Thursday, 31 May 2012

Enough Leveson

I know it might rather jar with my known reputation as a proletarian struggler but I love the opera.

Really, really good opera is of course only that of the bel canto but Mozart wisnae bad at it either. And, by all logic my favourite of his operas should be the Marriage of Figaro. But, having instantly dismissed two of the big five on the basis that the libretto is in German, a language more suited to sound currency and precision machine tools than a magical suspension of reality; and having dismissed Don Giovanni for its appalling sexual politics (that's my story anyway), you are left only with Figaro or Cosi fan Tutti (or wee cozy as it's known in my household).

Why then do I prefer the latter? Because the former has one Act too far.

Logically, you might reasonably expect that an opera entitled The Marriage of Figaro would finish, or, at a pinch, start, with the errr......Marriage of Figaro. Only it doesn't. Figaro gets married at the end of Act 3. And then there is a 4th Act.

The 4th Act consists almost entirely of concert arias, sometimes quite sublime concert arias, a bit like an extended encore. But it adds nothing to the dramatic action.

So do I feel about the Leveson Inquiry. The concert arias have sometimes been brilliant entertainment:  Ken Clarke; Peter Mandelson; even the bassa profundo of John Reid and the would be Queen of the Night, Theresa May. But they have added nothing to the plot. The extended recitative of Jeremy Hunt and Tony Blair even less so. And the chorus of happy peasants haven't even been very entertaining.

But the drama in Leveson was in the first three Acts. The steady troop of ordinary people, or sometimes accidentally exceptional people who nonetheless just wanted to be ordinary people, who had nonetheless seen their lives wrecked by the excesses of the tabloid press. And frankly, for all the politicians who followed, I at least wasn't interested in their excuses, no matter how self-excusingly, or even wittily, expressed. For we all knew the story there and then.

For the sake of political advantage, these people had been dismissed over thirty years and across administrations of different political complexion, as necessary collateral damage compared to the perceived importance of currying the favour of the press in pursuit of political advantage.

Only, in a properly functioning democracy, the interest of the ordinary person in the street is meant to be the overriding motivation of all politicians. They might legitimately disagree as to how that interest might be served in respect of the balance between taxation and expenditure; or social convention vis a vis liberality but it is difficult to accept a single one of them thought that the interests of the ordinary person in the street were ever being served by the hacking of the phone of a murdered teenager. Or disagreed about it. Yet, although they might not have known of that specific activity, they all knew of similar outrages. And all decided, in their own interests, to do nothing about it.

So, hopefully, no matter how long the extended encore might be, when he comes to report, Lord Leveson will notice that while we will probably never have a more principled press, we did, once, have more principled politicians. And enhort the latter to do something about the former.

Not that they will. For an Election is always coming.

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