The PCC is not fit to regulate blogs

This discredited body would not act as an impartial regulator

On Monday the alarming news emerged that Baroness Buscombe, the new chair of the Press Complaints Commission, is considering extending the PCC's remit to cover the blogosphere.

"Some of the bloggers are now creating their own ecosystems which are quite sophisticated," she told the Independent's media editor, Ian Burrell. "Is the reader of those blogs assuming that it's news, and is [the blogosphere] the new newspapers? It's a very interesting area and quite challenging."

In response, the Liberal Conspiracy blogger "Unity" has drafted an open letter to the commission, warning against any intervention.

Here's the key passage:

While we are grateful for your interest in our activities we must regretfully decline your kind offer of future PCC regulation. Frankly, we do not feel that the further development of blogging as an interactive medium that facilitates the free exchange of ideas and opinions will benefit from regulation by a body representing an industry with, in the main, substantially lower ethical standards and practices than those already practised by the vast majority of established British bloggers.

The PCC's status as the self-regulatory body of the newspaper industry undermines any ambition it has to act as an impartial regulator of the blogosphere.

Many of the newspaper editors who sit on the PCC (including the Mail on Sunday's Peter Wright and the Sunday Telegraph's Ian MacGregor) have a vested interest in penalising those bloggers who highlight their papers' misdemeanours.

It is disingenuous to present bloggers as entirely unregulated. Those who wish to challenge claims made on blogs already have recourse to Britain's draconian libel laws (as many have learned to their cost).

If Baroness Buscombe wants to salvage the reputation of an increasingly discredited institution she would be wise not to make any more concrete proposals.


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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.