Monday, December 03, 2012


Cameron Confounds Earlier Pledges on Leveson

David Cameron is taking a risk with his line on Leveson. He told Andrew Marr he would accept the report, providing it was not 'bonkers' and that it had to pass the 'Milly Dowler' test: it would have to be acceptable to those grievously injured by recent press excesses. Quite a couple of hostages to fortune when one is being urged by one's Fleet St friends and supporters not to tolerate the expected statutory basis for reform of press regulation. Now we see ranged against him: Ed Miliband and Labour, his deputy Nick Clegg, a number of his own MPs, the whole gamut of wounded 'Dowlers' and some 60% of voters..

Theoretically these forces could bring the Coalition down but I doubt it will come to that, merely to bring g forward the date at which the two parties, with two huge sighs of relief, break free of each other with the next election in mind. Cameron will have damaged his own reputation as well- most people think his action is because he wants to keep the press onside, rather than any adherence to principle. Fat chance of that.

My own view is that the ststus quo is untenable, the PCC is a joke and, if at all possible, a self regulating body for the press should be set up without any need for new laws. However, Leveson says you can't have one without the other and he's a Lord Justice of the courts. Clegg agrees with him regarding the need for statutory underpinning and so does Miliband. Personally I don't see why a new body should not be set up, independent of press and government, with an independent head, and membership, able to mediate, arbitrate and levy fines. Why not? Well, I'm no lawyer and  the fear is that slowly the press, in pursuit of those fast diminishing sales, will erode those principles, as they have so flagrantly in the wake of seven past attempts of reform. Lets see what kind of draft legislation both sides come up with before judgement is finaqlly passed.    .  

I wouldn't worry about having a debate on this issue. Freedom of the press is a noble cause. Hundreds of years of freedom cannot be jeopardised. In any case, judging by preferences, Joe Public loves his muckraking newspaper. And the dead tree press is becoming less important all the time anyway. Leveson meant well, but got too close to all this. What he suggests is bonkers.

As for the Unholy Alliance. Well none of these are to fear...

Ed Miliband and Labour...clearly shutting up the press for selfish political interest. Let's be honest, the press exposure of MP's corruption in the last Parliament probably did for them. Any opportunity to expose the incompetent to the public should be exploited for the opportunity it is.
Nick Clegg...does he want to force an election now? I think not. Let's dare him.
The gamut of 'Dowlers'...wounded misguided fools in most cases. Many of them are among the most despicable people this country has to offer (no mean feat). Frankly I don't give a toss about most of them. If the law has been broken, let them sue. Either way they can't be allowed to dictate the laws of the country.
60% of the voters...I think Sir Humphrey had something to say about that. Probably 60% if you ask them "have the recent illegal hacking of the phones of the Dowler family convinced you of the need for new press regulations?" I doubt as many would answer yes to "should the government be responsible for regulating the independent press in a free-thinking democracy?". And don't make me laugh by saying that they were asked in a neutral way if they accept Lord Leveson's though any of them have understood the report, or even read it while the silly jungle programme is still on.

Let the debate begin.
If it's up to the editors, then the result is likely to be a feeble, toothless, we-promise-to-be-good, set of wishy-washy 'principles'. Specially with the likes of Paul Dacre chairing 'consultation' meetings. That's a bit like having Jimmy Savile in charge of the NSPCC.
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