Come the New Jerusalem, when I am elected Divine Leader, I shall abolish all Public Inquiries as a complete waste of time and space. They are excruciatingly boring, and for the most part, they tell us nothing we didn’t already know.
Take the Saville Inquiry, which lasted the best part of ten years and cost the taxpayer in the region of £300 million. And we all knew the outcome – there was fault on both sides – end of story. Then we had the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq war. Can anybody tell me if it’s still going on, or have they drawn stumps? And again, we all know the outcome – it was an illegal war, there were no weapons of mass destruction, but it removed a Middle Eastern loose cannon, and having sown the wind, we have reaped the whirlwind.
And now we have the Leveson Inquiry. Let’s get one thing straight that has been annoying me from the outset. Lord Justice Leveson is not Lord Leveson, he is Sir Brian Leveson, a Lord Justice of Appeal, and no doubt a thoroughly decent man with the patience of Job. When he’s in court, he’s addressed as My Lord. Out of court, he’s good old Sir Brian.
That said, I have real doubts about his remit and what he hopes to achieve. The little I have seen of the proceedings makes watching paint dry almost exciting, and the lead barrister for the Inquiry looks as if he’s spent the night before on a park bench.
I suspect Lord Justice Leveson will need the wisdom of Solomon to address the primary issue of investigative journalism, namely how far can and should a journalist go for a good story. He is bound to get it in the neck whatever his pontifications. How can anybody, even with the wisdom of Solomon, decide when the Press and the Media are right or wrong to pursue a hot lead? He can, and no doubt, will, lay down certain rules to limit intrusive investigative journalism, but he cannot, and should not, go beyond this, and rightly not. It is the judgment not of Solomon or Leveson, but the judgment of the editor, and he must be the final arbiter. As with any controversial decisions, he may be held to account if his journalists overstep the mark, bu that’s why he’s in the job.
Time and space do not allow for a review of recent headline grabbing revelations that would not otherwise be in the public domain without investigative journalism. For my part, I couldn’t give two hoots about Simon Cowell’s love life, or the number of times Ryan Giggs has played away, but I do give two hoots, and more, about MPs’ expenses, or back street abortions, or donations for favours, or genital mutilation, or cricket match fixing, or the dozens of other stories that would not have seen the light of day without investigative journalism.
So I say to Lord Justice Leveson and his rag bag camp followers, come the New Jerusalem, you’ll be out of a job, and it’s back to the coal face.