Paul McMullan and privacy
Matthew Parris: Paul McMullan and privacy
30 Nov 11

Speaking at the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press on Tuesday, Paul McMullan, the former deputy features editor at the News of the World, said this:

“In 21 years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s been doing any good. Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in …Privacy is evil; it brings out the worst qualities in people … Privacy is for paedos; fundamentally nobody else needs it.”

You can almost hear the horrified gasps as this heresy sank in. But ask yourself: at moments in your life when you’ve most fervently desired that something about you should remain private, wasn’t it often the case that this was because you thought — or thought others might think — that there was something disgraceful there?

It is no different with public figures, celebrities, politicians — the class of individuals that, for all the focus that there’s been on Milly Dowler’s family, occupy 99 percent of the media’s intrusive attention.

When an MP I felt very strongly about my privacy as an (undeclared) gay man; but I remain unconvinced that my constituents had no right to know about this; I was happy enough to tell them about the happy, shiny parts of my personal life — my marathon running, etc.

It’s my firm belief that one of the drivers of reform of the laws on homosexuality, and one of the motives that drove many MPs into the Equality lobby — and indeed one of the reasons many have chosen to come out of the closet — was precautionary: they supposed the media would eventually find out. How sure are you that this was to be regretted?

Matthew Parris is a journalist and a trustee of Index on Censorship