People power v Carter-Ruck and their secrets

The power of the blogosphere and Twitterverse are overcoming an outrageous legal effort to silence the British media, which has – at least briefly – stopped the reporting of Parliament.

Carter-Ruck, the solicitors, are involved in proceedings which I’m not allowed to identify, preventing the FT, along with the Guardian and others, from reporting an issue I can’t identify, on behalf of Carter-Ruck clients I can’t identify.

Now Paul Farrelly, the MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, has asked a question in Parliament about the gag – and we can’t report that either. Under the terms implied by the (secret) legal proceedings I’m not allowed to identify what it was about, or point you to the question itself – although hopefully it will be overturned on appeal. If it isn’t, this might finally prompt Parliament to intervene to stop judges issuing blanket orders which not only prevent a story being published, but even prevent the solicitors’ clients being identified.

Luckily it will take you about a second to search Google for the issue (I can’t tell you the obvious keywords). Details of the case, including the Parliamentary question and the leaked documents behind the question, have now been published by many political blogs, some published offshore – and some not, including one run by a major UK political magazine.

Twitter has also exploded with the issue, since the Guardian put it on its front page – bringing far more people to awareness of it than would otherwise notice, and prompting a planned flash mob. Actor Stephen Fry, among thousands of others, used the micro-blogging site to express outrage at the ban on reporting Parliament. Unfortunately I can’t give you the hashtags, but they currently make up the top three discussions.

The power of the blogs has already had an effect: Carter-Ruck has agreed, the Guardian tells me, to vary the order to allow reporting of the proceedings. I’ll update with links as soon as we have that confirmed.

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Christopher Cook is an FT editorial writer. Before joining the FT in 2008 as a Peter Martin Fellow, he worked for three years for the Conservative party.

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