The Leveson Enquiry is Common Purpose

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Bell – the high-minded defender of privacy – was at that time chairman of a charity which was itself censured by the regulator under the Data Protection Act for multiple probable breaches of individuals’ privacy.
The charity concerned, Common Purpose, is the subject of far too much conspiracist chatter on the Internet. But its essential aim is to train a network of “future leaders” – to help create a new, broadly left-liberal, establishment, if you like – and it has done this with vast amounts of public funding.
Bell also does lie at the centre of a network of people who have personal and professional interests in restraining journalists. I found, for instance,that the “Hacked Off” campaign – an offshoot of Bell’s Media Standards Trust, now pushing for statutory regulation of the press – was partly funded and staffed by a New Labour lobbying company, Sovereign Strategy, that has had many run-ins with newspapers which have questioned its ethical standards. Hacked Off and Sovereign huffed and puffed about my piece, but couldn’t shake any of the central facts.
This nexus is quite subtle. It’s also often boring and complicated to describe accurately, requiring the naming of long strings of people you’ve never heard of – but it really does exist, and it has clearly played a big role in framing the Leveson inquiry.
  • Three of the six Leveson assessors have Common Purpose connections, either through direct participation or through senior colleagues within the organisations they lead or have led.
  • Bell and Middleton set up the Media Standards Trust, a lobby group which presented a huge amount of evidence to the Inquiry. The Media Standards Trust, whose chairman was Bell, gave its ‘prestigious’ Orwell Prize for political writing to a journalist who turned out to have made up parts of his ‘award-winning’ articles.
  • The Media Standards Trust established Hacked Off, the virulently anti-popular-press campaign group which has boasted of its role in significantly increasing the Inquiry’s terms of reference. The Media Standards Trust shared the same headquarters address as Common Purpose. It then shared an address with Hacked Off, whose funding it controlled.
  • Many of those who provided the most hostile anti-press evidence to Leveson are linked to senior figures at the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off.
  • The Media Standards Trust has strong links with Ofcom, the statutory media regulator which, despite its denials,  some suspect has ambitions to regulate Britain’s free press. Ofcom’s ex-chairman Lord Currie is a Leveson assessor.
  • Much of the financing of the Media Standards Trust comes from a charity of which Bell is a trustee — a practice that, while legal, would seem to many to be inappropriate.
  • Despite being formed by the Media Standards Trust, which is campaigning for ‘transparency and accountability in the news’, Hacked Off refuses to make explicit the sources of its own funding.
  • And, of course, Bell is a trustee of the now notorious Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has wreaked such damage on the BBC.
Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry has major implications for free speech

Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry has major implications for free speech
Indeed, like some giant octopus, Common Purpose’s tentacles appear to reach into every cranny of the inner sanctums of Westminster, Whitehall and academia — bodies that often view Britain’s unruly, disruptive press with disdain and distrust.
Lord Justice Leveson has already said that he hoped his report would be based on ‘unanimity’ of thought between him and his half dozen assessors, none of whom have ever worked in the popular press.
It should be stressed that there is absolutely no suggestion that Leveson — who did not choose his assessors — has any connection to Common Purpose nor that he isn’t a man of integrity who has conducted his inquiry with impartiality.
Like a giant octopus, its tentacles reach into every cranny of the Establishment
But imagine the public outcry if it emerged during a criminal trial that half of the jurors, and many of the witnesses, were linked to bodies that had ‘wailed’ about the defendant, against whom they had a powerful shared antipathy.
That is the case with the Leveson Inquiry, as we shall show in this  investigation into the Bell and Middleton network of influence. We will also be raising questions about their charity’s own behaviour. For we can reveal that …
  • Common Purpose almost certainly breached the Data Protection Act (which guards the confidentiality of digitally stored information), the very charge levelled by the Leveson Inquiry against virtually all newspapers.
  • Common Purpose is connected to some of Britain’s most powerful lobby and PR groups, whose influence on British politics has provoked continuing controversy.
  • Common Purpose linked figures have a significant influence on the appointments process in Whitehall. Until last year, Common Purpose’s David Bell sat on the committee that appointed Britain’s ‘Top 200’ civil servants.
As we shall now show, Hacked Off, one of the lobby groups created by Sir David Bell (who stepped down as chairman of the Media Standards Trust only when he was appointed a Leveson assessor) and Julia Middleton’s network played a significant role in creating and shaping the Leveson Inquiry, which will cost the taxpayer almost £6 million.

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