Published on 18 Mar 2013

On press controls, Clegg and Miliband moved – but Cameron blinked

The idea of a clause in law that makes certain royal charters tamper-resistant (without specifically mentioning the press regulator charter – the wording refers to charters after a March date in “an industry”) was part of the talks between the three main parties when the PM walked away from them on Thursday.

He has come back to the same dish he turned down. In the “who blinked first?” assessment, I’d say that makes him the blinker.

Mr Cameron’s team point to the full-blown statutory approach to press regulation threatened or already voted on in Lords amendments. But as No.10 knew, those were outliers, menaces to achieve what had become the central shared Lib-Lab project (as shared in the charter plan published by the Lib Dems and Labour at the weekend).

True, Labour and the Lib Dems had moved from their original “full fat Leveson” approach and over the months come on board with a royal charter idea originated in Oliver Letwin’s capacious brain. But in terms of the journey in the last 72 hours, it looks like David Cameron travelled the greatest distance.

One Tory PPS said David Cameron had “marched us up the hill again, only to march us down… Every time he does it it it hurts his authority.”

David Cameron’s team is saying it won concessions on whether there should be any journalists on the code committee, it ripped up a clause that would’ve allowed the oversight committee to fail the regulator, even if it had met its criteria. It claims Labour and the Lib Dems have moved on who writes the code, though I’ve yet to see the detail on that.

But David Cameron painted his opponents’ plans as unworkable on Thursday and is today signing up to a slightly adjusted version of just that. He “wanted to call their bluff”, one Cameron aide said. History may judge it was Mr Cameron whose bluff was called.

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6 reader comments

  1. Andrew Dundas says:

    Your description sounds like the negotiations twixt Republican Leader Boehner & Pres Obama in the US. Fraught & personal.

    Which negotiations both here and in USA, cut out almost every elected person.

    Bismark was correct: folks with a sensitive disposition should not look into political deal making.

    Maybe it’s not just in TV ‘Leaders’ debates’ that our politics are getting more and more like the USA?

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    A “royal charter”?………Oh PLEASE…….

    If, for instance, it hasn’t made the slightest difference to the way architects and surveyors “serve” society what affect do you think it will have on the assorted liars and propagandists who work for Murdoch, Dacre and the Barclays?

    Could you see it even remotely affecting editorial thugs like MacKenzie, Kavanagh and Neil?…..Not on your life.

    The truth is – and everyone with an ounce of common sense knows it – Brit newspapers are monopoly owned by neocons you wouldn’t trust to empty your bin, never mind report honestly. For the most part Brit mainstream media is as corrupt and rotten as the banking system.

    Cameron and his ilk aren’t about to change anything that matters. His media masters won’t allow it. Which is why they bring pressure to bear about “doubts over his leadership,” all of it promoted inside the conservative party by political lickspittles.

  3. Dora D says:

    Why is it that every time a real decision needs to be made, these spineless weaklings in Parliament skate around the edges? Have they become so breathtakingly arrogant that they actually believe their own lies now? Do they also think that the general public will be impressed by politicians’ dithering and their self-indulgent follies? Britain desperately needs leadership, but it is woefully absent. The endless talking-up doesn’t translate into truth. Yet more words but once again no action. Pitiful and shameful.

  4. David Joyce says:

    Once again the filing cabinet draw has been opened in front of Mr Cameron and he has been reminded of its contents.The draw will be now be shut again to be opened at a later date. Cameron as so many leaders do again failed to face down the press bully.
    Press freedom does not exist in this country we have the tyranny of the press Baron. Following the massive fudge last night it still does not exist.

    Those who control the Press and a compliant legislature have decided that in the UK the freedom to publish prurient, stolen gossip, about the population that does not work in the Press, for sale back to them has won again.

    The right to publish has been given precedence over the right to a private life. Perhaps a challenge to this in Europe needs to be sought

    There is one question that I have not heard asked in this current process over the last few days. In the new ” self regulated ” press world what is the position with regard to third party complaints?
    I think we now need to seriously start to document the newspaper content get reports together and then go to the new regulator and ask them to adjudicate on the mores and ethics of the press in this country…

  5. Steven Webb says:

    It was definitely David Cameron that blinked first.

    I still think Clegg and Miliband should have taken it all the way they have the will of the people behind them it does show they still fear certain media. Clegg might have even restored some support for his party.

    Everyone knows this would not of stopped freedom of press, despite this scaremongering today.

    Winston Churchill would have turned in his grave knowing that quote was used in todays circumstances rather than when the press was had morals.

  6. Yorkshire Lass says:

    I’m not convinced that this will make any difference – I’ll believe it when I see it. Sounds like the Sun, Mail and Telegraph aren’t going to sign up. Quel surprise!

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