Talks between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to discuss how to proceed with press regulation following the Leveson report have broken down. The party leaders were unable to overcome differences to agree a path forward.
Now Cameron will put a Royal Charter to underpin press regulation before a free vote on Monday. Cameron said:
They can back my amendments and support this Royal Charter to secure a workable new system that delivers the principles of Leveson's recommendations or they can grandstand and end up with system that I believe will not work.
Allister Heath writes on the erroneous thinking that underlies the idea that more regulation can fix the press:
The two scandals which gave rise to the Leveson Inquiry were phone hacking and bribing the police. Both are already crimes. The scandal was failure to enforce the law. Yet Leveson baldly dismisses these issues – asserting without evidence that “more rigorous application of the criminal law does not and will not provide the solution”.
Of course it would. Now, belatedly, some 90 people have been arrested – a powerful deterrent against any repetition. But to acknowledge that would have truncated his report. So instead he proposes extending statutory involvement to buttress a system of regulation intended largely to tackle quite different problems, with little relevance to hacking or bribery.
Leveson was goaded into making complex proposals by the two most dangerous phrases in the political lexicon: “something must be done” and “the status quo is not an option”. They are the mantra of those in the commentariat with no idea what should be done but want to sound positive.
I have little sympathy for those newspapers (City A.M. being almost the sole exception) who invariably demand unspecified government interference to solve any problem and are now hoist by their own petard.