I am very pleased that the PCC have ruled against the Daily Telegraph, for two reasons.
The Daily Telegraph articles quoted a number of private comments made by senior Liberal Democrat MPs in their constituency surgeries which had been secretly recorded by the newspaper's journalists posing as constituents.
The MPs featured included the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, in addition to Under Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Ed Davey, Minister for Work and Pensions, Steve Webb, Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, Under Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker, Under Secretary of State to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunell, Parliamentary Secretary (Deputy Leader) to the Office of the Leader of the Commons, David Heath and Health Minister, Paul Burstow.
A pity the PCC spelt Andrew Stunell's name incorrectly.
I have worked directly for one of these, worked closely with four and worked with the other three. In fact one was at my wedding earlier this year.
I therefore reserve the right to be biased against the Daily Telegraph.
I have read the ruling, a number of times and the most interesting paragraph is this one;
The newspaper denied that it had undertaken a ‘fishing expedition'; rather, it had acted upon specific information it had received from parliamentarians and members of the public. In private meetings at the Conservative party conference in 2010, the editor had been informed by Conservative ministers including a Cabinet minister (themselves informed by local party activists) that the public and private views of some Liberal Democrat ministers were increasingly at odds, particularly on the issue of Coalition policies which had been backed publicly. Similar concerns had also been expressed separately to senior reporters and the issue was raised with several MPs in the course of various engagements. A consistent theme began to emerge of growing Liberal Democrat private dissatisfaction. The newspaper said that the Conservative ministers were understandably reluctant to go on the record, or provide information or contacts in Liberal Democrat constituencies to back up their concerns.The specific line within the paragraph above that caught my eye was this one;
In private meetings at the Conservative party conference in 2010, the editor had been informed by Conservative ministers including a Cabinet minister (themselves informed by local party activists) that the public and private views of some Liberal Democrat ministers were increasingly at odds, particularly on the issue of Coalition policies which had been backed publicly.Wow, the editor must have been really shocked?
Come on DT, when Labour were in power they had Ministers and MPs expressing views against their own Government - did the Daily Telegraph think it was appropriate to go and pretend to be constituents and secretly film or record them?
No, because in other news the Pope is Catholic and bears crap in woods.
So, what is different?
The difference is that the media are not used to coalition government - unlike the Scottish media - and therefore don't know how to deal with it. The only way they have come up with so far is to to attack, and find things to attack, sometimes like this story, on things that don't interest the public and breaking the rules to get the story.
Interestingly the ruling also states;
The newspaper had said that it had acted on information from various sources, who had been unwilling to go on the record.I assume that includes the Conservative Ministers and Cabinet Minister? Strange that.
Is it because they are jealous they didn't get more senior roles within the Government because Cameron went into coalition rather than going it alone in a minority government?
The second reason I am pleased that the ruling went against the Daily Telegraph was because knowing how hard MPs work and how important their constituency surgeries are, it is utterly appalling that the journalists wasted time pretending to be constituents.
This, as well as being sneaky and dishonest has deprived a real constituent with real problems from seeing their MP and potentially getting help.
When I worked for Vince Cable, he held his weekly advice surgery every Friday from 5pm to 7pm. Joan and I often would be still in the office with Vince until 8pm, sometimes even later working through the people and trying to help.
I have to be honest, it is a bloody good job I didn't work for Vince when the sneaky journalists met him, because I would have been furious. We put a lot of effort into helping constituents, so depriving a real person of time with their MP to explain a real life problem is nothing short of pathetic.
The Daily Telegraph were out of order on this occasion, they didn't generate news, and they have gone down in my estimation. You can read the ruling here.