “chasm” is the involvement of Parliament in the running of our press, as I’m sure you’re aware. It is the Charter’s insidious purpose to turn freedom of expression into a divisible substance. At any time Parliament could legislate to stifle our freedom with a simple majority, but it doesn’t. It would be madness, clearly. Post-Charter there will be a new subsection of that freedom that belongs only to the press. A subsection which can be legislated on without, by all appearances, limiting the freedom of individuals. That’s oppression that can be sold to the masses. That’s something that 2/3 of MPs could really get behind. That’s a process that has nothing to do with serving democracy, creating trustworthy journalism, challenging the powerful, or breaking monopolies. For all your laudable principles above, this is the nightmare you are supporting.

          • Horatio Mortimer

            Newspapers and their websites may be a small part of the media, but they are a very big part of the news. Public service broadcasters are constrained to project an impartial balanced view of the news, and therefore must only magnify and reflect the agenda that is set elsewhere. Internet aggregators magnify it again.

            I hope and expect that a new regulator will be helpful to local news, which currently is extremely vulnerable to threats of expensive legal action. Since it is for the press to design the regulator, that is a problem for them. However as there is very little power devolved to the local level, I am more concerned with the national picture.

            I don’t consider newspapers to be in the business of free expression, except for the expression of their proprietors. Journalists write what their editor wants them to write. She may give them freedom to say whatever they like up until the point that she doesn’t. Similarly the proprietor lets the editor edit as he likes until he doesn’t. (Why did you sack James Harding Mr Murdoch? Because “the paper was getting much too liberal”.) That’s oppression that is being sold to the masses.

          • Rob Bailey

            I don’t agree that a pluralist, vibrant media landscape is “oppressive”, but even if it was then the solution would not be a different flavour of oppression.

            Local government spending accounts for 26% of all public spending in the UK, which is only very selectively reported by the national press. Focussing on the national is politically convenient to a group that wants to censor its opponents. But the idea that it has anything to do with democracy is nauseating.

          • Horatio Mortimer

            A pluralist vibrant media landscape would not be oppressive. That’s the point.

          • Rob Bailey

            Ah, then we have our misunderstanding. I didn’t realise you were posting from Russia.

          • Horatio Mortimer

            You didn’t realise that you are.
            How are your Daily Mail scholarships doing by the way?

          • Rob Bailey

            Haha, very well thanks. Latest graduate on the scheme is currently doing three months at the Sentinel in Stoke, a fine local paper. Say what you like about The Mail – I’d agree with most of it – but its training scheme is exceptional.

  • David Lindsay

    Does anyone recall the unions being asked if they wanted the Thatcher anti-union
    legislation? Or any suggestion that the Queen could not sign it because it was too contentious?

    But neither of these proposed Charters addresses the real issue, which is ownership, itself intimately connected to sovereignty.

  • The_greyhound

    It is remarkable that people so readily acquiesce in the abolition of their liberty. Leveson, an intellectually second rate bit of publicity hungry fluff every bit as lightweight as Grant, huffs and puffs at a free-ish press with all the moral indignation that his own utterly discredited trade can summon. And instead of sternly rebuffing the clown, the greasy political establishment (smarting from the expenses fiasco, from which too many escaped unpunished) embrace the end of a free press.

    How very convenient, and how very predictable.

    It becomes doubly important therefore to support the Speccie, Fraser Nelson and Rod Liddle in their principled stand against this tyrannical and un-British garbage.

    Bugger Leveson. Bugger Miller’s charter. And sod Grant.

    • Horatio Mortimer

      So in effect, bugger the people we vote for and democracy, bugger the rule of law, and for the sake of liberty leave it all up to three or four billionaires who don’t live in the UK and don’t pay tax.

      • La Fold

        Who the FLOCK voted for Levenson?
        The rule of law was flouted by the politicians sidling up to the press in the first place and by the old bill protecting their gold plated pensions.
        And most of all, these billionaires do not control you or your liberty.
        Dont want to read their papers, heres a novel concept, dont!!

        • Horatio Mortimer

          er, the house of commons voted for Leveson.
          And it’s not that I don’t want to read their papers. I enjoy reading their papers, even Rod Liddle can be quite amusing. Neither I nor you nor anyone else is voting for the influence that a newspaper has just by reading it. Just because I read a newspaper does not mean I have appointed it as my representative. Businesses quite rightly represent the interests of their shareholders. Just because someone is curious about how much cellulite someone has doesn’t mean they give the slightest toss about some dead marxist academic. The influence they have is not because people buy into their politics, it’s because we are quite suggestible, particularly about boring things we don’t know or care about like for instance Ed Miliband.

          • The_greyhound

            A functioning democracy requires an elected legislature AND a free press. The attempt by the Government to regulate the press puts Britain in some very disreputable company – in the US such a move would be unconstitutional, and with good reason.

          • Ripple

            Hear hear.

      • The_greyhound

        The law was and is adequate to deal with the few actual issues. Hacked Off, Leveson, Miliband and Maria Miller’s charter are about an end to a free press, and its regulation in the interests of the narrow and unrepresentative platform of metropolitan liberal clique. If the people didn’t want their papers, they wouldn’t buy them. I don’t get a choice when paying for the lying hypocritical BBC.

        • Horatio Mortimer

          No, the law was not adequate, because the press are so powerful that they corrupted the police and the politicians, that’s why there was an inquiry. As I said above, just because people buy newspapers doesn’t mean they agree with them or want them to rule. As for the BBC, this is a Milton Friedman argument… http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/horatio-mortimer/bbc-subscription-would-equal-abolition

          • The_greyhound

            So, the story is about the corruption at the Met.

            Why not deal with that, if that is the issue?

            Answer : because certain corrupt interests in this country want to see an end to a free press : that is all.

          • Horatio Mortimer

            So to be clear as far as you are concerned news companies have no political influence and it would be fine if they were all owned by one person so long as it’s not the government.

          • The_greyhound

            Don’t impute your muddle-headed rubbish to me,

            You believe that the state should control the press – don’t pretend otherwise.

          • Horatio Mortimer

            I agree that it would be a terrible and dangerous thing if the government were able to influence the way that the press reported on it.

            But if the owners of the press decide how the press portray the government to the point that they can influence what the government does and who the government is, then what is the difference?

            Unless something is done about the concentration of media ownership, then whatever regulator is eventually established will be captured by these vested interests.

  • Keith D

    Does anyone really give a stuff what the Press says? If any its only the glitterati and the bubble.
    Nobody believes a word the press says.Isn’t that quite sad really?
    Only themselves to blame.

  • allymax bruce

    Instituting a Royal Charter, (underpinned by law/or not), to hold the Press/MSM to account, is a necessary function now; to maintain a Democratic political system. The Press, are now owned & controlled by the Main-Stream Media, (MSM), of whom, also own Hollywood, tv news, magazines, (including this one), etc, and nearly every form of information medium, (except the internet); the MSM is functionally now in a position to threaten, or even influence & control the Political System/government of this country now. Thus, the Press must not be allowed to be ‘free’, because that ‘public good’ has now been superceded by the dangerous MSM threat to the Public, and a Free-Democratic Political System. The MSM are now a Fifth Column, and they must be constrained, and held to public account, for the Public good.

    • Vindice

      No.

      Over-concentration of ownership is fixed by breaking apart monopolies and cartels.

      It is that simple.

      • allymax bruce

        I’m not concerned with ‘ownership’, I’m concerned with the malicious nasty and hateful acts of the evil Press on Public citizens; and our Rights to a Free Democracy. The Press has had their chance to play fair, but they chose to demean us, the Public, our Rights, and itself, with its evil manner of operation. Everyday we look at these tables of tabloid indecency, with their evil and slanderous headlines; it’s disgusting & evil; we don’t want a ‘free-Press’ anymore because this is what you give us!

    • Tom M

      “…the MSM is functionally now in a position to threaten, or even influence
      & control the Political System/government of this country now….”
      So, apparently are pressure groups like Hacked Off.

      • allymax bruce

        Tom, come-on man, get real; Hacked-Off are only with us because of your anti-humanity, indecent, and ugly ‘free-Press’. That’s finished now; we actually despise the ‘free-Press’ now!

        • Tom M

          The point I was making was that it is demonstrably wrong for a pressure group to make the laws. The demands of Hacked Off were adequately provided for in the existing legislation, if it had been enforced.
          As to how to control the press or politicians (whom I consider to be, for the purposes of this debate, opposite sides of the same coin), well it cannot be done in a free society. If you give one the power over the other be sure that they will use it. That’s what power is for.
          I feel however that if the press have survived as a free entity for 300 years it seems that we might be jumping to a conclusion that will regret in years to come if we start using the law to control what they print.

          • Horatio Mortimer

            It’s unbelievable how the newspapers have managed portray Hacked Off as this sinister powerful lobby. Where do they get all this power from? Hacked Off is three people and a dog, but somehow they are bullying the whole newspaper industry. They don’t make laws. Parliament does. The only weapon they have is the force of their argument.

          • Tom M

            The concern I have with Hacked Off is that they seem to be overly involved in discussions with the very people commissioned to provide press reform. I have the impression that they are paid more attention to than a pressure group should be.

        • The_greyhound

          Hacked Off are only with us because of a funding source they resolutely refuse to disclose. Be very suspicious of a front organisation with so much to hide.

          • Horatio Mortimer

            Rich coming from a pseudonym.

  • sarah_13

    I think you give Hugh Grant too much credit, I don’t think he cares.

  • Austin Barry

    As noted on Coffee House, I don’t think much of the fifth recital of the draft amended Charter which reads:

    “AND WHEREAS at the behest of Hugh Mungo Grant, our most loyal subject and fading actor, who did in Los Angeles, California in our former colony of America, enjoy the consumption of his male member by one Divine Brown, of which infomation did our newspapers enjoy in an unseemly manner much to Mr Grant’s displeasure;”

  • Neverwas

    Good but sadly I fear as much chance of success as King Canute.

    Part of the problem is the “something must be done” culture. When did you last see a review led by a lawyer which recommended doing nothing? They do not subscribe to the good old M&S maxim that “the price of perfection is prohibitive”. (The fact that the price so often includes a lot more fees for lawyers may of course be purely coincidental.) So Leveson was never going to take the line that all that was needed was better enforcement of existing laws – as argued by sensible people like Iain Hislop.

    • Martin Jennerson

      I would say Leveson also has a serious ego problem – judges, he in particular, are so used to being treated as the cleverest person in the room that they absolutely believe their own billing, and insist everyone else does too.

      • Neverwas

        Good point. Judges like Leveson LJ are used to deference from all around them.

  • tribalterror

    Unfortunately Hugh Grant is just another useful idiot

  • Chris

    La fold- So you want an election held every time there is an enquiry? We would never be done having elections.
    Catch yourself on

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