Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has made his thoughts about Justice Eady, the Human Rights Act and the Max Mosley privacy case against the News of the World pretty clear since giving his Society of Editors speech last year, but today he was given the chance to follow up on Mosley’s own comments to the commons select committee on press standards, privacy and freedom.
(And have his say he was most definitely going to – reminding the committee several times of the length of time they’d given Mosley to speak, until one member asked whether he felt he was being treated differently?)
“Mr Mosley, when he gave evidence to this committee, I was very surprised at the soft time you gave him,” said Dacre.
“For Max Mosley to present himself as a knight in shining armour, proclaiming (…) sanctimonious, self-righteousness is almost a surreal inversion of the normal values of civilised society.”
It’s ‘a bit like the Yorkshire ripper campaigning against men who batter women’, he added.
The ruling against the News of the World and in favour of Mosley made the government’s stance on brothels and prostitution problematic, he said.
While brothels are seen by the government as ‘unacceptable and totally wrong’ and requiring a law to prosecute the people that run them, ‘Justice Eady has said Mosley’s behaviour is merely unconventional not illegal’, said Dacre.
“One legitimises the other,” he said.
The Daily Mail would not have broken the Mosley story, because it is a family paper, he said, even if it had ‘fallen into the paper’s lap’ as one committee member suggested. However, Dacre said he would defend the NOTW’s right to publish it.
Today’s hearing was also a chance for Dacre to respond to claims made by journalist and ‘Flat Earth News’ author Nick Davies at a committee session on Tuesday.
Summised by the committee chair, Davies said the Daily Mail was characterised by a level of ruthless aggression and spite far greater than any other newspaper in Fleet Street.
“Davies is one of those people who sees conspiracy in everything. Like many people who write for the Guardian he believes he is the only one who can claim the moral high ground,” said Dacre.
“The book doesn’t do himself or our industry any justice.”
The book, he added, had been written ‘without the basic journalistic courtesy of checking the allegations concerned’.
Dacre accepted that there is some ‘churnalism’ of press releases at a provincial and national level – driven largely by poor finances and lack of resources, but said he refutes the charge of the Daily Mail.
“I’d suggest the Daily Mail is both famous and infamous for taking Whitehall and government press releases and going behind them. Certainly our reporters when they get freelance copy make their own inquiries and take them further,” he said.
“Our spending on journalism today is as great as ever, despite the recession. Mr Davies makes a valid point about some areas of the media. I think strong areas of the media, including some of our competitors, are not guilty of this charge.”