An unprecedented reunion of parliamentary and political reporters packed the House of Commons press gallery to renew acquaintances and share recollections dating back as far as the 1950s.
Over 250 former gallery and lobby correspondents were tracked down and invited to what was dubbed the gathering of the veterans.
Some of the journalists had not been back inside the press gallery literally for decades.
They were regaled with stories of past scoops and escapades by the legendary Chris Moncrieff, who at 83 is the widely-acclaimed father of the press gallery which he joined in 1962 on becoming a parliamentary reporter for the Press Association.
Other veterans given a place of honour at the reunion (24.3.2015) included Gordon Leake, who started in the press gallery as a copy boy for the Glasgow Herald in 1953; Ian Aitken of The Guardian, who is now 87 and was with Daily Express when he joined the press gallery in 1962; Mrs Thatcher’s former press spokesman, Bernard Ingham (82); and the retiring father of the House of Commons, Sir Peter Tapsell.
Veteran political journalists who were unable to make the reunion, or too frail to make the trip, but who sent their best wishes included Maurice Woods, who at 98 is the oldest surviving press gallery member and resides in a nursing home in Beccles in Suffolk.
Woods was the political editor of the Eastern Daily Press and chairman of the gallery in 1972.
Rob Hutton (Bloomberg), the gallery’s current chairman, welcomed former colleagues on behalf of Westminster’s working journalists and he was cheered when he said how great it was to see so many former political journalists back in their rightful home.
The idea of organising a re-union was first mentioned by members of the Journalists’ Charity, which is to be the beneficiary of any surplus from the funds that were donated to pay for drinks and refreshments and collected on the night.
Rob Gibson of Gallery News, and himself a former press gallery chairman, co-ordinated the mammoth task of tracking down the veterans; negotiating with the House of Commons catering authorities; and then organising a team of runners to escort guests to Moncrieff’s Bar and the gallery dining room.
He paid tribute to stalwarts without whose help had been invaluable in rounding up the veterans: “Brigadier” John Deans (Daily Mail) a former secretary of press gallery, and its long-serving administrator Elizabeth Johnson. He thanked Charles Lewington of Hanover Communications for donating £750 towards the cost.
Gibson congratulated Deans on having the foresight in the 1980s to persuade the former Speaker Bernard Weatherill to become the press gallery’s president, a move that over the years has helped smooth relations between journalists and the House of Commons authorities.
John Bercow told the assembled veterans he was delighted to follow in Speaker Weatherill’s steps and he was honoured to see so many familiar faces. His opening remarks reflected changes in political journalism: the press gallery chairman is from the Bloomberg news agency and the lobby chair (Beth Rigby) is with the Financial Times.
In a dig at some of his erstwhile detractors among the “old and the bold” who worked for the popular press, Speaker Bercow said he could not resist complimenting the gallery on having officers from “distinctly up-market” news outlets. While some of those present might have been “amiable and professionally competent” he admitted that he had in the past been a victim of their “creative talent”.
Nonetheless he considered his role as Speaker included protecting the rights of journalists and he believed he had done what he could to respect the independence of the media and allow for a proper interaction between journalists and politicians.
One of the restrictions that he had removed was the ban on journalists visiting the House of Commons terrace, a privilege lost during the years when Michael Martin was Speaker. “Whether the removal of that restriction was popular with MPs, I don’t know, but I thought it was right journalists should have that access and we have got rid of the restriction.”
When Speaker Bercow praised Elizabeth Johnson for her efforts in tracking down veterans who had not been back to the press gallery for anything from 15 to 20 years, there were shouts from journalists who said that not been back for 30 and even 40 years.
Chris Thomas, a former parliamentary reporter for The Times, had probably notched up the longest absence. He was back in the press gallery for the first time since he left in 1975 to become a foreign correspondent.
The loudest cheers of the night were for Chris Moncrieff as he retold stories of journalists’ exploits in the “wild and raucous days” of late drinking in the bars of the House of Commons.
Moncrieff had lost none of his celebrated timing in harking back to life under Margaret Thatcher. He first met her at a reception Ted Heath held in 10 Downing Street in 1970. The invitation said journalists could only be accompanied by their spouse.
“I took with me someone else’s wife. Standing in the corner was Mrs Thatcher who had just been made a minister. She said ‘hello’ and then asked, ‘Where are you two going on holiday. My ‘wife’ said Sardinia and I said Walton-on-the-Naze. It was the only occasion I ever remember the Iron Lady being lost for words.”
Moncrieff said Mrs Thatcher had been a great friend of journalists and used to attend the children’s Christmas party in the press gallery. “There she was fussing about, trying to get the children to eat their sausage rolls and crisps. Next year one journalist told me that his daughter had said ‘Yes’, she wold like to go again, and ‘will that rather nice dinner lady be there again’.”
Nicholas Jones 25.8.2013 (parliamentary reporter The Times 1968-72, political correspondent BBC 1998-2002)
20 / 03 / 2015
Wales Media Awards 2015 Winners Announced
Media Wales reporter Ciaran Jones is the Journalists’ Charity Wales Media Awards 2015 Journalist of the Year. He received the top award at a gala evening in Cardiff last night (Thurs Mar 19), hosted by the presenter and news reader Huw Edwards.
Ciaran Jones also won the awards for Print News Reporter of the Year and Young Journalist of the Year.
The award for the Outstanding Contribution to journalism went to Derek Bellis, from north Wales, who has covered stories in Wales for seven decades.
The other award winners are:
TV News Reporter of the Year – Aled Huw, Newyddion 9, BBC Cymru ar gyfer S4C
Radio News Reporter of the Year – Alun Thomas, BBC Radio Cymru
Online News Reporter of the Year – Sally Williams, Media Wales
Political Reporter of the Year – Martin Shipton, Media Wales
Business Reporter of the Year – Brian Meechan, BBC Cymru Wales
Feature Writer of the Year – Kirstie McCrum, Media Wales
Sports Reporter of the Year – Chris Wathan, Media Wales
News Photographer of the Year – Mike Lewis, South Wales Argus
Daily Newspaper of the Year – Western Mail
Weekly Newspaper of the Year – Cambrian News
Community Outlet of the Year – Caerphilly Observer
News Website of the Year – Wales Online
TV News and Current Affairs Programme of the Year – Wales at Six, ITV Cymru Wales
Radio News and Current Affairs Programme of the Year – Good Morning Wales, BBC Wales
Scoop of the Year – Richard Gurner & Gareth Hill, Caerphilly Observer
The Wales Media Awards have been held this year for the first time in over a decade. All profits will go to the Journalists’ Charity. The sponsors are Comtek, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Western Power Distribution and Effective Communications, and the partners are Quadrant Media & Communications, Cleartech, Cymen and Natasha Hirst Photography.
Press Inquiries: Christine Warwick, tel: 0777 1568357, on behalf of Wales Media Awards 2015 organising committee
Scottish journalists and their guests gathered in the Radisson Blu, Glasgow, on the first Saturday in March for the annual Charity Ball of the West of Scotland branch.
Chairman Richard Walker welcomed 210 diners to the event organised almost exclusively by his PA Margaret Morrison. Camelot were the main sponsors of the evening which was also well supported by Lidl, who generously provided wines for all the tables, and British Airways who donated two business class flights to New York.
The entertainment was provided by Amplifive who had guests dancing until the wee small hours. MC Archie Mackay, owner of media2k, encouraged guests to support the charity with a raffle and an auction which helped to raise around £15,000 for the Journalists’ Charity.
He said: “The star of the night as always was Margaret who worked tirelessly to sell all the tables and encourage companies to donate prizes and she richly deserved the floral tributes made to her and, after midnight, helped her enjoy her birthday even more.”
It is very rare in our trade, where tastes are strong and varied, to come across a journalist who is universally admired. But our winner is loved professionally by both his peers and his readers, and personally by all those lucky enough to have worked with him. He has worked on the same paper for 25 years – although he still looks 16 – and every day he has found a way of depicting the absurdity within the news, whatever the subject – be it politics, terrorism, the excesses of bankers or the bureaucracy of civil servants.
His gently subversive, but life-affirming world view is as sharp as any leader writer or columnist – with the added pleasure that he also makes us laugh out loud.
For the last four years he has provided the inspiration for our Charity Christmas cards and is responsible for sales of almost 20,000. And we hope that he continues to work with them, and that even more of you continue to buy them.
In a year in which the significance of the work of the cartoonist has been brought into focus, it with great pleasure we invite Matt Pritchett to receive the award from Gorkana whose sponsorship of this award goes directly to the Journalists Charity.
09 / 03 / 2015
AGM: May 13th at 12.45
St Bride Foundation
London EC4Y 8EQ
08 / 03 / 2015
While Times columnist Rachel Sylvester said that the Prime Minister was looking not just scared but arrogant in his attempts to prevent the debates, YouGov president Peter Kellner said that Cameron and Conservative campaign strategist Lynton Crosby were right to calculate that a row about debates will not matter in two months. He also argued that broadcasters had messed up the opportunity – a view challenged by Sky News political correspondent Anushka Asthana – and if they want to hold them in 2020 they should start discussing the principles with the parties shorty after this election.
Associate editor Trevor Kavanagh drew laughs from the packed crowd at the Telegraph’s conference theatre by stating: “The Sun has never been one for ‘on the one side this, on the other side that..’ – there will be no debate.” He added that any chances had disappeared five years ago after Nick Clegg’s strong performance saw him come to national prominence. James Kirkup, Telegraph executive editor, politics, said it was a shame that by being focused on the risks involved the Conservatives were passing up an opportunity to gain. Bradby said he had never seen a more disciplined election campaign than the Conservatives this time around, with Crosby clearly in control.
Addressing the title of the debate, Kavanagh, who was The Sun’s political editor at the time of the 1992 election, described the famous headline as an “emotional spasm” and argued that the previous edition’s headline If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights accompanied by a picture of the Labour leader as a lightbulb, was the crucial one. After Kinnock’s fall into the sea and Ed Miliband’s bacon sandwich were referenced, London Press Club chair Doug Wills asked whether it was in fact the photographers that won it.
The panel downplayed the likely impact of social media on the election. “It is either triumph or disaster – there is no shade of grey,” said Kirkup, while Asthana agreed. “If something lands on the front page of a newspaper it carries much more weight than the white noise of social media.” She added that anyone who argued that newspapers weren’t still influential should think back to Cameron’s recent refusal to be drawn in on the Page 3 debate. Kavanagh took issue with her claim that broadcasters, unlike the papers, were unbiased, stating the BBC was soft left by its own admission – even citing The Archers as an example.
Speaking after the debate Journalists’ Charity thanked Bradby, the panel, the Press Club and the Telegraph for hosting the event, which raised over £1,200 for the charity, which provides support for journalists in need. “With care costs increasing we need all the help we can get so it was great to see such a large turnout tonight. We are in a quite critical situation; we are addressing it but would urge anyone in a position to help to do so.”
Five points from the panel
- Anushka Asthana: Conservative moderators are silent now but after the election there will be a war for the soul of the party
- Peter Kellner: The days of governments “steamrolling” parliament were over, to the extent that a stable, lasting coalition was unlikely this time around; he predicted a second election either later this year or in 2016
- James Kirkup: Conservative MP Ken Clarke is the bumblebee of Westminster: Just as they technically should not be able to fly he should not be able to fly Clarke should not be able to function as a politicians, but he has done to great effect
- Trevor Kavanagh: more people were likely not to vote because Russell Brand, with his 9 million Twitter followers, tells them to, than to vote the way The Sun suggests, despite adding: “The man’s a fool.”
- Rachel Sylvesrer: People increasingly no longer want a tribal identity, be it one of the major political parties or a particular newspaper
The Wales Media Awards 2015
Latest News – the Shortlisted Winners!
We’ve had a fantastic response for entries to the Wales Media Awards 2015, with over 150 entries from journalists in all sections of the media right across Wales.
The final winners will be announced at the Wales Media Awards 2015 gala dinner at the Cardiff Marriott on Thursday March 19th 2015, sponsored by Comtek. We’ll also be announcing the judges’ choices for Journalist of the Year and Outstanding Contribution.
The evening promises to be a great occasion. Hosted by Huw Edwards and in aid of the Journalists’ Charity which has organised the awards, it will bring together some of the top names in the media in Wales to celebrate the country’s journalistic excellence.
Our distinguished panel of judges have had a tough job but have now made their initial selections. We’re delighted to announce the shortlisted winners are:
News Reporter of the Year (Print) – Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Liz Perkins, South Wales Evening Post; Martin Shipton, Media Wales.
TV News Reporter of the Year – Aled Huw, Newyddion 9, BBC Cymru Wales for S4C; Carl Edwards, ITV Cymru Wales; Huw Thomas, BBC Wales.
Radio News Reporter of the Year – Alun Thomas, BBC Radio Cymru; David Grundy, BBC Radio Wales; Lauren Jones, Global’s Wales Newsroom.
Online News Reporter of the Year – Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Sally Williams, Media Wales.
Political Reporter of the Year – David Williamson, Media Wales; Martin Shipton, Media Wales; Owain Phillips, ITV Cymru Wales.
Business Reporter of the Year – Douglas Friedli, Wales Business Insider; Brian Meechan, BBC Cymru Wales.
Feature Writer of the Year – Carolyn Hitt, freelance for The Western Mail; David Owens, Media Wales; Kirstie McCrum, Media Wales.
Sports Reporter of the Year – Chris Wathan, Media Wales; Delme Parfitt, Media Wales; Paul Abbandonato, Media Wales; Simon Thomas, Media Wales; Steve Tucker, Media Wales.
Young Journalist of the Year – Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Gareth Hill, Caerphilly Observer; Geraint Thomas, BBC Radio Cymru.
Photographer of the Year – Craig Colville, Rhyl Journal and Evening Leader; Mike Lewis, South Wales Argus; Richard Williams, Media Wales.
Daily Newspaper of the Year – Western Mail, South Wales Argus, Flintshire Leader.
Weekly Newspaper of the Year – County Times, Western Telegraph, Cambrian News.
Community Outlet of the Year – RoathCardiff.net, Caerphilly Observer, Port Talbot Magnet.
News Website of the Year – South Wales Argus, Wales Online, South Wales Evening Post, BBC Cymru (Cymru Fyw).
TV Programme of the Year – Wales This Week, Wales at Six, Newyddion 9.
Radio Programme of the Year – Post Cyntaf, Good Morning Wales.
Scoop of the Year – Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Gareth Evans, Western Mail; Gareth Hill and Richard Gurner, Caerphilly Observer
Student Journalist of the Year – The judges decided to make no award this year.
Camera Operator of the Year – The judges decided to make no award this year.
Jonathan Grun, editor-in-chief of The Press Association and chair of the judges, said: “The revival of the Wales Media Awards has shown the strength of Welsh journalism and the vital role it plays in the life of Wales. Choosing the shortlists has been a tremendously difficult job.
“Young journalists are clearly learning their craft in a news rich environment in Wales and we were impressed by the quality and enthusiasm of the entrants for that award.
“Sports reporting has always been a great strength in Wales and the judges have had a particularly difficult task in selecting this shortlist.
“Now that we have shortlists for the awards, we will start the job of choosing winners. Having seen the quality of entries already, this will be great fun – and very difficult. I look forward to celebrating the best in Welsh journalism.”
Wales Media Awards Sponsored by COMTEK
Cyhoeddi Rhestr fer ar gyfer Gwobrau Cyfryngau Cymru 2015 Elusen y Newyddiadurwyr
Mae’r rhestr fer ar gyfer Gwobrau Cyfryngau Cymru 2015 Elusen y Newyddiadurwyr yn cael ei chyhoeddi heddiw (12 Chwefror 2015).
Dewisodd y beirniaid, dan gadeiryddiaeth Jonathan Grun, prif olygydd y Press Association, ymgeiswyr o blith dros 150 o holl sectorau’r cyfryngau ar hyd a lled Cymru.
Newyddiadurwr y Flwyddyn (Print) Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Liz Perkins, South Wales Evening Post; Martin Shipton, Media Wales.
Newyddiadurwr y Flwyddyn (Teledu) Aled Huw, Newyddion 9, BBC Cymru Wales ar gyfer S4C; Carl Edwards, ITV Cymru Wales; Huw Thomas, BBC Wales.
Newyddiadurwr y Flwyddyn (Radio) Alun Thomas, BBC Radio Cymru; David Grundy, BBC Radio Wales; Lauren Jones, Global’s Wales Newsroom.
Newyddiadurwr y Flwyddyn (Ar-lein) Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Sally Williams, Media Wales.
Newyddiadurwr Gwleidyddol y Flwyddyn David Williamson, Media Wales; Martin Shipton, Media Wales; Owain Phillips, ITV Cymru Wales.
Newyddiadurwr Busnes y Flwyddyn Douglas Friedli, Wales Business Insider; Brian Meechan, BBC Cymru Wales.
Awdur Ysgrifennu Nodwedd y Flwyddyn Carolyn Hitt, newyddiadurwr llawrydd ar gyfer y Western Mail; David Owens, Media Wales; Kirsty McCrum, Media Wales.
Newyddiadurwr Chwaraeon y Flwyddyn Chris Wathan, Media Wales; Delme Parfitt, Media Wales; Paul Abbandonato, Media Wales; Simon Thomas, Media Wales; Steve Tucker, Media Wales.
Newyddiadurwr Ifanc y Flwyddyn Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Gareth Hill, Caerphilly Observer; Geraint Thomas, BBC Radio Cymru.
Ffotograffydd y Flwyddyn Craig Colville, Rhyl Journal a’r Evening Leader; Mike Lewis, South Wales Argus; Richard Williams, Media Wales.
Papur Newydd Dyddiol y Flwyddyn Western Mail, South Wales Argus, Flintshire Leader.
Papur Newydd Wythnosol y Flwyddyn County Times, Western Telegraph, Cambrian News.
Allfa Gymunedol y Flwyddyn RoathCardiff.net, Caerphilly Observer, Port Talbot Magnet.
Gwefan Newyddion y Flwyddyn South Wales Argus, Wales Online, South Wales Evening Post, BBC Cymru (Cymru Fyw).
Rhaglen Deledu y Flwyddyn Wales This Week, Wales at Six, Newyddion 9.
Rhaglen Radio y Flwyddyn Post Cyntaf, Good Morning Wales.
Stori Newyddion y Flwyddyn Ciaran Jones, Media Wales; Gareth Evans, Western Mail; Gareth Hill a Richard Gurner, Caerphilly Observer.
Myfyriwr-Newyddiadurwr y Flwyddyn Penderfynodd y beirniaid beidio â rhoi gwobr eleni.
Gweithredwr Camera y Flwyddyn Penderfynodd y beirniaid beidio â rhoi gwobr eleni.
Meddai Jonathan Grun: “Mae cynnal Gwobrau Cyfryngau Cymru unwaith eto wedi dangos pa mor gryf yw newyddiaduraeth yng Nghymru, a’i rôl hanfodol ym mywyd Cymru. Mae llunio’r rhestr fer wedi bod yn dasg anodd iawn.
“Mae newyddiadurwyr ifanc yn amlwg yn dysgu eu crefft mewn amgylchedd llawn newyddion yng Nghymru, ac roedd safon a brwdfrydedd yr ymgeiswyr yn y categori hwn wedi creu cryn argraff arnon ni.
“Mae adrodd am chwaraeon wedi bod yn gryfder yng Nghymru erioed, ac mae’r beirniaid wedi cael tasg arbennig o anodd wrth lunio’r rhestr fer hon.
“Nawr ein bod wedi cael rhestr fer ar gyfer pob gwobr, byddwn yn dechrau ar y dasg o ddewis yr enillwyr. Ar ôl gweld safon yr ymgeiswyr yn barod, bydd hyn yn llawer o hwyl – ac yn anodd iawn. Rwy’n edrych ymlaen at ddathlu’r gorau ym myd newyddiaduraeth yng Nghymru.”
Cyhoeddir enwau’r enillwyr yn swper gala Gwobrau Cyfryngau Cymru 2015 yng ngwesty’r Marriott, Caerdydd ar ddydd Iau, 19 Mawrth 2015. Hefyd, bydd enillwyr gwobrau Newyddiadurwr y Flwyddyn a Chyfraniad Eithriadol yn cael eu cyhoeddi.
Huw Edwards fydd yn cyflwyno’r noson, sydd er bydd Elusen y Newyddiadurwyr (www.journalistscharity.co.uk), a bydd rhai o enwau mawr y cyfryngau yng Nghymru’n dod ynghyd i ddathlu newyddiaduraeth ragorol y wlad.
Comtek yw prif noddwr Gwobrau Cyfryngau Cymru 2015. Prifysgol Fetropolitan Caerdydd a Western Power Distribution a’r partneriaid Quadrant Media & Communications, Cleartech a Cymen yw’r noddwyr eraill.
07 / 02 / 2015
The overall winners of the Wales Media Awards 2015 will be announced at this black tie gala dinner at the Cardiff Marriott Hotel on Thursday March 19th 2015. The judges’ choices for Journalist of the Year and Outstanding Contribution will also be announced.
Hosted by Huw Edwards, the event will bring together some of the top names in the media in Wales to celebrate the country’s journalistic excellence.
Ticket sales are now closed.
13 / 01 / 2015
“Je suis Charlie”: the solidarity of UK journalists
Guests gathered at the Journalists’ Charity’s annual reception at the Embassy of Ireland in London in a sombre and reflective mood, recognising that the enormity of the deathly attack in Paris on the staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had become a defining moment in the defence of free and independent journalism around the world.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, described the terrible death toll as a tragic reminder of the importance of freedom of speech, of a free press and most importantly of a freedom to “offend each other”.
In the absence of the Ambassador of Ireland Mr Dan Mulhall, who was detained in Dublin, Mr Clegg, was welcomed to the reception by Mrs Greta Mulhall, Clare Brosnan, press officer for the Embassy of Ireland and Sue Ryan, the charity’s new chair.
The event (13.1.2015) tops the charity’s calendar of social events and in her opening remarks Ms Brosnan said she understood how for journalists the attack on Charlie Hebdo had cast a shadow over the proceedings.
But the resolve shown by the French people, and beyond, to uphold and defend democracy and freedom, offered “a great ray of hope” and by hosting the annual gathering the Embassy had shown that the importance of the work of journalists was not lost on the people of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
As a politician who had personally felt the sharp end of the cartoonist’s pen, Mr Clegg said he would not have it any other way. He wanted first and foremost to pay tribute to the work of journalists and especially the contribution of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists.
“Whether you are a reporter holding the powerful to account, a foreign correspondent risking life and limb to show the world uncomfortable truths, a commentator contributing to our national debate or a cartoonist pricking the pomposity of politicians and public figures, or even religious figures – thank you. You make us freer.
“You cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend each other. You don’t have to agree with everything, or even anything, that Charlie Hebdo published to ‘be Charlie’ – you only have to wish to protect the freedoms and rights that define liberal societies like ours.”
Mr Clegg, who earlier in the day had been outlining the Liberal Democrats’ opposition to proposed new powers to store and read online communications – a so called “snoopers’ charter” – said journalists around the world had been impressed by the way millions of people took to the streets of Paris in solidarity, in remembrance and in defence and celebration of dearly-held freedoms.
“You might imagine after several days when politicians across the spectrum and across the world have come together – literally linking their arms together in Paris – in defence of free speech, that we should take it as a given that it will be protected.
“But sadly that’s not the case. Among those linking arms in Paris were leaders of other less liberal countries where people are still locked up or worse for speaking their mind, or journalists for doing their job.
“But even in liberal, democratic societies such as ours we need much greater vigilance to protect free speech. Sadly, governments sometimes, with the best of intentions, introduce measures in the name of public safety that undermine the very freedoms we cherish, and which our enemies despise.”
Mr Clegg listed examples of where he believed politicians were saying in one breath they would defend freedom of expression, but then in another advocating a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens:
- The Labour Party’s championing of section 5 of the Public Order Act, using “insulting words” to cause “alarm of distress”.
- The Conservative Party’s push to “filter lawful web content”.
- The push by the Home Secretary Mrs Theresa May to introduce “banning orders” which would give the government the power “to put ASBO-style constraints on people to who say unpleasant but lawful things”.
- The use of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act to obtain journalists’ records.
- And the “snoopers’ charter”, which would mean “a new indiscriminate power for government to record every man, woman and child’s web history, emails and social media interactions regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent of anything”.
“Let me be really clear, we have every right to invade the privacy of terrorists and those who we think want to do us harm – but we should not equate that with invading the privacy of every single person in the UK. They are not the same thing,” said Mr Clegg.
“The snoopers’ charter is not targeted. It is not proportionate. It’s not harmless. It would be a new and dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual.
“People who blithely say they are happy for the state to scrutinise their emails because they have ‘nothing to hide’ have failed to grasp something fundamental about democratic societies. We do not make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free.”
In her welcome Clare Brosnan said that 2014 had been a momentous year for both the Journalists’ Charity and the Embassy. The charity had reached the milestone of its 150th anniversary and for the Embassy it had been a year of firsts.
Michael D Higgins, the President of Ireland, had paid an historic first state visit to Britain; the Ambassador had laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday; the two governments had worked together in Belfast to bring about the 2014 Stormont House agreement; and trade between the two countries had topped £1 billion each week, confirmation that Ireland’s economic recovery was well underway.
Sue Ryan, in her first public role as the new chair of the charity, thanked Nick Clegg for his speech, not least because together with Margaret Thatcher, he was the only other party leader who had returned for a second year as guest speaker at the annual reception.
She thanked the Ambassador for the Embassy’s continued support in hosting the event and acknowledged how important that had been during the charity’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
There were huge challenges for the year ahead: the charity had to drag its communications in the 21st century and start contacting its members, friends and supporters by email rather than post and more importantly address the future of the charity’s finances.
“For most of our 150 years we have been a grant awarding charity helping thousands of journalists in desperate need. Seven years ago that changed when we built a nursing home. Providing the very best care is very expensive. We have twenty rooms, that is too small to break even, so like the NHS we are struggling to meet a short fall.
“We have been digging into our reserves and we cannot continue in that vein, so please support us in any way you can. The aftermath of the dreadful events in Paris has illustrated that after years of people trashing journalists there is now a groundswell of support and that is tremendous to see.”
Guests were encouraged to follow the charity’s events on Twitter — and the hash tag for the reception was #jcirish – but the Embassy had stolen a march on the journalists’ Twitterati by suggesting they followed the Ambassador @DanMulhall who had committed himself to tweeting a Yeats quote for each day of 2015!
Nicholas Jones 14.1.2015
Nick Clegg’s Speech:
I know that normally speeches at these gatherings are light-hearted, but the events of the last week have given events like this a greater importance.
Freedom of speech and a free press are at the very heart of our liberal, democratic society.
We must not take the work of journalists and the freedoms that allow you to do your work without fear or favour for granted.
So I want to take this opportunity, first and foremost, to say thank you. Whether you are a reporter holding the powerful to account, a foreign correspondent risking life and limb to show the world uncomfortable truths, a commentator contributing to our national debate or a cartoonist pricking the pomposity of politicians and public figures, or even religious figures – thank you. You make us freer.
I’ve felt the sharp end of some of your pens myself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend each other. You don’t have to agree with everything, or even anything, that Charlie Hebdo published to “be Charlie” – you only have to wish to protect the freedoms and rights that define liberal societies like ours.
This barbaric attack was an assault not just on journalists and cartoonists but on the values of free speech, public dispute and openness which those professions embody. It was an attack on the very heart of an open, liberal society.
You might imagine after several days when politicians across the spectrum and across the world have come together – literally linking their arms together in Paris – in defence of free speech, that we should take it as a given that it will be protected.
But sadly that’s not the case. Among those linking arms in Paris were leaders of other less liberal countries where people are still locked up or worse for speaking their mind, or journalists for doing their job.
But even in liberal, democratic societies such as ours we need much greater vigilance to protect free speech. Sadly, governments sometimes, with the best of intentions, introduce measures in the name of public safety that undermine the very freedoms we cherish, and which our enemies despise.
Just look at some examples from recent years:
- Labour’s championing of Section 5 of the Public Order Act – using “insulting words” to cause “alarm or distress”.
- The Tories’ push to filter lawful web content.
- The Home Secretary’s push to introduce “banning orders” which would give her the power to put ASBO-style constraints on people who say unpleasant but lawful things.
- The use of RIPA to obtain journalists’ records.
- And of course, the Snoopers’ Charter, which would mean a new indiscriminate power for governments to record every man, woman and child’s web history, emails and social media interactions regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent of anything.
The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then in the next advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens.
Let me be really clear , we have every right to invade the privacy of terrorists and those we think want to do us harm – but we should not equate that with invading the privacy of every single person in the UK. They are not the same thing.
The Snoopers’ Charter is not targeted. It’s not proportionate. It’s not harmless.
It would be a new and dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual.
People who blithely say they are happy for the state to scrutinise their emails because they have ‘nothing to hide’ have failed to grasp something fundamental about open democratic societies:
We do not make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free.
Free speech means bad ideas can be exposed and good ones promoted. But how is the marketplace of ideas supposed to work if law-abiding people can’t communicate freely about our ideas with others, free from surveillance? How can we test our assumptions about the world and discover new ideas if our web browsing is being monitored?
Free speech and privacy therefore go hand in hand. Neither are absolute rights of course, but interference with either needs to be truly exceptional.
Of course, much of the debate in recent days has focused on what the Government can and should do to tighten our security. The Coalition has already acted to do so – there have been two pieces of legislation in recent months which the Liberal Democrats have both supported and helped to design and I have advocated as Deputy Prime Minister.
The question of how we can make ourselves safer is vital and we must never become complacent. But the question I want to pose is: How do we also keep ourselves free?
If we really believe freedom of speech is a founding principle of our democracy, then we must act to protect it.
I look enviously at America, where every schoolchild is taught from day one that they have inalienable rights – including free expression – which are a fundamental part of what it means to be American.
I want us to have the same. The time has come for a written constitution with a Bill of Rights. The Liberal Democrats are committed to a constitutional convention after the general election, and deciding how we enshrine free speech in a British Bill of Rights should be at the heart of it.
Article 10 of the ECHR, the right to free expression, doesn’t go far enough. We need something home-grown if it is going to stick in the public consciousness and really act as a brake on politicians’ authoritarian tendencies in the future.
The Commission on a Bill of Rights we set up in 2011 looked at this. It failed to come to a unanimous view because the Conservatives saw it as an opportunity to weaken the ECHR, not complement it and strengthen it.
On Sunday, millions of people took to the streets in solidarity, in remembrance and in defence and celebration of the freedoms we hold dear. Our response must be to protect and enhance those freedoms, not to allow fear to chip away at them.
We must always defend the British values of freedom, openness and tolerance. We must always defend the rights of individuals to express themselves freely. And we must always defend the right of a free press to do its work without fear or favour.
It is at times like these, when our freedoms are under threat, that we must stand up for them most of all.