Labour leader Ed Miliband had better start looking for a new set of mentors because his current choice of elder statesmen father figures is doing him no favours.
Last week’s anti-Rupert Murdoch self-justifying rant by Gordon Brown on one of his fleeting visits to the House of Commons might be pardonable as the cry of pain of a wounded beast rapidly being deserted by the herd.
But Neil Kinnock’s extraordinary big idea that the Press could be regulated in the same way as television to enforce the promotion of balanced opinion is positively chilling.
He told John Humphrys on this morning’s BBC radio Today programme that he would be “very happy if we could ensure that there wasn’t a political pre-determination to the extent of prejudice” in newspapers. For balanced opinion read neutered.
At the time, The Sun claimed responsibility for denying Kinnock tenancy at 10 Downing Street in the 1992 General Election with headlines like the infamous “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.” There's no evidence to support the boast.
In view of his airy dismissal of the battle for Press freedom down the centuries, I’d say the British electorate made the right choice without any prompting from the tabloid.
Historically the nature and expense of broadcast technology limited the number of players and meant the medium lent itself to regulation much more than print media. That time might be passing and the case now is not whether the Press should be shackled but if broadcasters should be liberated.
In Kinnock’s kingdom having forced into exile the likes of Polly Toynbee and Richard Littlejohn, how would a polling day headline read if there were a Ministry of Truth created to regulate balance? Perhaps something along the lines of: “Citizens use your vote wisely.”
It wouldn’t be too far down the line before, in the interests of harmony, general elections would be scrapped and replaced by annual celebrations of the people’s love for their Glorious Leader.
It never ceases to surprise me how those on the Left have such little faith in the intelligence of the people. Kinnock is like a latter-day Mrs Whitehouse – you mustn’t read this because you’re bound to be corrupted.
He is right though to highlight plurality as a keystone of a free Press but Ed Miliband should plug up his ears when the man sounds off about balance.