Leveson Larks by Ben Gummer MP
Last night I took a tour of constituents from Rushmere around the Palace of Westminster. Explaining the history of the place and what goes on here refreshes my feeling of great privilege at being able to work in such beautiful buildings where so much of importance and interest has taken place. And I explained how the hubbub can be captivating - the gossip, the intrigue, the high politics and low scandal of the place.
It is a privilege but it is also a danger. People get sucked in here and do not emerge. They see the world increasingly as they imagine it, or imagine it should be, or would like to imagine it, rather than actually how it is. And that comes to shape their priorities, which become as is inevitable to be more self-centred and self-obsessed.
And with that, I will go into the chamber to hear the prime minister give his statement on Lord Justice Leveson's Inquiry. When I get back, this rather odd preamble will be explained...
... it's an hour and a half later and I'm back at my Gothic desk. The House is contorting itself over the rights and wrongs of governing the lords of print.
I am bemused by much of this. Other than the powerful testimony of the Dowlers and other victims of press intrusion, the evidence session of Lord Leveson's was a farrago of moaning celebrities, point-scoring politicians and self-righteous hacks. Very quickly, the rest of the country turned away. They had other things - more important things - to think about. Not that that was reflected in the press, who continued to obsess over who said what, which allegation had been made by whom, and what all of this meant for freedom of thought and speech.
It exposed what is most ridiculous about modern Westminster. It is not the old rituals, the history, the invention of tradition, the flummery, the green leather and the mahogany desks. Done properly, these add dignity to your democracy, for which people have fought and died.
It is not these things that make politicians and pressmen distant - it is the entirely human and understandable tendency of some in any community to get so involved in their own affairs that they forget the context in which they work - the reason why we are sent here, what we are supposed to do, and the degree of proportion we are charged to exercise.
The circus that surrounded Lord Leveson's report - it's production and its publication - exposed this fault fully. Of course there are serious points at issue here: but look at his conclusions. Aside from his central recommendations on press regulation, his findings on the some of the other big arguments that have consumed months of airtime and miles of newsprint is that there was essentially not much of a story to report. In short, a whole load of people in Westminster - press and politicians - worked themselves into a tizz and then expended many months and much energy arguing about it.
Meanwhile, most people continued to think about their child's school, their career, if and when they could next go on holiday, the size of the gas bill, the failure of their football team, falling in love, dealing with grief.
No wonder newspaper sales are falling and fewer and fewer people turn out to vote.