POLITICS

Is Hacked Off's Brian Cathcart's Reputation As A 'Politician' And A 'Suburban Mussolini' Deserved?

18/03/2013 13:06 GMT | Updated 18/03/2013 14:20 GMT

Without doubt, the media-friendly face of the campaign for statute-backed regulation of the press belongs to luvvie actor and phone-hacking victim, Hugh Grant.

But behind the scenes, in Hacked Off's volcanic lair off the coast of Hawaii, sinisterly stroking a variety of pampered pussies, is one Brian Cathcart.

In actual fact, Grant himself described Hacked Off HQ in central London as "a few dandruffy professors sitting in a cheap office", far from the Bond-esque villain that recent vitriol suggests.

brian cathcart

Cathcart has also written books about the murders of Stephen Lawrence, Jill Dando, and the history of nuclear science

Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University London, is a homely-looking, bespectacled gent and co-founder of Hacked Off.

A former Reuters, Independent and New Statesman journalist, Cathcart was also a specialist adviser to the Commons media select committee between 2008 and 2010.

His current stance on press regulation as a champion of statutory underpinning, however, has earned him much ire from a number of directions in recent weeks.

Nick Cohen, writing in the Observer on Sunday described him as a "priggish, lower-middle manager" and a "suburban Mussolini"; former Tory MP Louise Mensch tweeted today that he should own up to being "a politician".

A former colleague of Cathcart's at the New Statesman told the Huffington Post UK that he is "very vain and will be loving the luvvy aspect of it all".

But friends say the academic is "devoted" to fighting against the abuse of power by newspaper owners and editors.

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Cohen, nevertheless, despairs at Cathcart's willingness to lobby against the values he, as a journalist, should be upholding.

He said of Hacked Off: "It has no democratic structures, no means by which its supporters can hold the hierarchy to account.

"It is not only Cathcart who has lost his bearings in this heady atmosphere."

Speaking earlier today, at Hacked Off's press conference, Cathcart said regulation was "needed to protect the public from what made the leveson necessary in the first place".

He added that politicians had "acted despite the scaremongering of newspaper groups" and created "a chance to rebuild trust in newspaper journalism".