Friday, 30 November 2012

Still riding with the hounds

There was a kind of symmetry which saw the media report on bail conditions for Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson just 30 minutes before Lord Justice Leveson unveiled his recommendations.

Whether the irony occurred to David Cameron as he donned his pantomime villain outfit in oder to back peddle on statutory underpinning of press freedoms is unknown. More likely that his focus has since been drawn by a bouquet of editorial opinions that are the most positive of his entire premiership.

As was widely speculated, Leveson wants a robust form of self-regulation backed by legislation to uphold press standards. His view is that a statutorily based framework is needed to protect the rights of victims and complainants. The requirement is for an independent arbitration system that allows people an opportunity to seek redress without having to go to court.

This has not exactly terrible news for Grub Street. Many editors were already expecting something along these lines. Most are encouraged by the suggestion of a duty upon government to protect the freedom of the press in legislation combined with "an independent process” that will reassure the public on basic effectiveness.

The political situation is a lot more confused. Although they were muttering noises in the chamber, a significant number of tory MPs do not really understand the PM’s reluctance to support what is accepted to be a fairly ingenious and workable solution. Nor are they happy that Nick Clegg has come over as the shrewder operator of the two coalition leaders.

Labour, fresh from further by-elections successes, will be keen to infer that it is the events seen yesterday at Westminster Magistrates Court which lay behind the government’s apparent inertia. They could well be successful in their spin on things if the newspaper industry fails to come up with something meaningful of its own in the next 48 hours.

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