10 Oct 2013

Pinteresque Leveson appearance

Add them up, and the pauses from Sir Brian Leveson at his culture select committee hearing may have taken up longer than the answers.

The judge was not very keen to talk about the royal charter idea which the government produced from the stage floor like a magic trick after his report was published, but never discussed in front of him in several ministerial evidence sessions. He wasn’t really very keen to talk about much at all.

But he did underline that he’d chosen Sir John Major’s quotation when his report was published¬†with very special care and not accidentally.

The quote the man formerly known as Lord Justice Leveson (a subsequent promotion has changed his proper form of address) used back in November last year was: “If one party breaks off and decides it’s going to seek future favour with powerful proprietors and press barons by opposing it, then it will be very difficult for it to be carried into law.”

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And in case anyone hadn’t got that message, he said he liked to think he hadn’t produced a report that was “bonkers”. That was another swipe at the prime minister, who’d said at the outset of the Leveson inquiry that he expected to implement the Leveson report in full unless it was “bonkers.”

Labour and the Lib Dems were pretty much ready to sign up to the Leveson Report the day it was published,¬† but David Cameron didn’t want to touch its central mechanism of statute, and his resident magician Oliver Letwin conjured up the royal charter.

He signalled, without saying it, that he didn’t much like the Daily Mail’s monstering of his inquiry adviser Sir David Bell.

He clearly didn’t much like the questioning from Tory MPs Tracey Crouch or Philip Davies either – at one point he even swore at one of the MPs. Well, not quite… but he answered Tracey Crouch with the phrase “with great respect” which is probably the nearest the president of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice gets to using the “F” word in public.

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