27 Nov 2012

Will the PM offer newspapers a last-chance saloon?

When you look at the prime minister’s options ahead of the Leveson report and the pressure bearing down on him, it’s easy to see how he might be tempted to give the press a set period – say, six months – to come up with tougher regulation than it’s already proposing, with the threat of legislation if that doesn’t satisfy.

Just about everyone’s assumption is that Lord Justice Leveson wants a new law to strengthen the regulation of newspapers – perhaps making it compulsory for newspapers above a certain circulation to join the regulating body.

David Cameron‘s first instinct was to walk away from anything to do with statute altogether. But Downing Street has been fretting about how to avoid being isolated and outnumbered by Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, pro-state regulation Tory MPs and, more importantly, victims of phone-hacking like Milly Dowler’s parents and the McCanns.

Six months for solution?

If there were to be a six-month “last chance saloon” for the newspapers it could mean they’d have to come up with, among other things, a more independent system for appointments to the self-regulation body they’ve been devising.

I hear that at least one minister with a track record of piping up against press legislation has been asked to pipe down for the next 48 hours (if not longer). The PM and Nick Clegg get their copies of a report, thought to be 1,000 pages long, tomorrow late morning before its publication Thursday lunchtime.

David Cameron is bound to call for all-party talks. He more or less said he would in his evidence to the Leveson inquiry. Signals from the Labour and Lib Dem camps were that their respective leaders fully expect to back what Lord Justice Leveson recommends – one Labour source said: “You can’t appoint a judge to take the politics out the situation” only to wrestle it back and “play politics” with it.

Follow Gary on Twitter via @GaryGibbonBlog

Tweets by @garygibbonc4