25 Apr 2013

Leveson: much more wrangling ahead

Well, there is at least one growth sector in the economy: post-Leveson wrangling. It looks like this has quite a few months still to run.

The press – most of them, anyway – have come back with their own version of the royal charter and it is closely modelled on the one they’d originally agreed with the cabinet office minister and Tory MP, Oliver Letwin. That was then amended (or strengthened, take your choice) by Lib Dem and Labour involvement (ably assisted by the Hacked Off pressure group) to produce the proposals that passed through parliament.

The papers’ new draft royal charter will now go to the privy council office which decides on whether royal charters should be granted. In reality, they ring up Maria Miller and take ministerial advice. She waits to see what No. 10 thinks and the word from there is that David Cameron is going to look at the press’s version of the royal charter and not dismiss it out of hand.

Clock ticking for Cameron

Where does that leave things? The papers have time on their hands. The longer the clock ticks the longer it is embarrassing for the government not to have acted and the closer the newspapers are getting to their moment of maximum influence: the run-up to the general election. (David Cameron’s team has already been in close contact with right-wing newspaper editors warning them that they could easily land up with an Ed Miliband government if they don’t start turning their fire on the Labour Party. Some around David Cameron think those words are already bringing dividends.)

The press want a veto over some appointments, different wording on powers to “require corrections” (they want a “power to direct … remedies”), a higher threshold of “systematic” wrongdoing for the biggest fines and no parliamentary role in deciding if the regulator’s performing properly.

Hacked Off says they’re dragging things back to the status quo ante and trying to sit in judgement on themselves.

So there’s a lot of ground to be narrowed between the two positions but all parties are agreed about the same broad approach: a royal charter.

They just can’t agree what should be in it.

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