The press is throwing a toddler's tantrum over Leveson

Much of the press seems to be belly-down on the supermarket floor, punching the linoleum, kicking out and screaming WAAH WAAH BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE REGULATED. Here are ten truths the media needs to hear.

Recently I read some advice on dealing with a toddler’s tantrum. Try to ignore it, was the suggestion, by walking into another room. If ignoring doesn’t work, say something like “Time to stop now – I’ll count to 10”.

Much of the press seems to be belly-down on the supermarket floor, punching the linoleum, kicking out and screaming WAAH WAAH BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE REGULATED. Ignoring hasn’t worked, so . . .

ONE – The lack of self-reflection is truly staggering. The Leveson process is not something which was done to us. Nobody woke up one morning and thought “I know what I’ll do today – curtail the freedom of the press.” This is something entirely caused by the industry being, on the whole, out of control; engaging in occasionally illegal and often unethical practices. Take responsibility.

TWO – We had several chances at self-regulation which was not independently assessed and externally supervised. We made a complete arse of it. To ask for yet another round of the same sounds like an abusive alcoholic promising never to beat their spouse again, bathed in the light of the X-rays of their partner's latest fractures. The credibility, goodwill and trust necessary for self-regulation to work are just not there.

THREE – Attacking the individuals involved in the Hacked Off campaign with ad hominem and below-the-belt articles, only serves to prove the point that regulation is necessary now as much as ever. It is like waiting round the back of the school to beat up the kid who reported you for bullying. Publishing articles illustrated with Hugh Grant photoshopped to look like a pig only serves to make journalists look stupid and petty. Not to mention that, annoyingly, Grant makes the whole porky thing work and is still pretty sexy as a pig-man.

For comparison, here is a pig with the nose of Hugh Grant.

FOUR – Regulation of professional standards is part of modern life. Embrace it. Every profession on the eve of regulation has warned that it will be destroyed be it. None, that I can think of, has. Many have been reputationally enhanced. We keep complaining that we are crowded out by social media and blogs. A system of kitemarking quality, standards and ethics could be the unique selling point the industry desperately needs.

FIVE – Publications owned by Murdoch, the Barclay brothers and Lord Rothermere complaining that the Hacked Off campaign has secretly lobbied politicians is off the irony scale. Hacked Off’s agenda is completely public. They are saying what they have been saying all along, to anyone willing to listen. To claim that this somehow is tantamount to, for instance - a secret and unminuted tea date or dinner party with the Prime Minister on the eve of launching a huge takeover bid - is ridiculous.

SIX – If you wish to preserve your independence, you could start by demonstrating it. For example, you could do a hard-hitting piece investigating how and why David Cameron has arrived at his current position after promising to implement the Leveson proposals in full, unless they were “bonkers”. By not taking up the opportunity – because it is against the industry’s interests – and toeing the editorial line, you demonstrate the opposite of independence.

SEVEN – Prove your talent for factual and balanced reporting with factual and balanced reporting. Calling what is proposed “statutory regulation”, when you know it is not and everyone knows it is not and everyone knows that you know it is not, does not do you any favours. Stop claiming the world will cave in if this is allowed. Nobody believes it.

EIGHT – Listen to your professional union. "It is hugely ironic that those owners and editors who vehemently opposed Leveson's recommendations for an independent regulatory system, have so lost perspective in the collective hysteria that has gripped them in recent months, that they've colluded in a Royal Charter fudge that could risk opening the door to future political meddling in our press.”

NINE – Understand change. Invariably the players who do best in a situation where change is necessary are the ones who accept it the earliest and get involved in contributing to how it might best come about. Heckling and sulking is the worst possible strategy in a climate where public opinion is overwhelmingly – and rightly – in favour of change.

TEN – Most importantly, please stop suggesting that campaigners, by allegedly bullying politicians, have “become what they despised”. First, this involves an admission that the industry does bully politicians.

Second, you may intend to aim the slur at Hugh Grant, but the buckshot hits people like the Dowlers and the McCanns and Chris Jefferies – and they have suffered enough in this industry’s hands.

Campaigning for a piece of legislation is not the same as taking long-lens shots of families in grief at a funeral. It is not the same as naming an innocent person as a murderer based on no evidence. It is not the same as accusing the parents of a kidnapped girl of killing her; getting a paediatrician's home spray-painted with the word "paedo" after the Name and Shame campaign. It is not the same as hiding a note in a five-year-old’s schoolbag to browbeat her novelist mother into giving an interview. It is not the same as hacking a dead girl’s phone. This is the behaviour that has brought us to this point – not campaigners. Our behaviour.

Time to stop now.

Hugh Grant: more attractive without the pig snout, but only just. Photo: Getty

Greek-born, Alex Andreou has a background in law and economics. He runs the Sturdy Beggars Theatre Company and blogs here You can find him on twitter @sturdyalex

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

No, the battle in Momentum isn't about young against old

Jon Lansman and his allies' narrative doesn't add up, argues Rida Vaquas.

If you examined the recent coverage around Momentum, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was headed towards an acrimonious split, judging by the vitriol, paranoia and lurid accusations that have appeared online in the last couple days. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that this divide was between a Trotskyist old guard who can’t countenance new ways of working, and hip youngsters who are filled with idealism and better at memes. You might then be incredibly bemused as to how the Trotskyists Momentum was keen to deny existed over the summer have suddenly come to the brink of launching a ‘takeover bid’.

However these accounts, whatever intentions or frustrations that they are driven by, largely misrepresent the dispute within Momentum and what transpired at the now infamous National Committee meeting last Saturday.

In the first instance, ‘young people’ are by no means universally on the side of e-democracy as embodied by the MxV online platform, nor did all young people at the National Committee vote for Jon Lansman’s proposal which would make this platform the essential method of deciding Momentum policy.

Being on National Committee as the representative from Red Labour, I spoke in favour of a conference with delegates from local groups, believing this is the best way to ensure local groups are at the forefront of what we do as an organisation.

I was nineteen years old then. Unfortunately speaking and voting in favour of a delegates based conference has morphed me into a Trotskyist sectarian from the 1970s, aging me by over thirty years.

Moreover I was by no means the only young person in favour of this, Josie Runswick (LGBT+ representative) and the Scottish delegates Martyn Cook and Lauren Gilmour are all under thirty and all voted for a delegates based national conference. I say this to highlight that the caricature of an intergenerational war between the old and the new is precisely that: a caricature bearing little relation to a much more nuanced reality.

Furthermore, I believe that many people who voted for a delegates-based conference would be rather astounded to find themselves described as Trotskyists. I do not deny that there are Trotskyists on National Committee, nor do I deny that Trotskyists supported a delegates-based conference – that is an open position of theirs. What I do object is a characterisation of the 32 delegates who voted for a delegates-based conference as Trotskyists, or at best, gullible fools who’ve been taken in.  Many regional delegates were mandated by the people to whom they are accountable to support a national conference based on this democratic model, following broad and free political discussion within their regions. As thrilling as it might be to fantasise about a sinister plot driven by the shadow emperors of the hard Left against all that it is sensible and moderate in Momentum, the truth is rather more mundane. Jon Lansman and his supporters failed to convince people in local groups of the merits of his e-democracy proposal, and as a result lost the vote.

I do not think that Momentum is doomed to fail on account of the particular details of our internal structures, providing that there is democracy, accountability and grassroots participation embedded into it. I do not think Momentum is doomed to fail the moment Jon Lansman, however much respect I have for him, loses a vote. I do not even think Momentum is doomed to fail if Trotskyists are involved, or even win sometimes, if they make their case openly and convince others of their ideas in the structures available.

The existential threat that Momentum faces is none of these things, it is the propagation of a toxic and polarised political culture based on cliques and personal loyalties as opposed to genuine political discussion on how we can transform labour movement and transform society. It is a political culture in which those opposed to you in the organisation are treated as alien invaders hell-bent on destroying it, even when we’ve worked together to build it up, and we worked together before the Corbyn moment even happened. It is a political culture where members drag others through the mud, using the rhetoric of the Right that’s been used to attack all of us, on social and national media and lend their tacit support to witch hunts that saw thousands of Labour members and supporters barred from voting in the summer. It is ultimately a political culture in which our trust in each other and capacity to work together on is irreparably eroded.

We have a tremendous task facing us: to fight for a socialist alternative in a global context where far right populism is rapidly accruing victories; to fight for the Labour Party to win governmental power; to fight for a world in which working class people have the power to collectively change their lives and change the societies we live in. In short: there is an urgent need to get our act together. This will not be accomplished by sniping about ‘saboteurs’ but by debating the kind of politics we want clearly and openly, and then coming together to campaign from a grassroots level upwards.

Rida Vaquas is Red Labour Representative on Momentum National Committee.