Will our leaders now wake up to the war against the jihadi enemy within?

THE emotions coursing through me writing this in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the three-day terrorisation of Paris are a meld of seething anger, deep sadness and utter revulsion.

Not because eight of the 12 victims in Wednesday’s craven attack on the satirical magazine’s offices were fellow journalists – in fact, I considered much of what they produced offensive – but free speech and humanity, warts and all, were the targets.

The scum, unfit to dignify the title ‘human beings’ and perverting the faith they purported to defend, carried out the massacre with the lethal and clinical precision of Nazi stormtroopers.

They’d clearly recce’d their killing ground well in advance, just as the callous butchers responsible for the Mumbai Massacre did in 2008, and they executed the op like seasoned special forces.

Particularly chilling was the gruesomely slick way one snuffed out the life of a wounded cop – himself a Muslim – lying helpless on the pavement, begging to be spared.

All bore the indelible hallmarks of al-Qaeda, particularly the assault on the kosher deli in eastern Paris, where four hostages were murdered, which was deviously synchronised to throw police into disarray.

So let’s be straight: these full frontal assaults on liberty cannot be passed off by pussyfooting politicos as yet more ‘lone-wolf’ incidents, concocted by fanatical ‘self-starters’.

WORLD GRIEF: This sympathiser in Moscow shares her revulsion at the attack on the French magazine

WORLD GRIEF: This sympathiser in Moscow shares her revulsion at the attack on the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo

Nothing about them was haphazard or shamateur. And the arsenal of death the assassins toted, AK47s and an RPG rocket-launcher, couldn’t have be sourced from Galeries Lafayette or even local gun shops, which proliferate in a hunting-mad country.

No, a complex supply chain, involving cells of smugglers, financiers and armourers, was needed to support these multiple barbarities and it lies somewhere in the heart of France’s five-million strong Muslim community.

Undoubtedly, the peaceable followers of Islam will be just as gut-wrenched by the hideousness of it all as their fellow-countrymen.

But – as demonstrated ad nauseum throughout Western democracies – the question will once again be posed: are Muslim community leaders doing enough in their own backyards and mosques to counter the explosion of extremism?

Secular France has a particularly testy problem with Islam. Yet, in recent times, its liberal elite has bent over backwards to excuse an uptick of attacks – much of them anti-Semitic – as merely the handiwork of maniacs.

Just before Christmas, a shopper was killed and nine wounded when a van deliberately ploughed through a crowded market in Nantes.

A day earlier a man, shouting ‘Allahu Akba’ rammed his car into crowds in Dijon, seriously injuring 13, while in Joueles-Tours an assailant stabbed three police officers, likewise yelling in Arabic, ‘God is the great’.

That same week three drive-by shootings in Paris targeted a synagogue, a kosher restaurant and a Jewish-owned publishing house.

SAVED: A hostage holding a child shows his relief after paramilitary police stormed the kosher deli in eastern Paris

SAVED: A hostage holding a child shows his relief after paramilitary police stormed the kosher deli in eastern Paris and killed the terrorist

And it is a French jihadi, then newly returned from fighting in Syria, who faces trial over last May’s ambush at Brussels’ Jewish Museum, in which three people were shot dead and another critically wounded.

Yet, immediately after the Dijon attack – which the perpetrator dedicated to the ‘children of Palestine’ – France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, called on the public ‘not to draw hasty conclusions since [the car driver’s] motives have not been established.’

And, despite admitting ‘the investigation had barely begun,’ the local public prosecutor quickly claimed, ‘This was not a terrorist act at all.’

In fact, it took the third outrage before Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, conceded, ‘There is, as you know, a terrorist threat to France.’

Had there been any lingering doubt, Paris’s 9/1 carnage has obliterated it, because the bloodletting was all too predictable, regardless of any counter-terrorism failings.

And, in stark contrast to the appeasers who rule us, people – not merely headbanging xenophobes – were already displaying greater awareness of the unpalatable reality confronting them.

Those in the Western street long knew our civilisation is locked in a guerrilla war on our own turf, waged by an enemy within, who cloak themselves in a ruthless interpretation of an eastern faith imported by waves of immigrants, seeking opportunity in better, fairer, freer societies.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has serially failed to slap down the army of 20,000 demonstrators, who meet each week in Dresden – and growing bands of likeminded activists elsewhere in her country – demanding tighter immigration controls.

And Australian Premier Tony Abbott was rightly rapped for downplaying the attack on a Sydney café by a self-style sheikh that left two diners dead.

Even though it was evident the killer, Man Haron Monis – an Iranian, who forced hostages to hold up to the window a black flag, emblazoned with a jihadi slogan – was driven by religious fervour, Abbott insisted, ‘This event was an act of politically-motivated violence.’

Politically motivated? Maybe he also believes the Irish ultra-nationalists of the IRA and the Basque separatists of ETA were inspired by radical Catholicism to commit mayhem. Somehow I think not.

At least in Canada there is no mood for whitewashing Islamic extremism.

SATIRE SURVIVES: David Pope's cartoon in the Canberra Times puts the hideous acts of Paris 9/1 into true perspective

SATIRE SURVIVES: David Pope’s cartoon in the Canberra Times puts the hideous acts of Paris 9/1 into true perspective

After incidents involving Muslim converts killing two soldiers, Canada’s leader, Stephen Harper, didn’t mince words: ‘I have been saying we live in dangerous world and terrorism has been with us for a long time,’ he said.

So what can be done to stem the rising tide of ultra-Islamic ferocity?

For a start we can stop bellyaching that our security establishment scanning emails is a snoopers’ charter, because this is a key bulwark against those out to destroy our society.

And, as the head of Britain’s MI5 pleaded last week, invest more resources in vigilance to minimise opportunities for the merchants of death to claim further victims.

Governments also need to force internet platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, to take down suspect sites. If they don’t, hit them with astronomical fines.

The international community, meanwhile, must enforce its money-laundering pacts with real vigour, choking off cash – mainly from Middle Eastern sympathisers – that’s the lifeblood of jihadism.

A further measure is more scrupulous border checks and denying the right of return to those who join the jihad cause abroad, rendering them stateless.

Finally, to aid pan-community solidarity, those who represent mainstream Muslims – often so quick to rage – should take it upon themselves to organise ‘Not in our name’ marches.

That gesture might, just might, isolate the fanatics and stop them providing ammunition to far-Right parties expanding across Europe, whose racist venom is only likely to make a grave situation even worse.

Euro court’s crazy Google gag is a ‘right to be rotten’, not a ‘charter to be forgotten’

BY the time you read this, it’ll be history. Or, as we were fond of saying in the good, old days of hot metal and cold print, today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish-and-chips’ wrapping.

Sardony aside, this piece is now on the internet, so in years to come perhaps some student wordsmith will read it and think, ‘Wow, that bloke could write’ or conversely, ‘What a load of b******t’.

In a free society, everyone has the privilege of a view, so those of us who live by the pen can also perish by it in the court of public opinion or, indeed, in a court of law if we cross the threshold of libel.

Which is why – whether you’re bewitched, bothered or bewildered by my utterings – you can be guaranteed that whatever I air here is based on unsullied truths, often treble checked for veracity, even if my conclusions don’t necessarily chime with yours.

As a adolescent newcomer to this surreal trade, one of the first tenets I learned was that laid down by The Guardian’s legendary editor, C.P. Scott, who, in 1921, wrote, ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred.’

So the gleaning of accurate info is vital to my cause, my job and my service to you, the reader.

Last week, however, the ground rules shifted dramatically and I can no longer vouch that what I state is the whole truth, but something short of it.

Because that august body, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), have slammed the door on my – and your – legitimate liberty to enquire.

GOOGLE GAGGED: The internet search engine must bow to EU citizens' demands to rewrite their histories

GOOGLE GAGGED: The internet search engine must now bow to EU citizens’ demands to block their historic embarrassments

They did so by ordering Google, the world’s most popular internet search engine and the planet’s most valuable brand, to bow to an individual’s demand to hide embarrassing details of their past online, even if such data remains elsewhere in cyberspace and others, beyond the remit of Europe, continue to access it.

In principal, it enshrines in law the Brussels doctrine of the ‘right to be forgotten’, which says people should not be victims of their historic mistakes or misdemeanours.

So, any citizen of the European Union will be able to require Google – and other search engines – to block any reference to their life they personally deem unpalatable…even if, in the ECJ’s own contradictory admission, it was ‘true, accurate and lawfully published’.

The bizarre ruling was handed down after 59-year-old Spaniard, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, complained that an auction notice in a Barcelona newspaper, regarding his home being repossessed to repay social security debts in 1998, still appeared in Google searches, thus infringing his privacy.

Senor Gonzalez said the matter had been ‘fully resolved for a number of years’. And the ECJ’s 13-strong panel of judges agreed that, under a 1995 EU data protection directive, his rights ‘override, as a general rule, the interest of internet users’.

The test case is relatively small beer – not worth even a can of San Miguel lager in the great scheme of things (except, of course, to Senor Gonzalez, whose action won him a tsunami of unwanted headlines that now litter the Web).

However, its ramifications are scary, not say a full frontal attack on liberty.

EU Commissioner, Viviane Reding, believes it’s ‘a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans’.

In contrast, Emma Carr, of Big Brother Watch, points out, ‘The principle that you have a right to be forgotten is a laudable one, but it was never intended to be a way for people to rewrite history.’

Her fears are understandably echoed by Google, who report over a thousand people have already demanded links to unfavourable stories about them be blocked.

They include an unnamed British ex-MP, fuming that his expenses claims paint a less than glowing portrait of his integrity, a tax scammer, 20 convicted criminals – including a paedophile – plus a surgeon, whose handiwork received negative reviews from patients.

The US-based search engine now faces a logistical nightmare in how to deal with the predicted flood of demands and says it will need a multi-lingual ‘army of removal experts’ in each of the 28 EU member states.

Even that, though, may prove a mission impossible, because the idiot ECJ’s criteria of what is ‘no longer relevant’ to the public interest is hopelessly blurred, since it fails to define what is or isn’t ‘historic’.

Nonetheless, by its clunking fist, the court has granted itself editorial powers it has no right to wield, given the internet is a global resource and this ruling infringes the American constitution’s First Amendment, the freedom of expression.

And, to further complicate the farce, the ECJ decision doesn’t apply to Facebook comments or Twitter posts.

So, in essences, the learned jurists have not only made an ass of the law – and themselves – but cooked up a crooks’ charter, whereby every miscreant from the west of Ireland to the Black Sea is empowered to act as their own cyberspace censor.

Conmen, rogue traders and motley scumbags must think the verdict is better than a ‘get out of jail free’ card, because they can rewrite their histories with complete alacrity.

EURO INJUSTICE: The ECJ's internet ban ruling is glad tiding for those who want to hide the truth

EURO INJUSTICE: The ECJ’s internet ban ruling does liberty no favours – but favours the notion that censorship rules in the EU

Ditto the rich and famous, who want their private lives – however seedy and corrupt – out of the public eye. Some already do this by employing expensive PR firms to sanitise their Wikipedia references to appear like insipid autobiographies.

But anyone, other than the certifiably stupid, knows the internet is a mixed bag of knowledge and nonsense, parts of it vital to the passage of information, science and learning; other, darker zones inflammatory, distorted and gratuitously pornographic

However, attempts to police it in the heavy-handed way the ECJ have done are nothing short of Stalinesque – or Maoesque, in the case of China, where what Beijing users can browse is a fraction of that available to New Yorkers and, until last week, Europeans.

Meanwhile, by erring on the side of those who want their pasts hidden, the ECJ judges have added yet another layer of control and restraint to liberty that’s become synonymous with the increasingly autocratic European Union.

 

The perils of the ‘anti-social’ media: Facebook follies and Twitter ‘trolls’

According to the Chambers Dictionary definition, twitter is a ‘tremulous chirping’ and ‘an excrescence on a horse’s hoof’, which I’m sure Zara Philips would recognise instantly.

Handling as it does 40 million ‘tweets’ a day, Twitter is also a social media phenomenon, so colossally popular it has ballooned into the second most-visited information exchange after Facebook.

So how come I rather favour Chambers’ latter definition, minus allusion to things equine, because I think there’s a clear and present danger it is becoming not so much ‘excrescence’ more on-line, verbal excrement?

I don’t ‘tweet’ for two main reasons: i) I’d find it nigh on impossible to say anything meaningful in a maximum of 140 characters; and ii) most of the outpourings I’ve read on Twitter are so utterly puerile, I don’t wish to join a club whose membership includes lobotomised nerds with nothing better to do than to stuff their opinionated vanities down the gullets of the gullible or similarly vacuous.

Yes, yes, I’m sure Twitter has some very salient advantages, which many folk appreciate. However, my gut instinct tells me I’m somehow not going to benefit from the ‘tweeted’ wit and wisdom of overpaid soccer stars or what some preening pop princess has to contribute on the topic of world peace.

TWEETERS BEWARE: Anonymous 'trolls' lurk in the dark zones of Twitter, often targeting women

TWEETERS BEWARE: Anonymous ‘trolls’ lurk in the dark zones of Twitter, often targeting women

Maybe it’s a generational gap – after all, 51% of its users are in the 24-34 age bracket – but frankly I suspect the whole social media scene is a minefield, too easily open to misuse by abusers dubbed ‘trolls’.

Facebook, meanwhile, can be a mixed bag, though I have a page on that site, where this blog features.

Certainly, it’s a splendid means of mass broadcasting personal messages – thereby nullifying the need to make countless phone calls – but beware of pitfalls…like saying how you’re coping after the decree nisi (fact: one in five divorces is blamed on Facebook).

Maybe the pool party photos you posted of you and what’s-his-name skinny-dipping, rat-legged, might have been to blame. The judge certainly didn’t buy the line it was just innocent fun, especially when your newly-liberated ‘ex’ was away on business in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, was it wise to announce to every burglar in the neighbourhood you were off on that round-the-world cruise? No wonder those nasty insurance men made such a fuss over your claim for replacing three plasma-screen TVs, all those expensive electronic gizmos and your late mum’s collection of Georgian silver after they’d seen your Facebook page.

Frankly, I’m often gobsmacked at how much personal info people naively post on the internet about their plans, their thoughts and those wonderful snaps, which is why Facebook has become the first portal of call from the criminal fraternity.

Twitter, however, is an entirely different social media animal – and lately too often a vicious, nihilistic form of disseminating obnoxious disinformation by any moron with the minimal grey matter to invent a hash-tag.

So, far from social media being a positive force for democratising the internet, thus allowing individuals to plug their talents or businesses and form friendships, in parts it has become a virtual realm of dark lawlessness for the anti-social to gratuitous pervert what we glibly describe as ‘free speech’.

And, in the wrong hands, it’s fascistic, because it directly contradicts the compact that exists in a civilised society, whereby we accept moral responsibilities – and legal edicts – that curb what we can do and say.

The official media generally accept those obligations, because libel actions are expensive, while phone-hacking and bribing cops is illegal.

TWEETERING TWIT? Sally Berkow, wife of the House of Commons Speaker, paid the price for an erroneous 'tweet'

TWEETERING TWIT: Sally Berkow, wife of the House of Commons Speaker

Some ‘tweeters’, too – notably silly Sally Berkow, wife of the UK House of Commons Speaker, comedian Alan Davies and Guardian columnist, George Monbiot – also found a loose texting finger can be costly and embarrassing, after they erroneously smeared Lord McAlpine as a paedophile.

Yet, Twitter remains the preferred weapon of choice for sinister ‘trolls’, who eke out sicko pleasure in cyber-bullying and stalking an untold number of women with the most chillingly explicit menaces.

It’s also the nether world of sexual predators and racists, who can broadcast their bile by cellphone, on the hoof and ostensibly undetectable.

Meanwhile, because the demented perps hide behind the anonymity of hash-tags and operate in cowardly isolation, nobody, it seems, can collar them.

The police claim they haven’t the resources, despite managing to arrest a man over alleged death threats to British parliamentarian Stella Creasy and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.

And Twitter? So far their knee-jerk reaction has been little more than a cringe-inducing ‘personal apology’ from its UK boss, Tony Wang.

ABUSE VICTIM: Hannah Smith, 14, hanged herself after being bullied by anonymous 'trolls' on the Ask.fm website

ABUSE VICTIM: Hannah Smith, 14, hanged herself after being cyber-bullied by anonymous ‘trolls’ on the Ask.fm website

Twitter and Facebook, however, aren’t the only miscreants, because last week 14-year-old Hannah Smith, from Leicestershire, hanged herself, after receiving threats on Ask.fm, a Q&A site, which allows users to send messages to one another without having to disclose their identities.

Last year two Irish youngsters took their lives in separate incidents after also being bullied on the same, Latvia-based site.

Clearly, this state of internet anarchy can’t prevail and politicians everywhere seem powerless to stop the rot, except to issue pious words of condemnation.

So the solution must rest with the social media platform providers themselves, who should show some social responsibility for the billions they net, by blocking the nasties and nutters from their domains.

Until they do, ‘tweet’ at your peril and make sure your Facebook postings don’t explode in your face.

The Ash TRAs: The good, bad and ugly of 2012 get their gongs – and come-uppance

Yes, it’s that time of year again commonly dubbed the awards season…from the New Year’s Honours List to the media’s annual verdict on the paragons, plonkers and the plain old whackos gracing and disgracing our lives in 2012.

So, not wishing to be stranded on the red carpet, I’ve launched the Ash TRAs – my Triumphant and Ridiculous Awards, hopefully doled out in fair, equal measure. Some are undisputed champions in their class, others unapologetically contentious. See if you agree…

• Outstanding Achievement of the Year: The 2012 Olympics. Even Larry, the Downing Street cat, must have had his doubts the UK could set a new gold standard for the Games. But London did – despite the security recruitment fiasco orchestrated by G4S – and the nation’s athletes matched the challenge of splendid stadia with a colossal medals haul.

ACHIEVER OF THE YEAR: Danny Boyle for the London Olympics opening splash

ACHIEVER OF THE YEAR: Danny Boyle for the London Olympics opening splash

• Outstanding Achiever of the Year: Film-maker Danny Boyle, tasked with designing a Games opening splash that perfectly encapsulate the best of Britain over the ages. There may have been a nervous, communal intake of breath when he said sheep and NHS beds would feature in the show, but ye of little faith were forced to eat humble pie.

• Long-term Achiever (cont’d): The Queen. Over 60 years, she has employed a steadfast hand on the helm of Britain’s constitutional monarchy; a nerveless, unerring and – at times – humorous figurehead, who’s dedicated her life to serving country and Commonwealth. HM is the perfect rebuttal to republicanism…I mean would you have preferred Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Margaret Thatcher as GB presidents in her place? No, neither would I.

• Losers of the Year: Most politicians – certainly those, like UK Chancellor George Osborne and his Europrat counterparts – who mistake austerity as the panacea for the world’s ills. Medieval quacks believed bleeding the body was a cure and now the politicos have adopted this discredited medicine. It didn’t work in the 15th Century, so why should it do so in the 21st?  (And by the way, George, we’re not ‘all in this together’, as you insist – because you’re not!)

• Winners of the Year: UKIP, probably the only political party to emerge from 2012 smiling. After drubbing the Coalition – especially the shamelessly power-hungry Lib-Dems – in three recent by-elections, they’re no longer the fringe party of anti-Brussels nutters, though 2013 will determine whether they’re really a force to be reckoned with. Methinks they will be.

LUCKIEST MAN: Barack Obama for being re-elected US President - thanks to a rival who was even worse

LUCKIEST MAN: Barack Obama for being re-elected US President – thanks to a rival who was even worse

• Luckiest Man of the Year: President Barack Hussein Obama. The US’s second socialist leader after the serially-inept Jimmy Carter, he made a pig’s ear of the country’s economy and was a hologram on the world stage, but still won re-election…chiefly because his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, was considered an even worse option.

• International Twerps of the Year: Anyone who actually believed the Arab Spring would prelude democracy. Despite a surprisingly transparent election – probably the last Egypt will see – Mubarak’s usurper, Mohamed Morsi, wants to to be a new-age pharaoh; Libya is a basket-case of factionalism; and the bearded ones can’t wait to get their teeth into Tunisia. Meanwhile, the ruptured Palestinians place PR gains ahead of peace with Israel.

• Twits of the Year: Twitter-addicts, as exemplified by silly Sally Bercow, uppity wife of the House of Commons Speaker, who ‘tweeted’ a line that led to the omnishambles of Lord McAlpine being wrongly smeared as a perv. The sooner this irritating, so-called ‘social forum’ patronised by egoist berks (and Bercows) is booted, the better.

• Disorganisation of the Year: That bastion of right-on, illiberal Leftiness, the BBC, for its multiple cock-ups over the Jimmy Savile scandal and shoddy journalism meant to gloss over fault lines. If ever an organisation proved it isn’t fit for purpose, the BBC is it, though the UN and that Nobel Prize-winning joke, the EU, ran it close (also see next item).

LUCKY PLONKER: BBC's 54-day wonder, George Entwistle

LUCKY PLONKER: George Entwistle, who lasted 54 days as BBC Director General – and scooped a windfall pay-off

• Most Successful Plonker of the Year: George Entwistle. As head of BBC Vision, he was the toast of Sky TV for Auntie’s abysmal coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, only to be propelled to the dizzy heights of Director General – for a whole 54 days! Savilegate saw him off, his pockets bulging with public dosh. Lucky blighter (or words to that effect).

• Misjudgement of the Year: The Leveson Report. Regardless of the judge’s stated intentions of not wanting legal curbs on the Press, he botched it. And now that all with a vested interest in truth have read his two million words of small print, if Leveson’s ideas are adopted they’ll quash investigative journalism and leave politicians effectively editing newspapers.

Justice of the Year: Exoneration for the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 Liverpool soccer fans died and 766 were injured. An independent panel finally conclude the supporters were not responsible for the tragedy and accused the emergency services of colluding in a massive cover-up, including the alteration of 164 police statements.

• Robber Barons of the Year (cont’d): Bankers. They promised to repent and not use investors’ cash to fund their personal casino, where, even if they lost, the taxpayer covered their bets. Fixing the LIBOR rate and money-laundering confirmed that leopards don’t change their spots, even if they wear pin-striped suits.

• Stellar Telly of the Year: Downton Abbey (a.k.a. Trouble At The Toffs), period drama at its finest, even if Shirley Maclaine’s cameo as a trans-Atlantic dowager was more rank than Yank. Long may the aristo Crawleys go crumbling on and their obsequious servants backstab each other with silver cake slicers.

• Telly Stinker of the Year: The Royal Bodyguard, a monumental blight on sainted David Jason’s CV. Embarrassing and excruciatingly unfunny, no wonder that of the eight million viewers who switched onto the first episode, only a million-and-a-bit were there at the end. If you never saw it (or better still haven’t heard of it) count yourself royally fortunate.

• Must-see Movie of the Year: Probably the best of the 007 flicks since Dr. No a half-century ago, Skyfall has chilling pace, hardly a gimmick, and Daniel Craig as the coolest Bond ever – even if Judi Dench’s M, and Javier Bardem’s traitorous Silva nearly stole his thunder.

• Must Miss Movie of the Year: Despite the presence of nubile Jennifer Aniston in Wanderlust, this tale of a couple of big city losers joining a hippie commune left film fans with only one lust…to wander straight out of the cinema, mid-movie.

• Best Prediction for 2013: This will be the Chinese Year of the Snake…and there’ll be plenty of those slithering around in the grass, so don’t expect much change for the better.

Nonetheless, a happy and hopeful New Year to whoever you are, wherever you are!

Verdict on Leveson: don’t blame the Press for Cameron’s pantomime of blunders

In certain countries – including not a few in the so-called free world – I couldn’t write what you are about to read. Laws would proscribe such anti-Establishment heresy, though not in Britain…not until now, that is, where the Leveson Report threatens to challenge that.

In his defence, the judge walked a tightrope over his inquiry into the ‘culture, practices and ethics’ of the Press. Because whatever were to be his findings, m’lud was inevitably stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.

His first option was to modify the status quo – beefing up the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), with greater representation from the laity or even a judge like himself.

Inevitably, this would have laid Leveson open to accusation by certain vested interests that he buckled to the print barons and we hacks would be toasting his health in the Last Chance Saloon

His second was to recommend a new, independent body to police newspapers and, after long deliberation, Leveson plumped for it. However, if implemented it will signal a monumental blunder in the wake of the earlier one, which established his inquiry.

I’ve no criticism of the judge, who did a commendable job with an impossible brief and his observations are fair, balanced and objective.

JUDGING THE JUDGE: Leveson had an impossible brief

JUDGING THE JUDGE: Leveson’s observations were fair, balanced and objective

Yet, his recommendations patently fail to square a circle he desperately sought to avoid: state licensing of the Press, totally contradicting his insistence, ‘This is not and cannot be characterised as statutory regulation’.

It can and will. Moreover, any short-term gain risks being outweighed by long-term dangers of future regimes moving the goalposts. So, small wonder David Cameron is squirming.

The inquiry might have made for compulsive telly viewing, much of it a pantomime of hot air from celebrity whingers grinding axes. But it was a monumental political gaffe to have unleashed Leveson in the first place.

The PM hung it on legitimate concern of ‘havoc’ – the judge’s own word – wreaked on innocent families, like that of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, by rabid newshounds, blatantly oblivious to their own rules of engagement.

A likelier reason, though, was Cameron trying to amend for – as his critics claim – naivety in supping with the media devil, only neglecting to take a long spoon. As Icarus flew lethally too close to the sun, he made the cardinal error of getting too cosy with The Sun newspaper (and News of the World) luminaries, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

Nonetheless, appointing Leveson was a silly, political knee-jerk, and one that threatens to nail Cameron for posterity as the PM who chanced 300 years of Press freedom on the toss of a judicial inquiry. In doing so, he ignored wiser heads, like Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers, who noted, ‘the liberty of speaking and writing guards our other liberties’

What pains me as, I believe, a conscionable journalist is I’ve been hung out to dry with a bag of rotten apples that lurks within every profession, business and industry.

CLOSE UP: Is Cameron paying the price of his friendship with Rebekah Brooks?

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT?  Cameron is paying the price of his links with Murdoch luminary Rebekah Brooks

Because the overwhelmingly vast majority of us scribes don’t eavesdrop on other people’s voice-mail, hatch plots with dodgy MPs and bung coppers moolah. We see our role as uncovering and reporting the truth, but as fallible humans we don’t always get it right.

In the main I think we do, because of the 50,000-plus stories that appeared in UK publications last year, the PCC received 7,341 complaints, 719 of which were deemed to have breached the voluntary Editors’ Code of Ethics (yes, we actually have one!).

That reinforces my opinion Leveson was a crass over-reaction. Because Britain already has rigorous laws against bribery, phone-hacking and corruption, not to say protection of human rights, without having a judge reaffirm them, as Ms Brooks and Mr. Coulson will testify.

The country also has some of the world’s sternest libel laws. And, as a one-time senior, UK national newspaper executive, I have long experience of such counterweights to media excess.

Nonetheless, in a career spanning over 40 years, very occasionally and for sound reasons, I’ve supported decisions that were legally risky.

Hand on heart, I did so not simply to land a scoop, but to reveal injustices, connivances, scams and hypocracies the public deserved to know the truth of, because there are some powerful, arrogant people who abuse their positions of trust and deserve to be outed.

Sometimes, only a probing, fearless media can do that.

Which is why a lynch mob of certain aggrieved MPs salivated for Leveson to bring in a guilty verdict over the Press. The reason? Look no further than the Daily Telegraph’s exposé of their grubby expenses rip-off – based on illegally-leaked information – and the ‘entrapment’ by the Sunday Times of certain lords a-leaping for cash in return for breaching lobbying rules.

Even the dead, disgraced News of the World, sunk in the phone-hacking morass, wasn’t all boobs and celeb trash. It conducted some genuinely admirable investigations, one of the last being to bowl out a clutch of Pakistani cricketers involved in match-betting fixes.

Meanwhile, in hindsight, would you feel David Mellor – the ostensibly squeaky-clean family man-cum-political populist – still merited power, having been outed by The People over his extra-marital tryst with Antonia de Sancha?

And how would you have liked unctious Jonathan Aitken as PM – once a distinct possibility – before he was impaled on his own ‘sword of truth’ and jailed for perjury and perverting justice, after being exposed for his iffy links to Arab businessmen and lying through his teeth in a libel action against Granada TV’s World In Action?

OLD NEWS: But even the defunct News of the World produced some

OLD NEWS: But even the defunct News of the World produced some admirable investigations

So would you be better off without a free, self-regulated Press, warts and all, or one at the mercy off government?  Alternatively, will you prefer your ‘news’ delivered by an anarchic, unpoliced Internet, where crackpots abound and Twitter twits compound libels, like misnaming Lord McAlpine a paedophile?

As several MPs sagely noted last week, state regulation of the Press is ‘absolutely pointless’ when people are able to use the Web to spread ‘lies and slurs’.

And consider: was the Leveson Inquiry solely about the ‘culture, practices and ethics’ of the Press or were other dimensions in play, a back-story so to speak?

Because, in our dog-eats-dog menagerie, some media gloried in the bloodbath of the tabloids. Unsurprisingly, most enthusiastic were standard-bearers of the illiberal Left, the pious Guardian and the haughty BBC, despite the serial cock-ups of the Jimmy Savile affair exposing its inherent hypocricy and journalistic ineptitude.

Both harbour agendas, The Guardian because anyone who disagrees with its prejudices must surely be wrongheaded and the Beeb because it feared a Murdoch takeover of Sky TV would shove it further down the road of decline.

So, too, does a cabal of righteous, self-appointed lobby groups, like the Media Standards Trust, which spawned the Hugh Grant-led ‘Hacked Off’ campaign.

Hence, despite the best intentions of Lord Leveson, his inquiry was essentially a trial of the Murdoch media, set against a Left-versus-Right political backdrop.

Its recommendations are still to be fully weighed, dissected and debated. But the final verdict rests with politicians, who equally shared the dock with the Press.

Which prompts me to ask: since when did the guilty decide the fate of co-defendants?