Meghan sent: Seeing The Daily Mail defeated gladdens even my republican heart ❤️

And the paper’s crocodile tears about journalistic freedom taste so sweet

I would abolish the Royal Family in a heartbeat.

In Sue Townsend’s novel The Queen & I, a republican party comes to power and the entire House of Windsor has to leave its palaces and cushy grace-and-favour homes, with Lizzie and Phil made to go and live in a council house. Sadly, this excellent premise is spoiled in the end when Bobby Ewing steps out of the shower and the whole thing turns out to be a dream.

In my dreams, the Royals become what most people already know they are deep down — the Kardashians with less work ethic. Stripped of their royal privileges, their ability to meddle with laws behind the scenes, and the ludicrous contention that coming out of a magic womb makes you better than the next person, they would simply become the same sort of third-rate celebrities that their deposed cousins across Europe currently are. I’d be quite comfortable with them being consigned to the pages of posho breeding catalogue Tatler, rather than having them at the very heart of our political system.

Still, despite my deep and abiding antipathy for the very concept of royalty, I hooted with laughter and vicarious happiness yesterday when I heard that Meghan and Harry had secured a victory over Associated Newspapers, the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline’s malovent mothership, in a privacy action.

The Mail on Sunday had argued that there was a public interest defence when, in 2019, it published extracts from a letter that the Duchess of Sussex had sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. The paper’s assertion was that it was “correcting the record” and disputing claims made in a US magazine report. The juge in the case, Lord Justice Warby, essentially concludes that was so much horseshit, writing:

One’s correspondence with others is presumptively private in nature… Taken as a whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful. There is no prospect that a different judgment would be reached after a trial.

That’s right; Associated was bodied even before the case made it to trial.

One particular detail that I enjoyed is that, despite arguing that it needed to publish the letter to ‘correct the record’, The Mail on Sunday made sure to excise a passage in the text in which the Duchess excoriated the tabloids. That bit was obviously not important or “in the public interest”.

Lord Justice Warby described The Mail on Sunday’s piece — which ran under the headline Revealed: the letter showing true tragedy of Meghan’s rift with a father she says has ‘broken her heart into a million pieces’ — as “a long-form telling-off” which was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.”

In her statement following the ruling, the Duchess of Sussex said:

These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they've been going on for far too long without consequence.

For these outlets, it's a game. For me and so many others, it's real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep.

The world needs reliable, fact-checked, high-quality news. What The Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite.

We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency, and when companies create their business model to profit from people's pain.

I can’t disagree with a single word. For The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, MailOnline, and the other tabloids of Britain these things are a game. Anyone with any kind of profile and frequently people with no profile at all are filleted for the amusement of readers. Despite their crocodile tears and the handwringing after the death of Prince Harry’s mother Princess Diana, despite the same ‘soul searching’ after other deaths including those of Jade Goody and Caroline Flack, despite the bloodying of their noses by the Leveson Inquiry, the British tabloids have not fundamentally changed in 50 years.

And we are just expected to accept that; to accept that we have a media that indulges in mafia tactics and intimidation, which, as The Mail on Sunday did, knows the law but will break it assuming it will face no serious consequences.

In a piece of depressing and dire analysis, the BBC’s Royal Correspondent Johnny Dymond writes:

This is a thumping victory for Meghan… [but] is Meghan and Harry’s long struggle with sections of the British media now finished? Harry has settled his case against The Mail on Sunday; Meghan has won hers.

It seems unlikely. The couple has instructed their UK spokespeople not to talk to the country’s most popular newspapers. They clearly think they simply can’t get a fair hearing.

And the coverage they receive is pretty critical; baiting the couple over their new lives in California is now something of a routine…

But their relationship with the British public is still, largely, mediated by newspapers they will not deal with and which take delight in doing them down.

The couple have won - but they have also lost.

How can it be right to just shrug and say, “Well, the law has found that The Mail on Sunday knowingly did wrong but it’s inevitable now that they will take their revenge…”? The playground of British media is controlled by bullies and the rest of us are expected to hand over our lunch money without complaint; it’s ‘just the way things are’.

In its report on the judgement, the Mail wheeled out Mark Stephens, the star solicitor known for representing Julian Assange, Salman Rushdie, the McLibel defendants, Mike Tyson, and James Hewitt among many others, to assert that the press is being ‘manacled’:

The implications of today are that Meghan has silenced her critics and the journalists who would wish to leak these sorts of letters in the future, so effectively the media are being manacled. This is a letter that could have easily been published in the United States and you are in a situation where going forward people will leak these letters to media in America. 

It’s a punchy assessment but not one that Joshua Rosenberg, who has analysed the judgement for The Daily Telegraph, agrees with. He says:

Warby’s ruling reinforces the law without changing it. There will still be cases where a newspaper’s freedom of expression outweighs a letter-writer’s right to privacy – especially if the writer is a public figure.

But this was not one of them.

Of course the Mail publications will assemble like The Avengers if the group was entirely comprised of villains from some alternate bastard dimension to claim that ‘legitimate’ journalism has been silenced. Having been bested by the Duchess of Sussex’s legal team in court, Associated will, despite weighing up an appeal, continue the battle in the papers of its newspapers.

But while it’s far from a knockout, we should celebrate any bloody nose that the Mail receives. It’s a malevolent force, no matter how many charitable appeals it launches or how often it points to its sales figures. Pot Noodles are also very popular but no one seriously claims they’re nutritious.

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