Mail declares war on Leveson and warns of left-wing 'coup'
Paper accuses 'liberal Establishment' of putting freedom of speech under threat
THE DAILY MAIL has today unleashed a ferocious broadside at the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, just days before Lord Justice Leveson is expected to reveal his findings.
In a full-on 11-page assault on the inquiry process and the figures involved, the paper, whose editor Paul Dacre (above) appeared twice before Leveson, presents the inquiry as a "coup by the Left's old boy network" and a serious threat to free speech in Britain.
At the centre of the storm is Sir David Bell, one of a six-strong panel assisting Leveson on his report into how best to regulate the British press. He, and other members of the panel, are painted as members of a left-wing elite who heavily influenced the inquiry and who back state regulation of the press, something the Mail is implacably opposed to.
The paper begins the takedown by linking Bell to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is under heavy fire over its involvement in the botched Newsnight report that falsely implicated Lord McAlpine in a child sex scandal, and led to the resignation of BBC Director General George Entwistle. Bell is a trustee of the now-tainted organisation.
The Mail also implies that Bell has connections to the Hacked Off campaign, fronted by celebrities including Charlotte Church and Hugh Grant, which has campaigned for strict press regulations. The paper says the group was "spawned" from the Media Standards Trust, a lobby group co-founded by Bell.
The paper boasts that its investigation into Bell "has uncovered evidence that questions both his suitability as an adviser and the impact this may have had on the objectivity and neutrality of the Inquiry".
In a series of articles, the paper links Bell and other members of the Leveson panel to two more of its betes noires, Ofcom and Common Purpose, and attacks the liberal elite it feels is driving the agenda.
Ofcom, the media watchdog, is described as "the classic New Labour quango... the apotheosis of the party's obsession with controlling the media". While Common Purpose is painted as "the Left's answer to the old boys' network".
"Like some giant octopus, Common Purpose's tentacles appear to reach into every cranny of the inner sanctums of Westminster, Whitehall and academia — bodies that often view Britain's unruly, disruptive press with disdain and distrust," rages the Mail.
But amid the sound and fury, the Mail still finds time to soft-soap Lord Leveson, the man who will present his findings and could recommend statutory regulation of press. He is "a man of integrity who has conducted his inquiry with impartiality," insists the Mail.
However it implies that the Leveson Inquiry became a trial of the British media and that many of the jurors and witnesses have a "powerful shared antipathy" towards the “defendant”.
The Mail's explosive coverage linking Leveson to the crisis at the BBC and a shadowy "liberal Establishment" will be catnip to its audience. However, as many media observers have pointed out, the Mail has a history with Leveson, and has repeatedly fired pot-shots at the inquiry and those witnesses demanding state regulation of the media.
Private Eye, for example, has been reporting for months that the Mail is aware that it will be singled out for harsh criticism in Leveson's final report into journalistic standards. The paper's editor Paul Dacre was recalled to the inquiry after he accused another witness, actor Hugh Grant, of "mendacious smears". There is no love lost between the Mail and Leveson. The paper is getting its revenge in first.