Sunday, March 17, 2013

 

Cameron and Leveson: Beware Lib-Lab Alliances


When meeting the victims of phone hacking Cameron promised he would accept and implement its recommendations, 'as long as they weren't bonkers'. Well, nobody serious has even begun to accuse them of attaining that state, so one might have expected a tripartite political agreement as to the business of replacing the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) with a more powerful successor. But, of course, this didn't happen as Cameron suddenly discovered he was a campaigning Tom Paine type radical who will defy the world for untrammeled freedom of expression. On no account would he accept any legislative grounding for any new regulator. Leveson felt the press had proved so ungovernable that any regulator had to be grounded in law or the press would find ways around any restrictions. 

Or was it more to do with the fact that the Conservatives, and Cameron in particular, has always perceived a vested interest in supporting the consensus in the generally right-wing supporting press? Hmmm. By all accounts the three party talks on establishing the regulator via a Royal Charter- the same authority that underlies the BBC and which does not need any statutory underpinning- were close to agreement on Thursday when Cameron declared the parties were too far apart and that he was going to allow a vote on the two rival versions of a Royal Charter- the government's and the agreed Labour-Liberal Democrat version-which entails {some 'necessary' statutory grounding)  on Monday 18th March.

Cameron says he wants to break the deadlock and move on- but if Miliband and Clegg unite he'll lose so what's he really up to? I'm not sure but suspect he's acting from weakness rather than strength. If the smaller parties vote against the 'statute version' does he have a chance of prevailing with his non statute version? It must be unclear as George Eustace, is one Tory MP likely to support the rival version and he claims up to a score fellow Tories might follow suit.     

My bet is Cameron will lose his gamble and see his noble stand revealed as a cheap attempt to kowtow to vested interests. But more important than that is the collaboration Leveson has encouraged between Labour and the Lib-Dems. Always ideologically close, this temporary alliance might presage a more regular tendency which might eventually derail the whole coalition project.

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