14 Jun 2012

Cameron day at Leveson

There was a period, starting when the contacts between Jeremy Hunt, his adviser and News International’s lobbyist were published, when No. 10 was extremely agitated about today and about the Murdoch saga’s potential to inflict harm. More recently, the mood in No. 10 has calmed considerably. Mr Cameron even felt confident enough to leak his own evidence about tightening procedures for quasi-judicial judgements by ministers.

If the meat in the public evidence sessions was the first shock of Leveson and is now drawing to a close (a few hacks still to appear but no great moments expected), the second shock to many is that this inquiry is hoping to come up with a new way to govern the press.

And Lord Justice Leveson has made clear, he doesn’t want this report to be another one that sits on the shelf. He believes the worst behaviour has been cyclical and he wants the cycles to stop. David Cameron veers towards “Gove light,” I hear. That presumably means a beefed-up version of self-regulation – something like the Advertising Standards Authority.

We may get some clues later. Inquiries that don’t want to sit on the shelf normally keep very acute antennae alert to what governments are actually willing to do. The Irish model, a body set up on a statutory basis with a privacy bill always hovering to be implemented if standards fall, might go further than the government wants to go.

The judge has worked out that Ofcom type solutions are beyond the finances and culture of newspapers. He knows, has now said a few times, he needs all-party agreement to avoid his ideas festering. He will be listening very intently, as will we.

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