This morning, the BBC Radio 4 Today programme invited actor and campaigner Hugh Grant to visit the studio and discuss the issue that has caused much indignation among the Fourth Estate - that of the Police’s enthusiasm for rather too much use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) so they can find out where hacks are getting information that was offered to them in confidence.
Surveillance, which was nothing to fear when the deeply subversive Guardian exposed the true extent of the spooks’ overreach, was suddenly A Very Bad Thing Indeed, and this was not just because it had caused the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn to end up covered in rather more than confusion - perish the thought! The Press Gazette Save Our Sources campaign followed, and amendments to the law have been tabled.
When Grant discussed the amendments to RIPA, it was inevitable that Newton Dunn’s comments would be raised. He responded honestly that he had not been part of the process, but it was his understanding that the Sun man had very little involvement. For this analysis, he was then pilloried not only by Newton Dunn, who saw his stock falling at an alarmingly rapid rate, but also by someone who knew absolutely nothing about it.
“Predictably, Hugh Grant has got himself in a pickle about RIPA on [Radio 4 Today] for not knowing the facts” blustered Newton Dunn in an effort to stop his cock dropping off. He was then assisted in his hole-digging enterprise by the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, who chirped “Hugh Grant car crash on Today programme. Made a huge allegation re [Tom Newton Dunn] then admits he doesn’t know details … ‘I wasn’t there’”.
Sadly for Master Cole, Hugh Grant knew enough detail, and the flannelled fool, er, didn’t, as Evan Harris then explained. “It is true. [Tom Newton Dunn] reported every key step of the policy & Parliamentary work I was doing to amend RIPA. Fair journalism … On RIPA reform, only Press Gazette, Sun ([Tom Newton Dunn] & team) & Guardian reported it accurately. Kudos there. The actual reform not their work”.
So Hugh Grant, in saying that Newton Dunn didn’t actually have much to do with the RIPA reform, was absolutely right. Tom Newton Dunn was being, at the very least, disingenuous, and Master Cole was, as so often in the past, talking out of the back of his neck. He should apologise to Grant. But he isn’t big enough to do so.
[UPDATE 24 February 1405 hours: the Mail has decided to join in the organised attack on Hugh Grant, because he challenged the paper and its management at the Leveson Inquiry, which means Paul Dacre has his name on a permanent blacklist.
"In an outburst of fiction worthy of his most far-fetched romantic comedies, Hugh Grant claims Hacked Off deserves the credit for yesterday’s rule change, under which police will need a judge’s authority to trawl journalists’ phone records" scoffs Daily Mail Comment, the authentic voice of the Vagina Monologue. And, to no surprise at all, there's more.
"In fact, the review by the Interception of Communications Commissioner, which led to the change, was ordered the day after the Mail on Sunday revealed how police had abused anti-terrorism powers to seize its newsdesk’s phone records in order to identify a confidential contact". Coincidence does not equal causation, but do go on.
"From that moment, every national newspaper – this one most vigorously – campaigned for the changes, publicly and in submissions to the Home Office". Yeah, right. What Hugh Grant claimed was that Hacked Off was central to drafting changes to the law - which it was. The Mail was just expending righteous hot air.
All that these attacks do is to prove that Hacked Off is upsetting the larger part of the Fourth Estate, which would rather it shut up and go away, leaving the press to behave just as it did when it hacked, blagged, snooped, and bullied its way around. The group will not, and Dacre will have to deal with that]