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Friday, July 15, 2011

Ofcom not fit to judge 'fit and proper person'? Colette Bowe' improper' 'disreputable' - Lord Gilbert

Lord Gilbert has just criticized Ofcom chair Colette Bowe in the most corruscating terms in the Lords debate on News Corporation, for her leaking of the Attorney-General's advice re. Westland and collective responsibility. Lord Gilbert repeated several times a finding that she had acted 'disreputably and tendentiously' in both leaking and editing for malicious effect (against Michael Heseltine) the advice. Her behaviour, and that of her Minister who was soon forced to resign, was infamous, though she was also found to have been the only civil servant who protested against being required to leak, and referred inquiries to the PM's spokesman, who was accused - with her Minister - of ordering her to leak
Gilbert reported that he told the Labour Minister responsible for Bowe's appointment that he must have gone "stark staring mad". One might argue that knighting, elevating to the peerage, making Leon Brittan a European Commissioner and then Vice President all AFTER his disgrace and fall was significantly starker...he is now in government again as special advisor and his office in the EC included a young ambitious toady called Nick Clegg...
Needless to say, Gilbert argued that Ofcom can hardly be expected to rule properly on 'fit and proper persons' to own media corporations when its own chair had been 'disreputable' and 'improper'. 
Well, can she be as bad as Richard Desmond or the Barclay brothers? Or David Sullivan (warning: link may contain unsubstantiated gossip)?
He also reported that the Financial Times in 2008 entirely misrepresented the joint Select Committee's report conclusions regarding Bowe, and that the editor only replied to him when he threatened it with the Press 'Totally Compliant' Commission (which makes one rose-tinted nostalgic that an editor gave a damn about it). Pluralism did win out, however, as Stephen Glover in The Independent got the facts right about Bowe/Westland in March 2009.
Another day, another revelation. The debate was generally far more authoritative than rubbish in the Commons.
Frankly, I'd rather be at Sandwich...
UPDATE: I have dug out the link to the debate over that Select Committee report, in which Tam Dalyell attempts to pin the leak authority on Margeret Thatcher, who would have had to resign had that been proved, and this highly sympathetic Toynbee interview which smacks of north London approves of Chair Bowe's constitutionally correct Sphinx-like silence on the matter. She apparently hates 'people who blab' - whistle blowers are clearly not her cup of tea. Given all the blabbing this week from all corners, it must be one of her least favorite weeks. Almost over.
UPDATE2: Lord Gilbert's speech now in today's Hansard. It is worth noting that yesterday he reiterated his view that the tragic Chinook crash in Scotland was in part pilot error - he's not afraid to be contentious...

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