Jon Gaunt’s defeat is a blow against a British Fox News

Radio presenter loses legal attempt to defend “Nazi” slur.

I am not one of those who is disappointed that Jon Gaunt has lost his legal action aginst Ofcom, which upheld complaints against him after he described a local councillor as a "Nazi" during a radio interview.

Never mind Gaunt's opportunistic attempt to cite the Human Rights Act in his defence (there are few who have done more to demonise this law), there was simply no evidence that the ruling breached his right to free expression.

After all, it was not Ofcom that forced his departure, but his then employer, TalkSport (Gaunt now fronts the Sun's online radio station, SunTalk). And while, in my view, Gaunt has an absolute right to free speech, he does not have an inalienable right to broadcast his opinions on national radio.

Ofcom merely ruled that Gaunt's description of Councillor Michael Stark, who defended the local authority's decision to ban smokers from becoming foster parents, as a "Nazi", a "health Nazi" and an "ignorant pig" was offensive and unjustified.

But the Gaunt ruling is not just a defeat for the right-wing blowhard, it also a blow against the "Foxification" of UK news. Several tabloid journalists expressed the hope that a victory for Gaunt would clear the way for a more aggressive, opinionated form of broadcasting.

The Sun's Kelvin MacKenzie, for instance, wrote: "In a few weeks' time I expect my colleague and friend Jon Gaunt to win a major victory in the high court which will change the radio and TV landscape . . . with broadcasters allowed to express views for the first time."

MacKenzie added: "They might at last be able to make money out of news (at the moment they lose a fortune), just like Fox so successfully does in the United States."

But the threat is not over yet. In a speech tailor-made to woo the Murdoch empire, David Cameron promised that "Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist". So far, Cameron has shown little desire to act on this pledge, but the Gaunt case is a reminder, if needed, of why we need Ofcom.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.