Why did it take them so long? The PCC ruling and Ruth Kelly
I suppose it was decorum which made the Press Complaints Commission deliberate so long over Ruth Kelly’s objection to a Mirror article. She complained to the PCC about an article published on January 8th. It said she had sent her child with learning difficulties to a private school. This was an unnecessary intrusion into the child’s ability to attend its new school, she said. It therefore breached the PCC’s code clause 6, she claimed.
Only on March 15th did the PCC reply. Its decision: “Not upheld.” In other words, no go Ruth.
It really was a bit of a no-brainer. A cabinet minister with previous responsibility for schools should have her decisions about her children’s schooling matched against her public policies.
The complaint was all part of the Labour Government’s steady pressure on the press. The Government wants to extend privacy to be as wide as it is in, for example, France. One of its first acts was to introduce the Human Rights Act. This includes an explicit privacy clause.
Some judges have taken this as a cue to develop a fully-blown privacy law through judgements such as against the Mirror, again, over the Naomi Campbell story.
The recent libel case brought by Sir Martin Sorrell was twinned with an action for breach of privacy. We’ll see more and more of this.
We won’t see the Government letting up either. But any plans to make the role of the PCC official and to create the equivalent of an Ofcom will be ditched by any serious politician.
If they want to cosy up to the likes of Murdoch they will not think of making the PCC anything but what it is: voluntary and run by the press for the press.
Because, strange to say, you get very little “invasion” of the “privacy” of press tycoons. They, after all, have powerful weapons with which to answer back.
But for ex-press tycoons, the rules are different. As “Lord” Conrad Black is now finding out.