The Daily Mail has gone to town this morning on Sir David Bell, one of Lord Justice Leveson’s assessors.
For all the fun some have had today mocking the paper’s conspiracist tone, there is a real story here – some of it first exposed by me more than a year ago. As I revealed, and the Mail repeats today, Bell – the high-minded defender of privacy – was at that time chairman of a charity which was itself censured by the regulator under the Data Protection Act for multiple probable breaches of individuals’ privacy.
The charity concerned, Common Purpose, is the subject of far too much conspiracist chatter on the Internet. But its essential aim is to train a network of “future leaders” – to help create a new, broadly left-liberal, establishment, if you like – and it has done this with vast amounts of public funding.
Bell also does lie at the centre of a network of people who have personal and professional interests in restraining journalists. I found, for instance, that the “Hacked Off” campaign – an offshoot of Bell’s Media Standards Trust, now pushing for statutory regulation of the press – was partly funded and staffed by a New Labour lobbying company, Sovereign Strategy, that has had many run-ins with newspapers which have questioned its ethical standards. Hacked Off and Sovereign huffed and puffed about my piece, but couldn’t shake any of the central facts.
This nexus is quite subtle. It’s also often boring and complicated to describe accurately, requiring the naming of long strings of people you’ve never heard of – but it really does exist, and it has clearly played a big role in framing the Leveson inquiry.