Admission from UK’s most loved legal affairs commentator follows Peter Oborne’s high-profile resignation from paper
The world’s greatest living legal journalist — television and radio’s Joshua Rozenberg — has dramatically revealed that Fleet Street newspapers sometimes ramp up stories.
Britain’s self-proclaimed “best-known commentator on the law” made the shocking disclosure yesterday evening on BBC One’s flagship evening analysis programme, Newsnight.
The presenter of Radio 4’s Law in Action was wheeled in as part of the programme’s coverage of the fall-out of Peter Oborne’s high-profile resignation as the Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator.
Earlier this week, Oborne claimed in an article on the Open Democracy website, that the DT’s quixotic owners — Barclay twins Sir David and Sir Frederick — and its top executives kowtow to advertisers and massage editorial accordingly.
The recent row over HSBC and allegations of tax evasion was a case in point, claimed Oborne, with the paper running little more than news in brief items on a story that every other media organisation in the country has gone to town on. The Barclay Bros and the Telegraph hierarchy deny the charge.
But what commentators had hitherto failed to realise is that the Dark Knight of legal journalism had himself made a principled stand and had waved two fingers to the Daily Tel years before Oborne’s walk-out.
Rozenberg revealed that he quit his role as legal affairs editor at the paper over a spat involving the Iraq war and the Human Rights Act. “The news desk simply put errors into my copy,” Rozenberg revealed to Newsnight’s perma-smiling and tight-suited host, Evan Davis. That copy — which is still live on The Telegraph‘s website — can be viewed below:
Presumably, the comment will send shivers down the spines at the subs’ desks of The Guardian and Law Gazette newspapers, for which Rozenberg continues to write columns.
He went on to tell Newsnight viewers that the final straw at the Telegraph involved a story about the Human Rights Act.
“The law lords had ruled that it [the legislation] applied to British troops in Iraq. And the news desk said, can’t we say that this means people will be able to sue? And I said I don’t think it does,” he said.
The paper ran the line in any event under Rozenberg’s by-line and he walked out.
Well, actually, he left one foot in the office. Rozenberg acknowledged to Davis that while he quit his staff role, he carried on penning a legal affairs column for the Daily Telegraph for another year.