My PAIN at being hacked by the tabloids
A politician-cum-celeb says only a sharp-fanged regulator can stop the scuzzy press from invading voicemails.
I can almost pinpoint the moment I knew that my mobile phone had been hacked.
It was when the news broke that Sky Andrew might have had his phone hacked, too. ‘Who the hell is Sky Andrew?’, I remember shouting at my publicist. Is he an ironic Murdoch brand? A new children’s toy? A type of air freshener? Whatever he/it is, if this Sky Andrew has had his phone hacked, I said to my then lawyer, there’s no way those scummy little buggers at the News of the World will have left my message box untouched. You have to remember, because many people don’t: I’m important. Much more important than Sky Fucking Andrew.
And, back then, I was also an MP for the Liberal Party.
The more I thought about the possibility of my phone being hacked, the more it made sense. Certain text messages that I expected the girlfriends to leave had never been left. Deleted? Perhaps. But not by me. Plus there was the distinct lack of voicemail messages from TV production companies asking me to take part in I’m a Celebrity…, Dancing on Ice or that thing with Keith Chegwin set in a brewery. Deleted? Perhaps. But definitely not by me.
But that wasn’t all. There was often a man sat in his car outside my constituency flat on a Friday evening. I always had him down for a pap, but something didn’t make sense. He didn’t have a camera. What he did have though was an open laptop. It was the strangest thing. Every now and again, he would start rigorously moving his right arm up and down as if trying to get that stubborn last drop of ketchup out of the bottle. He would then drive off pretty quickly. In retrospect he was almost certainly operating some sort of computer hacking device. Hence, every Friday evening as I paraded around my bedroom in my smalls, advertising my tastefully concealed ‘winkle-furter’ to all and sundry on ‘yourpackage.com’, little did I know that some tabloid hack was Violating My Right To Privacy.
I don’t think normal people appreciate what it’s like to always want to be in the public eye. I suspect that’s why many normal people didn’t quite understand how horrific it felt to know that, just because you’re important, it’s supposedly okay to have some hack listen to your voicemail messages. It’s not okay. It’s like having some morbidly obese tabloid reader lay a gigantic, territory-marking turd in your innermost sanctum. Nowhere is private anymore – not even your Vodafone voicemail message inbox. Thinking of the things that the scummy reporters must have listened to makes my skin itch. ‘Hi, could you phone me back as soon as possible… it’s your mother’; ‘Just to say, Blue Peter are not keen’; ‘Nope, not a single word from Chegwin yet’. Sick and despicable are two words. But neither does justice to what was done to my voicemail inbox.
But I need to be clear about this. It’s not just politicians who have suffered, who have broken down and wept in the middle of their living rooms, in their Y-fronts, after realising that the noise on the other end of the mobile is not heavy breathing but seedy ‘reporting’. No, it has also happened to Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, too. That it’s taken these two veritable heroes to show just how low and disgusting tabloids are, not to mention how low and disgusting the people that read them are, shows just how tardy the rest of society was to wake up the biggest news story since I broke up with my fiancé. Still, I can’t praise the glorious twosome enough. Coogan’s gracious celebration of the newspaper’s demise was a joy to behold. And, as for Hugh, glorious Hugh, he’s has been like a god – a god of decency.
My publicist tells me that this is not the first time something Divine has descended upon Hugh, but his performance on BBC Question Time was probably the first time most of us had seen it live. He was due all the Twittered praise that came his way: ‘Dear politicians – you see how Hugh Grant is speaking fearlessly and plainly? This is what the public wants’; and my personal favourite: ‘Hugh Grant gives me more hope for the future of democracy than Barack Obama.’
And that is what is at stake here: democracy. Democracy and freedom. Remember, it is out of my love for these two principles that I joined the Liberal Party at the Bristol University freshers’ fair, 1984. And it is out of my continued love for these two principles that I, as a liberal, have come to realise the importance of teeth. Not my teeth, of course – they’re whitened, capped and ready to go for the US TV market. No, I’m talking about the teeth any new regulatory body will need if it is to stop the press from ruining freedom and democracy.
Because this body, as many other lovers of freedom and democracy have observed, will need the most powerful dentures available. Big, sharp statutory fangs, in fact. Armed with these I’d like to see some grubby hack even think about pursuing a story that might upset me, Hugh or any of the many other people that share our views.
Paul Adenson is a former MP. Producers of reality television shows who have been unable to get hold of him on his hacked phone should email him at email@example.com.