Yesterday (Monday 20th October) The Guardian ran a story (Watchdog to pursue inquiry into sex sting against MP Brooks Newmark) on how the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) was going to continue investigating the Sunday Mirror’s sting on Brooks Newmark MP despite the fact that the original complaint by Mark Pritchard MP had been withdrawn.
Mr Pritchard tweeted on Sunday that he had withdrawn his complaint against the Sunday Mirror after reaching an “amicable settlement”.
The piece reported that this was the first time a regulator had continued an investigation without a complaint. IPSO were expressing pleasure in this outcome, even though they were not involved or contacted by either side – rather implying their irrelevance. The Guardian quotes a spokesman from IPSO, who said that “we would be pleased if it were the case that resolution has been achieved since that would be a success for the Ipso complaints process.”
What wasn’t covered, and what IPSO haven’t explained, is why they are so pleased that a deal done in private between a newspaper and an MP (the details of which can’t be revealed) which excludes them is good for improving press standards or offers any form of transparency in tackling press abuses.
We should be concerned when a newspaper makes a secret deal with an MP (possibly involving a financial settlement or the offer of future good publicity) behind the back of the regulator. We should be especially concerned if the result of the secret deal is that the MP drops his complaint, with the possible effect of preventing the regulator getting the full truth.
If the regulator considers that a regulatory “success”, then the main difference between the new sham regulator IPSO and the failed and toothless PCC, which it replaced, is now clear. IPSO, it seems, is rather more desperate in both its propaganda and spin operation.
It’ll be interesting to see how and if the IPSO investigation continues any further, let alone achieves anything now the complaint is dropped. Don’t hold your breath.