No one can doubt, after the events of the past few weeks, that the corporate national newspapers – Mail, Sun, Express, Telegraph – are intent on bending our political institutions to their will, no matter what damage they cause.
By attacking the independence of the judiciary they threaten the rule of law. Their attempts to stifle Parliament strike at the roots of democracy. Their campaign against the governor of the Bank of England threatens the management of the economy. The BBC, the NHS, and our human rights are also in their sights.
Their methods are outrageous. They distort and lie; they personalise and abuse; they give encouragement to vile online campaigns of persecution and they mock the idea of freedom of expression by demanding that anyone who stands up to them is silenced.
We are back where we were before the Leveson Inquiry, in a world where unscrupulous newspaper companies considered themselves beyond accountability and free to trash whatever and whoever they disliked.
Our politicians are either afraid or unwilling to act, but we, the public, have one key opportunity to make a difference. We need to act now.
The Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, has launched a public consultation on regulation of the press (and the investigation of police and press corruption) and if enough of us send a strong enough message to her and to Parliament we may be able to make them put the public interest before the interests of thuggish newspapers.
The consultation asks whether the government should proceed with two measures it has been stalling on, one launching the second phase of the Leveson Inquiry (into press criminality and its cover up and into police collusion) and the other giving everyone in the country the right to affordable justice when their rights in libel and privacy are breached (as well as incentivizing the Royal Charter system).
Shockingly, although both were approved by both houses of Parliament, the government has delayed them coming into effect purely because of covert pressure from the big newspaper companies. The consultation has only been initiated because further delay was not legally possible.
Is it worth participating? Don’t we all know that consultations are usually mere smokescreens thrown up to palliate the public while the government does what it wants?
There can be no doubt that Karen Bradley has done all she can to stack her consultation the way she wants – or rather the way demanded by the owners of the Mail, the Sun and the rest.
But the press case is so outrageous, and the government’s position so shameful, that if we express our views and put our arguments plainly and in sufficient numbers Ms Bradley will find them hard to ignore. And if she tries to ignore them, we can convince enough MPs and peers in Parliament to make her change her mind.
One thing is sure: if we do nothing the big papers will get what they want and we will all be the losers.
So please sign up here to find out more about responding to the consultation so you can make your views known to the government.
The billionaires who own the big newspapers are resisting these measures because they WILL make a difference. Leveson Part Two will drag all of their criminal skeletons out of the cupboard and oblige them to clean up their act. A new public right of access to justice in libel and privacy cases is linked to improvements in regulation, making papers more accountable for their lies and bullying without politicians having any influence over what the press can write.
With these measures in place, change can begin.
So if you are worried about press abuses and press power in this country, please take this opportunity to change things for the better.