A new regulatory regime could “take away the feeding tube” from the press, Andrew Marr has told the Leveson Inquiry.
The former BBC political editor said today the industry is in a “very parlous state” with many papers losing money and online news becoming more popular. In contrast, he said, political bloggers are an “influential new thing” breaking down the distinction between political players and professional journalists.
Marr played down his previous description of bloggers as “inadequate, pimpled and single”, saying they are an important part of political reporting.
He told Lord Justice Leveson the gap between state control of the press and a free-for-all was a “new place to build something” but admitted he struggled to see what it would look like.
Referring to the superinjunction taken out by Marr in 2008, the judge said he was thinking about a structure where “independent regulation could flourish and the sort of speedy, easy access to a remedy which is not available as you yourself have found”.
Marr admitted he had gone to the courts because the perception is the Press Complaints Commission is not “strong enough, fast enough or powerful enough”. The injunction was voluntarily lifted by Marr last year.
He said: “I think putting to one side whether it was the right decision [to take out an injunction] very few journalists in any position would go to the PCC if they were looking for swift redress or help.”
He later added: “Though it has had many fine chairmen it’s not exactly the Waffen SS.”
When asked by Carine Patry Hoskins, inquiry counsel, about his questioning of Gordon Brown over his health in 2009, Marr said it was “not a moment in my career I look back on with enormous enthusiasm and pride”.
Marr, who questioned the then prime minister over his ailing eyesight and use of prescription painkillers, said the interview had been “pushing at the edges but legitimate in the circumstances”.
He added: “I wouldn’t ask the question again. Mainly because I felt we had got some very good information and stories out of that interview. Mr Brown had made some big concessions and made some very serious sounding threats about bankers’ bonuses. Those were the headlines I thought would come out.”
Marr told the inquiry without “wining and dining” between journalists and politicians, the public would not have found out about the difficulties between Tony Blair and Brown.
He said the Labour Party made a decision to keep Rupert Murdoch and News International journalists “onside”, adding, “from the outside it felt cold and chilly not to be part of that group”.