|Lord Justice Damns Inquiry|
|Written by Michael Collins|
|Thursday, 31 May 2012|
The head of the Leveson Inquiry acted like a Tony Blair groupie at Monday's hearing where Blair testified. Leveson asked Blair o help prepare the final report and recommendations on press policies. What did the justice forget? Blair was subordinate to and proxy for Rupert Murdoch, the man whose media properties stimulated the current inquiry through extraordinary bad behavior.
By Michael Collins
Lord Justice Leveson:
2 So whatever assistance you can give, who have
If things had ended there, this could be seen as a modest invitation, one Leveson might have offered any number of witnesses as a general courtesy. But the justice was not finished. He outlined specific issues covering five pages of transcript.
This was no a casual request. We witnessed the supposedly objective judge of press excesses recruiting a former politician who had just spent several hours intermittently bemoaning to Queen's Counsel (QC) Robert Jay just how difficult it was for him to deal with the press.
During previous testimony, QC Jay had outlined events and actions suggesting that Blair traded regulatory favors for editorial support by the Murdoch publications. Also, Blair testified that his wife had initiated thirty separate legal actions (of varying degree) due to what Mrs. Blair saw as abusive press coverage aimed at her.
Nevertheless, Blair was asked to suggest an independent regulatory authority to provide "redress" for victims of press excesses. He was asked to suggest how such a regulatory body would be structured and the types of people who might man it to make sure the press doesn't harm public figures.
Leveson mentioned the need for "prior notification" as a key function of the independent regulatory body. In this context, the justice was referring to stories with a set of tough allegations that could be run by the subjects prior to publication.
Lord Justice Leveson:
10 ... One
Prior to Leveson initiating the extended colloquy, Queen's Counsel Robert Jay had examined Blair on specific topics. For example, Jay outlined a set of events and statements suggesting that Blair had exchanged regulatory favor in return for political support. Jay even asked the former Prime Minister if some of his actions were to "curry favor" with Murdoch.
In the past, Jay has saved his best evidence and most pointed questions until the end of testimony. But Monday, Leveson simply cut him off and began his extended exchange with Blair. Then the justice abruptly ended the hearing without asking Jay if there were any more questions.
Leveson extended the offer of collaboration to Blair despite his stated hostility to the press, the litigious impulses of Mrs. Blair for perceived affronts, and Blair's close personal relationship with Murdoch.
Did it occur to Lord Justice Leveson that by offering Blair special input he was providing special favor to the man whose newspapers had committed the atrocious, illegal acts that inspired the hearings in the first place?
Who will take any findings from Leveson's efforts seriously?
In particular, who can take any findings regarding the influence of the media on politics seriously as it covers the Blair years in power?
What moved Leveson to this act of self-sabotage?
Is he a "fit and proper" head of the inquiry?
See, Help me decide future of press, Leveson asks Blair, Oliver Wright, The Independent, May 29, 2012 and the excellent comment by Independent readers.
Originally published at OpEd News.Copyright © 2012, Michael Collins. Reprinted with the permission of the author. This article may be reproduced in part or whole with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.
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