WE are assured we live in a modern democracy.
So how come a clique of unelected, unaccountable duffers in the House of Lords has the power to tell the free press what it can report, and tell the people what we are allowed to read?
Why are these despotic peers still lording it over us? Is this 2018 or 1820?
A couple of hundred members of the Lords have just passed two amendments that threaten press freedom — the lifeblood of any democratic society.
Led by Labour lords, the press-hating peers sneaked their measures into a Data Protection Bill supposed to protect individuals from abuse by powerful organisations.
But the effect of their amendments will be to protect powerful elites from having their abuses of power exposed.
By 238 votes to 209, the unelected Lords told the Government to launch a new inquiry into the media — or to kick-start the second part of Lord Leveson’s tabloid- bashing inquiry, this time to probe historical relations between the press and police.
What purpose would dragging the press through another drawn-out, expensive show trial serve, more than five years since Leveson’s report and over a decade since a few journalists hacked some phones?
As a Government source told The Sun, it just looks like “past-it politicians settling old scores”.
In short, vengeance is ours, sayeth the Lords.
Worse still, by just 211 votes to 200 the unelected Lords passed a second amendment that would force any news outlet sued for alleged data protection breaches to pay their own and their opponent’s court bills — even if they won the case!
Journalists have been protected if they can show they breached data protection rules in pursuit of a “public interest” story.
If press freedom really is becoming a myth, we’ll all be the losers
The Lords’ proposed new law would limit such protection to news organisations signed up to Impress, the official regulator set up after Leveson via Royal Charter and run by tabloid-phobic hackademics.
Its head, Jonathan Heawood, was blasted by his own bosses for bringing the regulator “into disrepute” for sharing tweets attacking The Sun and the Daily Mail. The state’s pet regulator is funded by press-bashing Max Mosley. No national newspaper has registered with it.
The Lords amendment is intended to force the free press to bend the knee to regulation by Royal Charter.
These amendments pose a dire danger to investigative journalism, already under threat. News reporting is all about revealing truths that somebody wants hidden.
But what could such upstanding pillars of society as Members of the Lords possibly have to hide?
Plenty, it seems. Last year it was revealed that some had collectively claimed expenses of £400,000 without ever speaking in the chamber, with tales of one leaving a taxi meter running while he nipped in for a minute to pocket his £300 daily handout.
Mind you, they need the money, to judge by the life-style of the likes of “Lord Coke” — former Government minister Lord Sewel, exposed by The Sun on Sunday for snorting cocaine with £200 prostitutes when he was meant to be overseeing “standards” in the Lords.
No wonder the Lords’ measures have been backed by all the usual press-loathing politicians and celebrities who want to write their own publicity.
Gary Lineker even scoffed at talk of “the old press freedom myth”. If press freedom really is becoming a myth, we’ll all be the losers.
The Lords attack also poses a wider danger to democracy. It confirms that the peers who do turn up to speak and vote are even more of a menace than those who don’t.
The unelected, unaccountable upper chamber is the embodiment of anti-democracy.
Today only 92 hereditary peers remain among its 800 members. But it is no more democratic or representative than it was 250 years ago.
Why else would the Lib Dems, reduced to 12 elected MPs, have 100 appointed peers in the House of Lords?
The Lords exists as a block on popular democracy. Tory Remainer Baroness Wheatcroft let the mask slip when she threatened that the Lords could overturn the Brexit referendum vote, because they have “no constituents to fear”!
If the elected Commons has a democratic bone in its body, it must throw out the amendments — and preferably throw out the Lords altogether.
During the Civil War the revolting House of Commons declared that “the House of Lords is useless and dangerous to the people”.
Almost 370 years later, it’s surely time to take a similarly uncivil attitude to milords.
NEWSPAPERS regularly hold the Lords to account – and here are just a few famous examples.
2015: Lord Sewel was caught snorting white powder from a woman’s breasts.
2017: Top Corbyn aide Lord Bassam claimed £260,000 for a second home that did not exist.
2017: 115 lazy peers claimed £1.3m in expenses in a year despite never speaking in House.
2007: Lord Browne quit as BP boss after he lied in court over how he met gay lover.
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