Leveson Inquiry: Ian Hislop Demands Politicians Be Called To Explain Relationship With News International
David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown should be called before the Leveson Inquiry to answer questions about their relationship with News International, according to the editor of Private Eye.
In an entertaining if occasionally technical session, Ian Hislop referred to the "embedding" of the "Murdoch press" within Britain's political class.
"I hope you'll be calling the PM and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to explain how that comes down from the top," he said.
Through his evidence, Hislop's most stinging criticism was reserved for News International and the politicians who sought favour with the media giant.
Due to the close relationship enjoyed by the political class and the Murdoch press, Hislop argued, News International had "unbounded confidence to do as it liked."
"If the prime minister appoints the former News of the World editor as his communications director, News International will think 'We are top of the pile, nothing can stop us'".
When asked about his own relationship with politicians, Hislop admitted that he meets them socially, but he's never been to a "slumber party with one at Chequers" or appointed one to a position at Private Eye.
Making what he called "a plea for journalists and a free press", the Have I Got News For You panelist insisted that statutory regulation is not required.
"Phone hacking, paying police officers and being in contempt of court are already illegal... we have laws for phone hacking, but they are not properly prosecuted."
Hislop said that regulation did not stop the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone, or the reporting of Chris Jefferies, who was arrested as part of the Jo Yeates murder investigation, making the point that these practices were "already illegal".
"Any inquiry needs to find out why none of these things were enforced," he said.
The press should be held to account by the law and by the people who buy the papers, said Hislop, adding that newspapers that print untrue stories lose credibility and therefore readers.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, countered by suggesting that readers bought the now defunct News of the World as it was "informative and entertaining".
"You're probably right," said Hislop.
On the issue of public interest versus private right, Hislop used the "draconian privacy laws in France" as an exemplar of the dangers of over-regulation, suggesting that the French public are now "catching up on two decades of news" as everything down to the contents of public officials' bank accounts are considered private.