Farron triggers PCC probe into Telegraph’s Lib Dem MPs undercover sting

by Stephen Tall on January 13, 2011

The BBC reports:

The press watchdog is investigating the Daily Telegraph’s use of undercover reporters to record Lib Dem ministers’ thoughts on the coalition government. It reported comments made by Business Secretary Vince Cable in a meeting with people he thought were constituents.

Lib Dem President Tim Farron asked the Press Complaints Commission to investigate. The PCC said 200 people contacted them over the story. The Telegraph said it was satisfied it acted within the PCC’s rules. …

A PCC spokesman said: “We have now received a letter from the Liberal Democrats asking us formally to investigate. We will do so under clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.”

It’s an interesting move by Tim.

On the one hand, it takes the fight to the Telegraph, a paper which long ago forfeited any claim to news credibility after its risible smear-splash against Nick Clegg for alleged ‘secret donations’, a flimsy story which collapsed within hours. The latest sting operation targeting Lib Dem MPs’ surgeries was all of a piece with their consistent hostility to the Coalition, and in particular the liberal contingent within it.

On the other hand it keeps alive a news story which undoubtedly did much damage to the reputation of Vince Cable, even if no other Lib Dem MP was entrapped into saying anything that would cause more than mild embarrassment.

Of course, former Lib Dem MP David Howarth would argue that the PCC should be the least of the Telegraph’s worries, and that it’s the police which should be investigating the Telegraph.