The Leveson Inquiry…Witnesses Week 2 (Monday)

Three witnesses and the Leveson Inquiry continued the theme of one “ordinary civilian/innocent bystander” witness and two “celebrity” witnesses.

Christopher Jefferies first came to media attention after Christmas 2010 or in the first days of January 211. He was landlord of a property and one of his tenants was Jo Yeates, a young woman found murdered on (I believe) Christmas Day 2010. Another tenant was recently sent to prison for life for her murder.

Mr Jefferies was questioned by police and released. “Doorstepped” by the Media, he did seem an “eccentric looking” person. But looking eccentric is hardly a crime but the Media clearly identified (perhaps with a nod from the Police) him as a “suspect”. The Media carried headlines, such as “The Strange Mr Jefferies”. There was an allegation that he was a voyeur…..and innuendo that he had retired “early” as a teacher in a nearby exclusive school.

Eventually the real killer was arrested, charged and convicted. But clearly Mr Jefferies life was made a misery. The Attorney General charged some with contempt of court. And Mr Jefferies, clearly an innocent man received redress by successfully suing eight newspapers. Strangely he appeared in court yesterday with a complete “make over” from his “January” look.

Charlotte Church is a 25 years old Welsh singer who has been in the public eye for over twelve years.ndeed her autobiography “Voice of An Angel” was published a decade ago. Ms Church is a favourite target for tabloids especially when she had a relationship witha Wesh rugby player. Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, she believes that her phone was hacked……a daily tabloid printed a story that she was pregnant before she had a chance to tell her parents. Ms Church also made reference to a suicide bid by her mother when The News Of The World reported her fathers affair. But perhaps her most bizarre piece of evidence was that she had been offered (as a child) £100,000 to sing at Rupert Murdoch’s wedding but waived her fee (on her managers advice) in return for favourable publicity.

A confession….I have never cared much for Anne Diamond (broadcast journalist) since her earliest appearances on BBCs “Nationwide” in the early 1980s. She later became a presenter on ITVs “Breakfast” TV shows……but her speciality was celebrity interviews rather than hard news. I think its fair to say that her career has had a downward curve since the mid 1990s. Sadly she lost a child to “cot death” in 1991 and although a campaigner for parents of children who have died in this tragic way, she has I would submit, never been really “loved” by the British public.

Ms Diamond was a slightly pompous figure “I am a broadcast journalist. I am not a celebrity”. Which I was hoping might mean that one of the barristers might remember her appearance a few years back on “Celebrity Fit Club“. She seemed to blame her targetting by the Murdoch “empire” as a consequence of a less than flattering interview with Rupert Murdoch. A few weeks after the interview a Murdoch title ran the headline “Ann Diamond Killed My Father” a reference to a fatal car accident in which she had been (innocently) involved some seven years before. She recounted movingly how she had to leave hospital in a laundry van just a few hours after the birth of a child……gaining access to her home carrying her new born baby over a roof……because of media intrusion.Perhaps most movingly she spoke of an intrusive photograph as she buried her baby.

Perhaps it was my own inability to “like” Ann Diamond or perhaps that Ann Diamond had been a leading figure in the dumbing down of “News” at a time when “celebrity culture” first became an issue some twenty years ago……but I found her an unimpressive witness.

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6 Responses to The Leveson Inquiry…Witnesses Week 2 (Monday)

  1. bangordub says:

    Great blog,
    I’m a recent convert
    ps: as a North Down resident, when are the SDLP going to get their act together here?

    • Thank you.
      The short answer to your question is that I just dont know.
      If youve read thru earlier postings here, you will see that I rejoined SDLP in late August after a 30 year gap.
      On a personal level, Ive always thought that North Down had room for improvement (and indeed Strangford and East Antrim). The late 1970s/1980s might have been a key factor (the democratic deficit years) and ultimately too much ground was conceded to Alliance. Although I have never actually met a North Down SDLP person, two are prominent within the Party.
      It raises all kinds of issues. To my knowledge SDLP has never stood a candidate in Holywood DEA and that seems a glaring omission. Especially in 2005 six candidates competed for five seats with a certain Mr Parsley taking the final seat.
      To actually analyse this……and I have actually analysed several constituencies (not yet North Down as I dont know it well)…….the starting point in SDLP getting its act together in North Down is membership and a feeling that people need to raise their heads above the parapets. This is actually easier in 2011 than in 1981 but there was/is a safety factor in Alliance (although Im personally glad to see they failed to take two seats there in May and that the Greens seem to pick up SDLP votes). But I think Alliance has managed to embed itself with potential SDLP voters and have built up a brand loyalty.
      Its complex…..and some of it requires “internal analysis” rather than “public analysis” but the starting point is membership.
      And the question has to be asked if North Down is “different” from say Mid Ulster.
      I am a great believer in targetted membership.And to some extent the position SDLP finds itself in, in the North is actually the same as in May 1973 the first council elections when Alliance outvoted them in the North.this was reversed in June 173 just a month later. I and many others joined the Party in that month. So there is a sense to be tapped into that this is Square One.
      Now I think that requires actually approaching people……trade unionists stewards, doctors, clerical officers in the civil service, nurses, social workers, teachers, small shopkeepers, local chemists, credit unions, GAA and even controversially perhaps parochial houses. Put it this way there is still a coalition of interests that the SDLP can represent. I think they have been successful with students for example.
      The message has to be that “The SDLP Needs You”. Its no longer enough to hide behind trade union membership or a professional body or (say) NI Small Chemist Retailers………there has to be enough public spirited people (who while having an agenda) are prepared to work for other agendas thru a political party.

      I suspect the next six months will be one of internal review, a kind of stock take of the talent available within SDLP and (broader) SDLP voters who are prepared to “get on board”. By Springtime, Id like to see that happen in North Down. The downside………and its a small one… that doubling membership in North Down (and elsewhere) changes the nature of the SDLP………certainly in May I was an angry (at) SDLP voter and about four months later a Party member. Thats a big transition.

      • bangordub says:

        Thank you for your considered and thoughtful reply.
        If I may be concise, its very simple as I see it.
        1.There needs to be a visible, effective presence on the ground locally.
        2. Politics must be seen to be relevant, challenging and capable of changing peoples minds, as well as a certain degree of radicalism (The foundation principles of the SDLP I think)
        3. An effective party structure is partially conditional on discipline, partially on concensus. These must be built upon a vision.
        4. What is the vision? If I don’t know, and I want to, how is anyone else going to knw, ie: potential members/ voters

      • I am grateful for this. As I have said, the balance of probability is that there will be an element of outreach to non members in the next few months. To some extent the people who vote SDLP …and in terms of votes its the third party….are entitled to be very very angry at the SDLP. Thats a message that SDLP needs to hear and the Voters need to sayit within the Party.
        Look at last four Westminster elections in North Down (1997-2010 1600 votes…1200……1000……700). thats bad. even allowing for Greens coming into elections and Alliance consolidation
        But the Assembly figures over last four elections look better…..2000….1500 …1100…800
        The vote as PR makes possible is better at Assembly level although there is still some tactics involved.
        So theres probably around 1,000 people in North Down who vote or would like to vote SDLP.
        I know (its in public record) that Dr Al wants visible SDLP representatives in every local area which means about four in North Down. I dont want to go into detail but that has to be the starting point…..but expansion in North Down necessarily means identifying many of those 1,000 people……who are in Holywood & Bangor …….in school staff rooms, parish councils, Holywood GAA as well as the broader family circle of the known members.

  2. bangordub says:

    In terms of votes thats a 50% plus loss of votes over a thirteen year period in which the overall nationalist vote has increased in pretty much every constituency.( not that I am limiting the potential of the party to purely nationalist voters, indeed Peter R’s sudden interest in attracting “Catholic” votes is indicative of a degree of panic on his part designed to galvanise non voters and probably “soft” unionist voters)
    There are approx 60,000 registered voters in the constituency,Surely 10% of that is a realistic target?
    I would be interested to know the level of local party membership.
    Anyhow, rant over!, let me know if I can help.
    Regards Bangordub (A blow in if ever there was one)

    • The “community background” in North Down is generally accepted as 10% Catholic but a 6,000 traget seems high. For a start only about 47% of electorate voted and this means that maybe only 3,000 votes are realistically “in play”. Now obviously non voters need targetted also but in a constituency like North Down, its unlikely that more than 4,000 could be motivated to vote………….and taking 2,200 (the ions share) has to be the target and that means convincing people that they need to give up allegiance to Alliance or vote tactically for Greens.
      Holywood is the key. There is half a quota at council level in Bangor West. But I think with enough motivation a candidate in Holywood could take a council seat. But as far as I know there has never been a SDLP council candidate there.
      Essentially the SDLP is a coalition of nationalists, social democrats and radicals and it would be hard to bring those parts together in a low base.
      North Down is also….as you know a bit “maverick” and almost detached from Norn Iron and there will probably be a numbrer of Catholics who would vote “Conservative” in England.
      As to membership…I have no idea. Id guess no more than 25. But thats a guess. North Down MIGHT contain a lot of politically active people……it has a high number of “graduates” and “professionals” who are often more willing to give up time thru conviction or “networking”, Being SDLP in North Down is a “big ask” although in part generational……less difficult for a younger generation.
      As to “help”…….Id say look out for announcements on SDLP representatives being “appointed” to say Bangor, Holywood.
      And probably a semi public meeting open to SDLP sympathisers.

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