Does anyone outside the Westminster village give a damn about Leveson?

by Peter Watt

People are suffering out there.  Families’ finances are under pressure as prices rise while their incomes remain static.  The numbers who are unemployed keeps rising and the fear of losing your job is very real for many more.

It manifests itself in small ways for many families, perhaps the occasional meal out has stopped.  Or the much loved and deserved annual holiday has been downgraded or cancelled.  The car costs more to fill up and that credit card bill suddenly seems a real worry as money runs out sooner in the month than it did.  The news is full of rumblings of worse to come as the dark clouds of possible Euro meltdown gather.  It all adds to up to a great deal of worry that is being quietly borne in millions of homes across the country.

People don’t expect to be told “it will all be alright” by their politicians.  And even if politicians did say that they wouldn’t be believed anyway.  But they have every right to expect that politicians are working tirelessly for them and on their behalf.

So imagine how you must have felt this week as you realised that there was still a couple of weeks to go until pay-day and the kids needed new shoes or the tax on the car was due.  And then you flicked on the news and saw that once again the entire political class appeared to have its collective head stuck up its own arse once again!

The Leveson Inquiry, is a political geeks fantasy.  I have to confess to being addicted to it and avidly consume every titillating morsel.  This week has been a classic with John Major revealing he was asked to change his Europe policy; Gordon Brown “forgetting” he had ever authorised attacks on other members of his party and then seemingly being contradicted by Ed Miliband.  And that is before David Cameron takes his turn.  It has been compelling viewing and reading for those of us who like our political drama and intrigue.

But I suspect that for many, many more, the vast majority, it is barely noticed, or is a hugely embarrassing waste of time and money.

The issues at hand may well be important but we really do need to get a grip.  This week, while a €100 billion bailout is failing to save the Spanish economy, Syria burns and large parts of the UK are under water; the prime minister, chancellor, deputy prime minister, Scottish first minister, two ex-prime ministers and the leader and deputy Leader of the Labour party were all appearing in front of Lord Justice Leveson.

And last week half of the cabinet seemed to be there!  Presumably they have all taken plenty of time to get prepped before their appearances to ensure each had the appropriate levels of amnesia!

The real issue is that you would be forgiven for thinking that our political lords and masters were a little distracted from running the country.

But never fear, surely the Labour party would be battling to get the concerns of millions of voters out in the open?   They certainly wouldn’t be distracted from fighting for people across the country struggling to make ends meet.  But oh no; on Wednesday we had a much hyped opposition day debate on Jeremy Hunt.

Hours of fun were had as pundits speculated and spluttered.  Ministerial code this and quasi-judicial that.  Should he stay or should he go?  Ed Miliband and the PM rowed during the warm up at PMQ’s over whether or not an investigation should be ordered into Mr Hunt.

Harriet Harman and Jeremy Hunt traded insults and then there was a row over whether or not anyone could call Mr Hunt a liar.  The Lib Dems “honourably” abstained, MPs were bussed in from hospitals, flown back from Iraq and interrupted their honeymoons.

And then the House voted in Mr Hunt’s favour.  All on the same day that there were reports of Rebekah Brooks’ appearance in court as half the Met continue to investigate journalists.

People not obsessed by this political soap-opera, the vast majority after all, must look on and think “what a joke”.  It’s not that the issues aren’t serious or important because they are.  It’s just that it feels very much like our politicians think that Leveson, News International and Rupert Murdoch are more important than anything else.  If only they could get quite as exercised over {insert real problem here} then at least we might feel that they were trying on our behalf.

But maybe I am being unfair.  Apparently the Tories may seek revenge on the Lib Dems abstention by dropping Nick Clegg’s House of Lords reform!  You can feel the gladdening of hearts of suffering families across the land already!

Peter Watt was general secretary of the Labour party

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13 Responses to “Does anyone outside the Westminster village give a damn about Leveson?”

  1. PlatoSays says:

    I had my head in my hands yesterday – ALL SIX PMQs from EdM about Hunt/Leveson?

    And then a debate, they lost. Without the LDs!

    And Bercow deciding its okay for MPs to call another a liar, without providing any evidence when challenged to do so – yet none of the clerks can recall when that was last allowed?

    PeterMannionMP got it right on Twitter – now we should be able to call The Speaker a ‘sanctimonious dwarf’.

  2. Anon E Mouse says:


  3. Stephen Boyle says:

    Great Piece and for me yep it matters. Le’ts make sure our political classes get the message that its about representing the people and not yourself and your interests. Bit of a far fetched ideal maybe, but I need to know the truth…..

  4. Henrik says:

    You can enjoy the Leveson taradiddle on a superficial level – it’s extraordinarily entertaining and elicits real Schadenfreude to see some of the political second-raters blinking like rabbits in headlights as Mrs Milliband’s Head of Chambers fillets them.

    That said, given that I also watch 8 out of 10 Cats or HIGNFY for the same purpose – entertainment – my sense of the significance of Leveson is identical. I couldn’t give a toss.

    I’ve more or less assumed, all my adult life, that the media and political classes were intimately entwined and I certainly don’t feel that my opinions are moved too much be the media – I think I understand where each major media outlet (including the BBC) is coming from and I aim off accordingly.

    It’s a huge insult to the generally intelligent folk of this country to assume that they blindly follow whatever, say, the Sun or the Guardian tells them to think and how to vote.

  5. Paul says:

    Maybe Leveson is just easier to deal with by the political leaders than the real problems they need to fix, so it is an attractive comfortable place for them to focus their time as the big “too hard” issues get forgotten.

    In meantime @PlatoSays , some people may think the Speaker is sanctimonious, but his height has nothing to do with that and using any medical condition as an insult is not helpful to those people who really have that condition.

  6. Tim says:

    Just because Leveson is not all that important to a lot of us does not mean that it does not have its place. It does. It’s all too easy to dismiss absolutely anything by playing it off against the top priorities.

    Many people who lose their jobs will be forced to claim benefits. It is in their interests to be satisfied that politicians are not colluding with the likes of Murdoch to bring about hateful headlines and articles about ‘benefit scroungers,’ amongst other things.

  7. rob says:

    i suspect that most don’t care about Leveson, in the same way that most don’t really care about politics in general due to the (lack of serious) reporting of it in the media.

    So what’s your solution? Not everybody has time to trawl for information on the internet and rely on the main media to give them factual knowledge to help them decide, when they can be bothered, which way to vote or give them an idea on the issues that concern them.

    What makes me laugh is the number of people on Twitter that go on any particular #hashtag just to say they are so bored with the subject, being going on soooo long and it should stop now – a sort of would be censorship from the apathetic – hilarious.

    The Leveson Inquiry is important because it has made the general public more aware of the failings of police, media & politicians acting in collusion. If only the reform of the police services comes out of it then it will have been worthwhile. I don’t expect much from politicians and the media (with some exceptions) and they haven’t let me down in that regard so far. They will press on regardless banking on the apathy as nuanced in the title of this piece.

  8. gill says:

    I am with Tim on this one. The insidious political influence of moguls like the Murdochs cannot be underestimated. It has pervaded British society and individual minds for decades. I believe the main thrust of its effect has been to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. How much more important can it get !

  9. rob says:

    Forgot to ad in my comment above 1:27 pm

    If anyone has any doubt as to the importance of The Leveson Inquiry I would suggest they read up on the Daniel Morgan murder case and the botched attempts to bring anyone to justice. All the elements of collusion and corruption to defeat the course of justice are involved. If you are not interested then God (choose your own equivalent) help us all.

  10. Rallan says:

    “And then you flicked on the news and saw that once again the entire political class appeared to have its collective head stuck up its own arse once again!”

    And all at an exorbitant cost to the tax payer at a time of economic crisis.

  11. It doesn't add up... says:


    Dwarf in politics is more a question of intellect than stature.

  12. Stephen W says:

    Peter is exactly right. I despair. The economy is in recession again, the Eurozone may be on the verge of collapse, and there is no sight of good times ahead, only years of more pain and grief.

    And all our leaders and overlords of every party can do is go on and on about whether some idiot politician was entirely honest about some media fatcat’s attempt to get a bit fatter. I know politicians are obssessed with their media profile but no one else frankly cares.

    It’s sickening. Absolutely sickening.

  13. Politics is never a fair game. They make a life out of saying things which they dont mean and pretending in front of the media. The economy looks alright at the moment. But we can never say what is going to happen in the future now..can we?

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