20 July 2011
The truth of the proverb that it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good is playing out in Britain. A blast of fresh air has overturned the News of the World and blown from their positions a number of people connected to the phone hacking scandal. But much print and air time is now being given to the use and misuse of power, influence, transparency and privacy. Better processes should flow from that public consideration.
The Prime Minister has said the relationship between politicians and the media “must change” . He has pledged to be more open about meetings with media bosses and has said that Ministers and civil servants will be required to record all meetings with newspaper and media proprietors, senior editors and executives.
Mr Cameron, who has been criticised by the media for secret meetings with Mr Murdoch, has stated that “the relationship between politicians and the media must change and we must be more transparent too about meetings.” “What we need is some honesty about this issue…”
The PM proposes an amendment to Cabinet directions that will require Ministers to record all meetings with media representatives – regardless of the nature of the meeting. He indicated that a record of meetings civil servants and special advisers have with the media will be published quarterly, together with returns of expenses and hospitality.
But perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much. In May this year Transparency International (UK) published “Cabs for Hire. Fixing the revolving door between Government and Business” . This inquiry into the misuse of ministerial influence to promote interests represented by lobbyists got no response from Government. The outcome from the News of the World inquiries may have no greater impact.
And perhaps we should be concerned about the officer appointed to succeed the resigning Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner? She commanded the unit that fabricated a justification for shooting the innocent Brazilian commuter at the time of the London Bombers in July 2005. Her team repeatedly lied about de Menezes wearing a bulky jacket, running when challenged, leaping over the Tube barrier, and escaping onto a train. The tone at the top of the Met is clearly contaminated. Her appointment may do little to restore public trust.