Yesterday David Cameron climbed down and agreed to the demands of Labour, the Lib Dems and Hacked off Campaigners like Hugh Grant (who was not at the time getting a blow job from a roadside hooker) and has agreed to State regulation of the press. Indeed it is worse than that since the new body set up will also cover anyone who publishes news related information in the UK. So that might get my Dad involved. The Shipston on Stour Parish newsletter is within the scope of this new legislation and should my father wish to moralise about the domestic arrangements of local celebs Tessa Jowell MP and David Mills, now happy reconciled as of one week after she stepped down from front line politics, Jowell could in theory report my poor father to the new regulator. And any blog is potentially within this remit if its primary discussion matter is news related – which includes celebs and hookers.
The press were not involved in agreeing the new Royal Charter and oppose it. But most big news organisations will eventually sign up to the code although the Telegraph appears to be. If you do not and the political stooges who manage it find you have breached you could face company destroying damages. And as things stand you may have to pay damages if you are hauled before the new body and found innocent.
This is therefore a fundamental assault not just on the press but on free speech.
It is a sad day. It will make it easier for the same MPs who have pushed through this legislation to lie, cheat and steal. It will make it easier for celebs to portray one image and get you to buy their merchandise while doing whatever they wish on the side. It will make it less likely that the crimes of future Jimmy Savile’s, expense fiddling MPs, hooker using politicians (Archer) or celebs (Grant) will be exposed. It truly marks an acceleration towards the world of Airstrip One.
However, I do have a question though in terms of how this measure will work. Is Guido and the Order Order website covered? Guido is an Irish citizen and his website (which has nailed many a bent MP) is owned offshore and its servers are offshore. While Guido (aka Paul Staines) and his co-writer live in London and so write in London in what sense is his website “publishing in the UK” . The Royal Charter says that it is because the majority of the content is aimed at a UK audience. Well that is not hard. Guido can simply hire an Irish staff writer to cover corrupt thieving Irish politicians and ensure that 50.1% of the content is from him or her. Chuck in the odd piece about corrupt or thieving EU politicians (again plenty of source material there) and it would seem to evade the rules.
In case Jim Ellerton is reading this, TomWinnifrith.com is owned by me (a UK resident) and is hosted in the UK and so clearly will be covered. But, as I again discuss with my partner, the possibility of moving overseas for much of the year and thus becoming an overseas resident I could, at that stage, decide to move to a server in, say, Albania. At that point would I be publishing in the United Kingdom? If I started writing a lot of content about life in Albania or Greece such that 50.1% of my content was about the Balkans or global issues (like global cooling or EU corruption) would I be covered? Almost certainly no. Perhaps I can fluff it out with some syndicated material from my first love Abbe Aronson, about lesbian nightlife in upstate New York? I am sure that this would attract some new readers and would clearly get me round the proposed ruling.
At that stage the NY Times can run a story about a bent MP which Guido and TomWinnifrith.com can also run but which UK Newspapers and bloggers will fear to run under our new draconian Orwell laws. And so I ask the question will this work? I think that it will not. I may not move to Greece after all. But there will be blogs and websites that will escape the new ruling.
This legislation is driven by a desire for vengeance from celebs and politicians who have been exposed for various matters. It will make Britain a less free place. But it will not save them should they offend again. No website that I am involved in will be signing up to this code and, if anything this will make me more aggressive in what I write.