Cameron’s choice: More of the same

by Brian Cathcart

Let’s be clear about what Lord Justice Leveson recommended and did not recommend.

He did not recommend statutory regulation of the press. Instead, he allowed the press to set up its own regulator. He did, however, propose that a law should be passed to create what he called a recognition body and what most of us might call an auditor, whose job would be to ensure that the regulator met some basic standards and kept to them.

In other words, he placed the state at two arms‘ length from the press. The auditor, already at one arm’s length from government, would have contact only with the regulator – to ensure its processes were adequate – and never with newspapers themselves.

David Cameron seems to have rejected this auditor, because it is ‘statutory’. What that means is that he is trusting the editors and proprietors of the press to set up their own regulator, with nobody at all to judge whether that regulator will be adequate.

In doing this, Cameron is adopting exactly the approach taken by inquiries and governments in 1949, 1953, 1962, 1977 and 1990. It is the approach that gave us the Press Complaints Commission, so roundly condemned by the judge in his report, and by the prime minister. It is the option which gave us this year’s Hunt-Black plan for self-regulation, equally damned by the judge.

It is, if this needs to be said, the option that gave us the Sun’s coverage of Hillsborough, the appalling treatment of Russell Harty and Gorden Kaye two decades ago, the Motorman data mining scandal a decade ago, phone hacking, the monstering of Robert Murat, the McCanns and Christopher Jefferies. And all of the rest.

All history tells us that Cameron’s choice – despite his promises to some of the victims of those outrages – will permit more such outrages into the future. Indeed, the editors and proprietors are likely to feel that, having survived t crisis, they are untouchable

It is an option which will allow and enable the editors and proprietors to create the sort of regulator that suits them, the sort that might superficially seem credible, but that will serve the interests of the press rather than the public.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour see all of this. So do at least 40 Conservative MPs. So do all of the victims of press abuses with whom Hacked Off has dealings. And so, all the polls show, does the public.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour are meeting the Tories. Let us hope they are able to talk some sense together.

Brian Cathcart is director at Hacked Off. He tweets at @BrainCathcart.

8 Responses to “Cameron’s choice: More of the same”

  1. Aaron

    The larger percentage of MP’s are self obsessed megalomaniacs who do not care for anyone other than themselves and the rich and powerful who they associate themselves with. Cameron will do anything he can to protect the inner circle he has worked his way into… He doesn’t care for 99.9% of the UK population not because he is a Tory but because he is vindictive person hell bent on keeping the masses in their place and while he is PM their will be no hope.

    Reply
    • Dan

      Now THAT’S a good idea. Make it ten years though – just enough to ensure that all of the old guard are gone.

      Wouldn’t this offer Cameron the most politically expedient solution?

      I wonder what Brian’s thoughts are on this.

      Reply
  2. David Parry

    A well-reasoned response. I heard Prof. Cathcart on Radio $ with Trevor Kavanagh. The Press has had ample time to sort itself out, but has refused to. Why bother setting up the inquiry if it’s going to be ignored, and after promising its recommendations would be implemented? Dishonourable. Good luck with your campaign. I once complained to the PCC, who found no merit in my complaint – yet I went on to succeed in a libel action!

    Reply
  3. clare

    Cameron can’t stand firm on this one as it could break up the coalition and fragment his party. He has back-pedalled before and should do so again as to be so out of touch with what the public want will lead to his downfall. Well done to all the brave people who testified to Leveson.

    Reply
  4. Alison Moir

    We really can not let history repeat itself again. The press have had too much power for far too long. They have abused this power for self-interest and self-gain. Most journalists do not care about the person they write about, they do not care if they destroy lives so long as they get their story. I have stopped buying newspapers, I am tired of the gossip. The press have made us into a nation of nosey parkers. Lets get back to basics, let’s get back to a press that delivers the truth. Mr Cameron if you are reading Hacked off, take a moment to really reflect the opportunity you have for change, real change. The press are big enough to look after themselves, the man in the street is not. Where does your heart lie David Cameron? With the press or with the man in the street.

    Reply
  5. Peter Dew

    I think you should be aiming for at least 5 million signatures on your petition before you can consider it a success. Reporting the early 100,000s is insignificant.

    Reply
  6. Richard

    I don’t think Cameron is vindictive, simply spineless in putting short-term political expediency above the national interest. We shouldn’t be surprised – he’s done this on the environment, climate change, renewable energy security, the green economy, planning, the 3rd runway at Heathrow, the EU, etc, etc, etc….. why not for his corporate friends in the tabloid media? The idea that a voluntary code can protect freedom of speech from these reptiles is utterly laughable. The recent legislation on stalking would be the more appropriate legal instrument to apply to them.

    Reply

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