John Lamb takes up the Chatham House Rule debate
The Chatham House Rule (yes, there is only one), behind which many rogues and ne'er do wells have hidden, has been brought into sharp focus by The Birmingham Post.
John Revill was informed that the rule (which states that you may repeat what was said at a meeting but not who said it - not many people know that) was to be applied at an event he had attended in his role as a Post business reporter.
Not much point in inviting a reporter if he can't report, you might reasonably say.
I was present at the same event and I offer a report of the proceedings, under the Chatham House Rule, of course. Here goes: "A person was the principal speaker at an event in a city near the centre of England recently.
He/ she addressed an audience of about 100 on the subject of business leadership - we think.
But he/she launched into the address by being extremely critical of the standard of the wine, describing it as "horrible - South African or Norwegian or something". Careful, here, I mustn't give a clue about this person's country of origin.
His/her remarks drew the boos which he/she said he/she expected.
He/she spoke for exactly 54 min 37sec (I taped it), punctuating the address with more vitriol against the English and cricket.
But on each occasion he/she said, in case the media was present, that it was a joke. Not sure where that leaves the Chatham House Rule.
The great man/woman went on to confuse his/her audience with his/her experience as a company leader and "marketing" (I think), proving only that this word is really a substitute for "selling".
Back to the speech. His/ her message was impenetrable. Most of us couldn't understand it and little of it was worth reporting anyway.
As we entered the 42nd minute of the address, we had only a pudding to comfort us. But that was so over-sweet even Pooh Bear would have recoiled.
And this followed a main course of huge and indigestible proportions, for which the only option was a lukewarm (it was supposed to be hot) veggie alternative.
It seemed to fit the entire occasion - indigestible, leaving a nasty taste in the mouth."
In the interests of clarity, I should reveal who the speaker was. But I have been arrested by the Chatham House Thought Police for even daring to suggest such a thing. Will the media be able to report my court case? Or will they have to abide by the Chatham House Rule?
Of course not. Because, in the real world, the media in this country is free to report fairly and contemporaneously proceedings in the courts, provided they do not contravene the laws of contempt.
In the same way, reporting of public meetings is protected to a degree by laws of qualified privilege. Our meeting could be said to have fallen into that category.
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