In the furore over a single man and his girlfriend, the idea that John Whittingdale was in a position to determine alone what line the Government took on the post Levenson decisions has never once been challenged by anyone within or sympathetic to the Government. The criticism of the BBC because they had the temerity to ‘break’ a story that I had heard weeks ago on social media appears to be rather ridiculous. If as some claim the decision by the papers not to publish the story about Whittingdale and his relationship with a sex worker because it did not pass their test of public interest, then surely it is inevitable that some broadcasters or newspapers will take a different line to the others? In any event what the BBC have done is not expose the private life of a Cabinet Minister whose name was all over social media anyway, but to expose what was clearly collusion by Fleet Street. If anyone doubts that, I recommend listening to the first few minutes of Radio 4’s media show broadcast on Tuesday.
In any case once we have moved on from what Whittingdale knew about the work life of his ex-girlfriend it seems that there is a much more important issue to consider. Neither Whittingdale nor any of his defenders have ever suggested that the decisions over Levenson could not have been compromised, because the Ministers in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport operates as a Team and the decisions were taken collectively. Nor that the Ministerial team take into account the views of senior civil servants. Or that any major decision taken by DCMS is then considered by the Cabinet as a whole. It seems that one of the biggest failings shown up in this ‘non-story’ as some have described it, is that the Government does not appear to take advantage of its own internal structures to ensure we all get the best outcome. Of course it could be that the decisions were actually taken collectively and DCMS is a poor communicator, or perhaps as I suspect, even on a matter where someone knows they are vulnerable to criticism, their pride and ego comes before the good of the nation and they won’t submit their ideas and decisions to colleagues in their own department, let alone in the Cabinet. It does appear that the decision to soft pedal on the findings from Levenson is not the best that could have been taken whatever the end result for Mr Whittingdale and his personal life.