30 Oct 2013

Press charter, courts, 1680s and all that

Government lawyers think the chances of the high court injuncting a royal prerogative power backed by all three main parties in parliament are pretty slim.

So it looks like the royal charter will be sealed or formally signed off on Wednesday at a meeting of a few government ministers in the presence of the Queen.


Even if a judge decides there should be more time for the newspapers’ hostile to the government charter to be heard, few think that means this will lead to some retrospective unpicking or striking down of the government’s measure.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, an outspoken opponent of the government press charter, is one of those still hoping that the courts will act.

But even he acknowledges you have to delve deep into post-civil war England to find relevant parallels.

Back then, he argues, the crown hesitated before imposing royal charters on the unwilling (in this case, the City of London).

Read more: Newspapers in battle to stop parties’ royal charter

Today, he argues, the press are every bit as unwilling.

But this expensive legal process – judicial review is a top end expensive undertaking – looks likely to end in failure, if not today then soon enough.

So as of today it looks like we will have two parallel processes underway.

The government charter will set up a certifying body to sign off or approve a press self-regulation body.

Read more: Newspapers’ plans for press regulation rejectedr

But the only self-regulation body in town, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which is hurriedly being set up by newspapers hostile to the government charter, will not be applying for approval.

Buckingham Palace will be unhappy that a royal prerogative, meant to be above contention and a symbol of unity and agreed public interest, is being squabbled over to the last fence but today they had to lump it.

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