A small man does a big thing:
Mr Cameron soothed that his proposals were for “voluntary self-regulation”. The use of a royal charter amendable only by a two-thirds majority, avoided, he said, crossing the “Rubicon” of “giving future governments the ability to restrict freedom of the press”.Freedom of the press, established by men such as Milton and Locke, has been severely curtailed by an overgrown child who professes to be a conservative. Despite having gone to Eton and Oxford it was clearly never explained to Mr Cameron, or perhaps he skipped that lesson, that the essence of being a conservative is to conserve. To conserve all that is beautiful, valuable and true. Those things which are so not merely for today but for the generations yet to come and for those long past.
But new clause 27A alone makes it about as voluntary as the Charge of the Light Brigade was for the average member of the 17th Lancers – and the claim of “self-regulation” is equally dishonest. What came out on Monday is, in effect, a state press law, one of the strongest in Europe, and the Rubicon has been definitively crossed.
To put it in crudely scientific terms, a conservative demands a vast data set before drawing up a workable hypothesis. His antithesis, who is not the liberal but the Jacobin, is uninterested in empirical data. Before the Jacobin is a pillar of fire, albeit one of his own imagination, that commands the total obedience of him and all around him. The old term for such men is a fanatic.
More than being merely an ill tempered man, the fanatic is someone who builds a theory and demands that the facts conform. A conservative is a man who patiently observes the facts and hopes a workable theory might be teased out. It is a theory that he teases out, not an infallible pronouncement. Human beings are not omniscient and error is the lot of man. Even when a conservative says that something is good, true and wise context is noted and qualification is always made.
The recent subversion of ancient British liberties are not, at least not immediately, the product of fanatics. Mr Cameron is a reasonable man. The Prime Minister prides himself on being reasonable. His acts are done in the light of public outrage. Among the attributes that a conservative must possess, which the Prime Minister sadly does not, is a certain detachment from the times. The ability to lean against the mantelpiece and let the children squabble for awhile. The sort of trait that generations of Etonian masters attempted to imbue in their young wards.
So long ago that was.
Now Her Majesty's First Minister, a Tory from an old Tory family, bends to a fickle mob. Not a fanatic or a demagogue, he is something far less respectable: A coward craving love. This is more than securing popular support. The current ministry will live or die based on the performance of the British economy. The hacking scandal is a sideshow that will, in time, be forgotten. History is replete with examples of an outraged people and its habitual bursts of outrage. The role of the statesman is to cast his field of vision, as Mrs Thatcher and Mr Churchill did, much further afield.
The tabloid hacking scandals were not the product of a free press. They were the product of greedy and ambitious journalists breaking the law to advanced their ends. There is no shortage of laws to punish the guilty. Many of these laws were not enforced because some public officials failed in their duty. Then the law must punish them too. The issue at stake in the hacking scandal is the credibility of the law, not the need for more laws.
Only a mentality lacking in historical knowledge could imagine that the hacking scandal is so bad, so horrible and without precedent, that it requires this draconian a response. The old hacks of Grubb and Fleet Street are spinning in their graves. For this you have sacrificed one of your most sacred inheritances?
David Cameron is not a Jacobin. But he is aiding and abetting the self-seekers and Jacobins of modern British politics. He has sold his birth right and not even for a mess of pottage.