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Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 13:36 GMT
Is it time for a privacy law?
The Blairs are going to court to block the publishing of their former nanny's memoirs, prompting calls for a new privacy law.
Rosalind Marks insists she did not want to harm the family in any way, but the Prime Minister and his wife want to protect their children from having every detail of their personal lives splashed across the tabloids.
Should newspapers have a free rein to publish whatever they want? Does this demonstrate the need for a new privacy law or would that be a knee-jerk reaction? What goes on behind the closed doors of Number 10 may be interesting to the public, but is it in the public interest? Tell us what you think. Newspapers must have the freedom to publish anything about a public servant as long as it is true. When a person makes the choice to represent a nation, they are well aware that they are opening themselves, and those close to them, up to public scrutiny. By giving those who have chosen to serve us as elected officials, a "Privacy Law," we are simply giving them a curtain to hide behind.
Jeramie Gertz, Denver, USA
It is not just Mr Blair whose privacy is invaded but his children and his spouse. It seems most of the comments revolve around 'I like Tony' Yes, or 'I don't like Tony No. But the main point is that all of us have the right to privacy. Being elected is not grounds for such meaningless exposure to public curiosity.
Michael J Sullivan, Canada
It is ironic that the government is now proposing new privacy laws to protect themselves from the glare of the media, whilst implementing laws that strip away any rights to individual privacy. The new The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is in contravention of human rights on privacy, but the Labour government is still pursuing it on a fast track through parliment.
Phil Saum, UK
Personal privacy is the corner stone of freedom. Someone once said ".....the price of freedom is eternal vigilance"
The members of the press are interested in the privacy of the politician, and the privacy of the royal family. The court is ruling on the privacy of the Prime Minister to protect his household, and the right of contract. No one contract with the royal household is honoured, how is that? Tell tale articles reveal news of family business with nonsense amongst the story line. How does the Prime Minister expect the court to grant rights that the royal family has not had adjudicated.
Catharine Hannover, England
The Blairs' main objection was probably that they did not want the world to know that the nannies brother was employed as Butler come Valet. Will they be turning down offers from OK/Hello magazine when the Blair baby arrives???
The Blairs' family life is not in the public interest - there should be privacy laws for us all.
When are we going to get the dirty gossip on the newspaper editors and owners I wonder? Fat chance - their pompous assertions that anyone public should be prepared to display every facet of their lives for public consumption doesn't seem to apply to them.
We were victims of the tabloids in a stupid wife swapping scandal with the Sunday People. It took the PCC 7 months to look at the case, even then when it was clearly full of holes and untruths the still made the decision against us.
IT IS VERY CLEAR THAT THE PAPERS USE THE LOOP-HOLE "WITHIN THE PUBLIC INTEREST" AND PUBLISH IT AS INTERESTING TO THE PUBLIC!! The law does not need to be tightened up just someone to take over the PCC and actually enforce all there Code of Practice, not just some of it. I'll do the job. I know enough about it now
Ken Cattrell, UK
Yes we need a privacy law, here at work all calls are monitored, all emails are read, all that I see on my screen our MIS section see, it's like being in prison and I am only at work. What if my wife phones to say she is ill or something, we are not allowed to have mobiles turned on so the work phone is the only way to contact me, I don't want MIS knowing my wife needs to see her GP for woman's troubles etc. It's time to protect people from this.
So Mr. Blair is howling for laws to be enacted to protect his privacy. Who in the world does he think he is? I don't recall hearing so much as a peep from him or any other Prime Minister during the excruciating Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson years when Her Majesty The Queen and her family were suffering the most appalling invasions of their privacy. Nobody cares what the Blairs do at home. Where were the demands for privacy laws when our Monarch and our country needed them?
Pat, UK in USA
I think that the media should be responsible in their reporting of news and coverage of public figures and celebrities.
However, privacy is something that you have to give up if you become a public figure; anything is fair game. What goes on behind closed doors may well be of interest to the public, particularly if the prime minister or president is engaging in less than moral behaviour. It could suggest that they're a fraud.
First of all the nanny is likely to add "spice" to the book just for the sake of selling it. I think everyone has the right to privacy. Unless needed in legal trials, no one should have to find out about your life. Imagine if this was your nanny?
It is nothing to do with the right of newspapers. It is everything to do with people keeping their word. The Nanny signed a confidentiality agreement, and that should be adhered to. However, public figures who want employees to sign such agreements should be prepared to pay a higher wage to those who agree to keep their mouths shut, otherwise, like Tony Blair, they will be getting the penny and the bun.
Peter Hassell, UK
Tony Blair seems happy to be portrayed as a family man when it suits him. However, when more than just a smiling man posing with his wife and children are revealed (e.g. his children's' education) he is less than happy.
It also seems strange that 'New Labour' employ servants for work to be done at their home, was she paid more than the minimum wage? By the way we do pay Tony's wages so we should know certain details about his private life, for example if there is anything 'fishy'
R Collins, Wales
Is anyone that interested in the goings on of the Blair family?
Tony Young, Europe
It is definitely strange that the talk of a new privacy law has only gathered pace because of the PM's situation. If this incident had not occurred, it is extremely likely that we would not be talking about this. Anyway I cannot understand why anyone would want to read about the boring lives of the Premier and his family. If the press paid more attention to scrutinising governmental policies and decisions than they did on needless stories, Britain would undoubtedly be a better, fairer, more democratic place to live in.
Selena Zafar, England
I wonder if Blair and the Millbank Machine will respect Ken Livingstone's privacy in the forthcoming mayoral elections? I think not...
Steve Nicholls, UK
Like the Blairs, I used to employ a nanny to care for my children while I worked. I too had a Contract of Employment for the nanny, complete with confidentiality clause that covered the period "Now and at any time in the future". Contrary to popular opinions about those who employ nannies, I am not "privileged" or "wealthy", just a parent who worked shifts and found it more practical to employ "in-house" childcare. I do not relish the prospect of a former employee telling anyone at all, let alone the papers, about my private bad habits. When a nanny signs a contract she is keen to know that it will protect her employment rights, as it should, but it is also there to protect the employer and family from malicious gossip or loose tongues. As everyone knows, once mud is thrown, some always sticks! I should expect that the Blairs' confidentiality clause should protect them sufficently in this case, without the need for a panic change to the privacy laws.
Caroline Rushmer, U.K.
Make no mistake, Blair's primary reason for his legal action is to prevent anything uncomplimentary about himself from being published. How unfortunate for Euan and his siblings that Spin Doctoring begins at home.
Everyone has a right to privacy, regardless of fame. A public professional life should not automatically imply a "public private" life. If famous people are treated differently from other people in this regard, then we're on the way to a two-tier morality.
The press don't have the right to publish anything they please about private lives, and I don't see why suitable legislation can't be defined, which distinguishes between what's in the public interest and what isn't. Until our culture tempers its obsession with private lives, the behaviour of the press won't change.
I.N. Dyson, UK
Poor old Tony it just has not been a good couple of days for him with Livingstone defying him and his nanny about to disclose secrets about his private life. It is difficult to be too sympathetic with someone who plays the media for his advantage and then tries to gag them when it suits, but I feel it is unfair to pursue his children in the same way. Some protection is necessary. It is just a shame that Tony could not see that before this episode.
The idea of privacy is a modern invention. Who has privacy in a true community, except outcasts and vagabonds? It is normal to want to take a peek at other people (especially our leaders and trend-setters) and it is normal to talk about people. Gossip is a healthy activity. The Blairs are hypocritical to promote community ("the global village") and then seek total control of their own media image. Of course there is an issue of intrusiveness to be considered, but surely this portrait of them by their nanny is likely to be a loving and benign snapshot, which many would enjoy sharing.
John Cagan, England
Privacy in a family is the most important thing. We don't need to know details of the PM's personal life to judge his work.
Juliana Albuquerque, Brazil
He has managed to keep his children out of the limelight quite successfully so far. If the Blairs had let the story run (the first editions were out anyway), it would have been a two day wonder and been wrapping paper for fish and chips soon enough.
The fact that a fourth child is expected will no doubt be manipulated to his advantage. It will get him the 'fluffy' vote at the next election. If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen Mr Blair!!
I think that privacy should be a right of every individual. If all the people who call for exposure of people's private lives were scrutinised in public I'm sure that they would be the first to cry out "This is unfair".
On the other hand, I believe that there should be full disclosure of any information which relates to the public domain, we still do not have a freedom of information act in this country. As it stands, in the UK now, public issues can be hidden with no recourse whereas any citizen's private life may be compromised also with no recourse. Do we live in a sick society or what?
Kym Overy, UK
The line between the public being interested and 'in the public interest' has been blurred beyond recognition. Whenever I read about people's personal lives I feel sorry for them, knowing that their relationships with their community, family and friends will change due to the publicity. I think we do need a privacy law, because the press have proved that they can't differentiate between what's important to know...and what's titillating!
Do people actually read the tabloids? I thought they just looked at the pictures. If you actually bother to read through (which only takes a couple of minutes) you will find that most of them are full of non-objective, arrogant editorial viewpoints, petty minded gossip and sleaze. Throw in some xenophobic comments about our European neighbours, attempt to titillate with scantily clad models and find a sportsman or two to put on the back pages. A recipe to sell a million copies.
It would not be a disaster for democracy if they were restricted from publishing information about people's private lives, they may eventually learn to publish current affairs material to inform and educate. That would certainly be refreshing.
Andy S, UK
I think it would be very interesting if the editors of the Mirror, the Sun and the News of the World were subject to the same appalling intrusions that their staff subject others too. I bet tactics would change drastically then.
Blair tries to use the right to privacy for his children to stop newspapers publishing reports of his hypocrisy. He tried to tell us that we had no right to know that he sent his children to a grant maintained school miles form his home when he was making the rest of the country send their children to the local sink comprehensive. Publish all about our politicians and what they get up to then we can decide if we really want them in power again.
I think that your personal life is for you and the people involved in your life to know about, not the rest of the nation. It is outrageous that your life could get plastered all over papers and TV. I am a teenager and cannot even handle small rumours flying around my area never mind all over the world
Jennifer Dryden, Scotland
Isn't it funny - the papers will go after someone's children as if they think we are interested in that, however, you get a national newspaper editor that seems to be questionable and we don't get a mention of it - especially in the Mirror. Funny that!
It amazes me that this question is even asked, let alone that so many seem to feel that any detail of a "public" person's private life is fair game. I am not one for nostalgia, but there used to be recognition the public and private sphere were distinct, and the latter was exactly that -- private.
Unless there is some indication of a crime, such as spousal violence or child abuse, I can see no useful public purpose served by dishing the details of the Blairs', or any other public figure's, private life in public: it is just salacious gossiping.
M. Little, Canada/Japan
The propensity of the public to not only want this kind of printed rubbish is only equalled by their extremely short attention span. The longer the PM prolongs the agony, the more he will enrich the very people he is criticising! Better to give the whole matter as little credence as possible by just smiling and ignoring it. All he is doing right now is feeding the very tiger that he is riding.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
Blair is happy to roll out his family to be photographed as the 'family man' when it suits him. As normal, he's attempting to have his cake and eat it.
Alex Parker, UK
New Labour and Blair et al were the first to take advantage of any bad press the Tory Party had before their downfall, regardless of its political or personal merit. Now he is in the firing line (Nanny, health service, crime, everyone sick of double standards etc) and he doesn't like it. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. The pro-labour media, including the BBC, must continue to hound New Labour to prove their true colours.
Every person is entitled to a zone of privacy around the intimate and sacred aspects of their lives. Only in a 'police state' would you not have any protection for the 'right of privacy'. Every person has the right to pursue his or her interests without being monitored by 'big brother'.
Dave Adams, USA
The British tabloids are quite disgusting in their feeding frenzies when it comes to publishing details of other people's private lives. How about an expose on each editor's private life? It is this kind of rowdy press behaviour that gives ammunition to third world dictators who want to curb their own presses.
Be that as it may, the British tabloids get away with these things because the British public, for some strange reason, likes to wallow in the details of other peoples' private lives. Is Britain a nation of voyeurs seeking vicarious pleasures? If not, the tabloids would have no sales.
Sarath, Sri Lanka
Print and be dammed! If PM Blair doesn't like it, tough, get out of public life.
Will Whelehan, United States of America
Public life, whether you are Royalty, A Prime Minister, or a President, means just that...It is a little late in the game to try change the rules. We expect those who hold the highest positions of authority to be saints and when they don't measure up, we maliciously flaunt it in their faces when we buy those papers and magazines. During the USA's media frenzy with our President, I really felt sorry for his family. Pick on Mr. Blair if you must as he has decided his life, but leave his family alone.
The Prime Minister is a public figure. Attention from the public and the press goes with the territory. If someone wrote something gushy and glowing, no doubt he would see the privacy issue differently. He's been a politician long enough to know how it works. If he doesn't like it, then he ought to find another line of work and quit whining.
The Blair children and all other offspring of the "rich and famous" will lead lives of privilege and opportunity only imagined by ourselves or our children. Forgive me if I don't shed a tear when some commoner snaps an awkward picture or when one of their servants speaks above their station. Such is the burden of fame.
How sheltered their lives must be if this is the worst problem they will encounter. We can only pray that they will summon up the strength to endure.
A privacy law is long overdue. Remember that newspapers have only one aim, to sell papers. They will ignore any rules or agreements if it sells papers, there is only one rule, will I sell more papers and make a profit. If this means taking a £250,000 libel hit to make £500,000 they will still do it. Only jail will stop it
Andrew Heydn, UK
All the laws needed to prevent the release of information one does not want the general public to know, unless it is of criminal character, have to be passed. Of course, all of us like to know what someone does alone in front of a mirror or writes in private messages (it's thrilling) until it comes to be ourselves - then anyone begins to scream for privacy laws.
Everybody's private life should be protected fully. Only proven criminal or consensual information of private life can be free for publishing. We all know how important free press is, but it can be fully free without digging into person's private matters or behaviour, not to talk about their children.
The British tabloids are in this respect like hyenas, ready to eat the prey before it becomes a carcass. They should be taken under severe legal control in this respect and only in this respect.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland
Tony Blair has absolutely no right whatsoever to only introduce laws when they suit him. That is known to most of us law-abiding people as 'abusing power'. In my opinion Blair rarely practices what he preaches.
However, maybe the opposition will give him a bit of verbal bashing if he decides to go on with putting a Bill through Parliament.
This is clearly another case of a newspaper overstepping the mark and then trying to lie its way out if it. Much as I desire a free press, it is after all a mark of democracy, I feel that the media in this country is going too far and becoming too intrusive. Perhaps the time has come for some sort of privacy legislation.
While Tony Blair has an absolute right to protect his children, the fact that anyone with an Internet connection can get access to the details of the story in a matter of seconds makes the injunction farcical as well as oppressive. From the details that I've seen, there seems to be little in the article about the children, which suggests that the injunction has been taken out to ensure that nothing uncomplimentary is published about the Blairs and their pompous public-school chums.
Tony Blair is a hypocrite. Today he goes to court to prevent his privacy being invaded. Today also is the date of the second reading of the "Regulation of Investigatory Powers bill, 2000" that goes a long way to destroying all our privacy on the Internet. One rule for you, another for us Tony?
Anthony Clark, UK
So long as no untruths are told, there should be no restriction of free speech. Proprietary commercial information or State secrets can be separately defined and protected. Attempts to gag private individuals are too censorious and have no place in a free-society.
If you can't trust the discretion of your employees, hire different staff, or, conduct yourself properly, so that there is no fear to be had from any subsequent memoirs.
John Tremayne, UK in USA
Rather than having a law that specifically prohibits other people from writing about your personal affairs, I think it would have been more prudent if there had been a standard non-disclosure agreement in the nanny's contract. No need for a new law, at least for this particular privacy issue.
On the other hand, there are plenty of other areas where our usual notion of privacy is threatened, particularly by technology, and these are currently legal grey areas. Something should be done about these issues, which are much more important from a civil rights perspective, and where a real danger to the public exists.
C M Sanyk, USA
Who do the Blairs think they are? The Beckhams! Isn't amazing how money and position can bring privileges that mere mortals such as that poor Mozambique woman, who had to give birth to her child in a tree during the floods, can only dream about. Who cares about the inconsequential comments from a Downing Street nanny?
Any money the Blairs may get by pursuing the Mail through the courts should be sent to Mozambique. It might pay for some of those RAF helicopters.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland
I recently campaigned and wrote to Tony Blair asking his government to introduce privacy laws to protect a citizen's rights and have received nothing but empty waffle in reply. How interesting that when it affects his own family he has suddenly changed his tune. Typical of politicians.
Tony Blair has the right to protect his family. The children are not part of the equation neither is his family. We voted for Tony Blair and labour not Blair and his family. It is not of any interest whatsoever to know what goes on in the Blair household. He is evidently a good father so let us let him get on with the job of governing the country. Euan and his sister and brothers can go play football in Hyde Park if they want. No one should notice them. They are not Royalty.
Arthur Mwenkanya, United Kingdom
People have railed against the intrusion of the tabloid press for years, and the hypocrisy of the Press Complaints Council, who are supposed to police their own industry. However, MPs turn a deaf ear to people until finally the PM himself is now affected. New Labour democratic priorities at work again?
Charles Simon, London
Your average member of the public does need to have some protection and rights to privacy, but if you don't want to be subject to the scrutiny of the public, then don't go into public life.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
In this particular case, anything that could be harmful to national or government security should be withheld, but that's it.
John Ellis, England
Having benefited from legitimate press interest in the personal lives of the previous Conservative government ministers and Members of Parliament it seems a bit rich for the Prime Minister to complain about press 'intrusion'.
If you want to run the country, you must expect, we the people, to be interested in politician's private lives, if there is hypocrisy, deceit and double standards I want to know as it all helps in making decisions about whether or not they are fit to run the country. Otherwise it leads to the slippery slope press freedoms suppressed, rights of demonstration and assembly removed - oh I forgot that has already happened when the Chinese Premier visited the UK. Beware power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. It hasn't taken long for this lot to succumb.
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