Will politics be the same if the NOTW is tamed?

Will politics be the same if the NOTW is tamed?

NOTW 5.jpg

    Who’ll win – who’ll lose if the tabloids are constrained?

It has struck me over the past 24 hours that the current case involving alleged phone intercepts and the News of the World could have a dramatic and long-lasting effect on British politics.

Just look back at what has happened this year that was sparked off by the tabloids and you get a sense of the scale of these papers’ activities. The five people featured in the picture strip at the top of the story have all been the focus of tabloid investigations and there are many more.

Now I do not know whether the stories about any of them involved telephone intercept activity of the type that is subject to the current police investigation and it would be dangerous, legally, for us to speculate. But if at the end of the day there are constraints on the kind of investigative journalism that the the NOTW and others go in for the that could have an impact.

    Would, for instance, Mark Oaten’s or Simon Hughes’s recent careers have been different if they had featured in the tabloids?

The NOTW’s stable-mate, the Times, is reporting this morning that the police investigation is covering David Blunkett’s phone records and that Tessa Jowell might also have been a target.

On reading what happened yesterday my first reaction was to re-set the PIN for the voice-mail on my mobile phone. No doubt thousands of others did the same including a large proportion, I would guess, of the groups who could find themselves featured in the NOTW.

To get a sense of how politics could change just imagine a world where the private lives of politicians are not subject to the same level of scrutiny. Will it be for the good? I don’t know – but it will certainly be different.

Mike Smithson

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