NEWS: Greer and Hamilton are merely the first sacrificial lambs of the press

Let not your judgment be clouded by the devious methods once employed by the Guardian - a ‘codfax’, to be precise - to further its holy war against political ‘sleaze’. Forget that the same newspaper, in pursuing the Neil Hamiltons and Ian Greers of this world with Taliban-type zealotry, is apparently willingly dancing to the tune of a frustrated Mr al Fayed, of Harrods.

Let not your judgment be clouded by the devious methods once employed by

the Guardian - a ‘codfax’, to be precise - to further its holy war

against political ‘sleaze’. Forget that the same newspaper, in pursuing

the Neil Hamiltons and Ian Greers of this world with Taliban-type

zealotry, is apparently willingly dancing to the tune of a frustrated Mr

al Fayed, of Harrods.



Ignore the extent of lobbyist Mr Greer’s largesse across the political

parties and how some of their leaders may, unwittingly, of course, have

benefited. Do not be swayed by Labour leader Tony Blair’s hypocrisy in

distancing his party from Ian Greer Associates, even to the extent of

forcing the resignation of non-executive director Lady Turner as

Labour’s employment spokesman in the Lords, while merely frowning over

Mr Greer’s election contributions to Labour’s shadow health spokesman,

Chris Smith, and Parliamentary Labour Party chairman, Doug Hoyle.



Instead, let us recognise that the whole business of lobbying - of

making a point in the nation’s legislature - is under a cloud. It is

naive to suppose that the Guardian - or any other newspaper or current

affairs TV programme - will be satisfied with Mr Hamilton MP and Mr

Greer. It may serve the Guardian’s purposes to be making life hell for

the Tories now. But, take it from me, all lobbyists’ and PR companies’

relationships with politicians are now under scrutiny. It would be a

great coup to twist the knife, especially to plunge it into Labour’s

sanctimonious bosom. That is what journalism is about. ‘Sleaze’ is the

story again.



It may be conspiracy theory gone mad. It may be that we should all

press immediately for a register of journalists’ interests so that we

can see where they are coming from. But have no doubt that, in this age

of suspicion, the PR industry will have to rethink its methods.

Otherwise we may find the media mullahs declaring all kinds of fatwahs

against us. Don’t forget that they have already harried Parliament into

abandoning its self-regulation.



The first thing we have to do is to establish the legitimacy of

lobbying. Dammit, what is the central lobby of the Palace of Westminster

for if not to buttonhole our legislators? Then we must, in our own

interests, be far clearer than the Government or any party is at present

where the boundaries to acceptable lobbying lie. Is any payment to an MP

in cash or in kind ‘illegitimate’ even for the investment of hours in

mastering a brief and, for example, preserving the competitive position

of an industry and thousands of jobs against the ravages of Brussels?

What, for example, is the future of the business lunch and dinner? I

told you the ramifications of this issue were serious.



Sir Bernard Ingham writes for the Daily Express



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