Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Role play

L'Affaire Whittingdale (or Unwhittingdale) looks set to appear in post-graduate exams on Journalism Ethics and Privacy for years to come.

First, congratulations to John Sweeney, Newsnight and BBC News for going with it - and finally provoking the Charter-Renewal-Culture Secretary into admitting he stepped out with a woman who hadn't been very frank with him. (Can you imagine the squeaky bums up to transmission ?)  And to James Cusick, Byline, Open Democracy, the Press Gazette and Private Eye for opening the door for Auntie.

Four newspapers had their mitts on the story and decided not to go with it. Whilst it's hard to believe there was a conspiracy of rejection, it's harder to believe levers were not pulled that kept the lid on it. And John Whittingdale's late admission begs many more questions.

Some of them are none of our business, and only of prurient interest. What did Whittingdale say on his match-com profile ? What did his 'match' say was her job, when, presumably, she took the train from Essex to Earls Court and the London Retreat ? Was she looking for a long-term partner on or new clients ? Which particular performance at the MTV Awards of 2013 in the Ziggo Dome Amsterdam did the the 50-odd year old couple enjoy most ? Miley Cyrus, We Can't Stop ? Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines ? Bruno Mars, Gorilla ? Take some time to enjoy the lyrics of all three.

More seriously, we should know more about whoever was "selling" the story to Fleet Street, who tipped off Mr Whittingdale that his girlfriend worked as a dominatrix prepared to deliver eye-watering 'enjoyment' for money, any involvement by the PCC prior to non-publication, and when exactly Mr Cameron knew about the relationship. No 10 seems to be briefing that they were unaware before appointing JW as Culture Secretary.  It would have surely come up in any serious security vetting conversation - doesn't elevation to the Privy Council usually require a few questions ?

Mr Whittingdale's dismissal of the matter demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of hacks and the appetites of their customers  - "This is an old story which was a bit embarrassing at the time." For most of the UK this is a new story which is embarrassing now.

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