What Leveson Should Ask Alastair Campbell This Morning

The Leveson Inquiry has summoned the top UK political blogger, 'Guido Fawkes' - here's what he has to say on the matter

Alistair Campbell and Paul Staines have been a focus of the inquiry this week
Paul Staines
On 30 November 2011 09:53

Earlier this week, prolific blogger Paul 'Guido Fawkes' Staines was summoned before the Leveson Inquiry on the British media hacking scandal. He posted a draft of a statement by the former Prime Minister Tony Blair's Communications Director, Alastair Campbell, and was ordered to remove it from his blog. Here is what he has to say on the matter:

Protecting confidential sources is crucial to the functioning of a free press. Be in no doubt that the freedom of the press is under attack in Britain. The political class are getting revenge for being exposed as expense fiddling fraudsters.

Celebrities like Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan are angry for revenge because their misbehaviour has been making the tabloid front pages. The rich and the powerful want a privacy law to shield their wrong doing from being exposed. They are exploiting widespread revulsion at the hacking of murdered young Milly Dowler’s mobile phone and other tabloid excesses to advance press regulation.

On Friday, I spoke with a London broadsheet journalist about having obtained Campbell’s draft evidence. To my surprise he told me “we have it already”. On Monday, in the course of being interviewed about the summons by another journalist from a rival London broadsheet newspaper, he told me that he personally knew one journalist to whom Alastair Campbell himself had emailed the draft “weeks ago” for their opinion.

I went back to the source the judge wants me to name and he too said the draft was in wide circulation - my source incidentally is also a journalist.

It would seem that half the journalists in London had a copy of Alastair Campbell’s draft evidence and the leak could be traced all the way back to the arch-press-manipulator himself. The reason they wouldn’t publish it is because they feared legal repercussions. This is the chilling effect of giving politically appointed judges the power to make editorial judgements.

I published Campbell’s evidence because it was a damned good story with substance. My editorial judgement was that it was in the public interest for Mr Campbell’s full allegations to see the light of day. Damn the consequences.

Lord Justice Leveson should ask Alastair Campbell if in fact he is the original source of the leak. It wasn’t a breach of computer security from the Inquiry’s lawyers, that is for sure. The documents had not been legalled - sueing” isn’t a lawyer’s spelling.

If Britain goes down the route of a privacy law and statutory regulation of the press, judges will be empowered to be censors. It is already happening.

I was ordered to remove the story from my blog. I watched as lawyers at the Inquiry made televised menacing threats. That kind of threatening legal regime will be a boon for Dublin, and the social media industries of the future will not leave America and the protections of the First Amendment for London.

The owners of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will look at London where judge-made media privacy laws and a ruinous libel culture are becoming oppressive and decide to go to Dublin where we have a more reasonable legal regime. On Thursday if it goes badly for me with the judge, this new media entrepreneur will be going home to Ireland permanently.

Paul Staines is the editor of the Guido Fawkes blog at www.order-order.com and he tweets at: @GuidoFawkes

blog comments powered by Disqus