It is no great surprise that Hacked Off director Brian Cathcart believes the government can’t be trusted to implement Leveson: the Prime Minister made very clear on the day of the report’s publication that he didn’t believe governments could be trusted to regulate the press via statute.
But what is interesting about the draft bill that the media reform pressure group has published this morning is that it claims to be the most faithful implementation of the Leveson recommendations: more faithful, even, than that proposed by the Labour party.
Ed Miliband has thus far managed to paint himself as the brave little David standing up to the media Goliaths on behalf of the victims of press intrusion, but rather than working with Labour on its draft bill, which it published before Christmas, Hacked Off is producing its own ‘pure’ version. Though Cathcart takes fire mainly at ministers and media bosses in his op-ed in the Guardian, he does also remind Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband of their promises to implement Leveson’s proposals before writing that ‘the Hacked Off approach is closest to the Leveson vision and is the ‘clean’ way to proceed, free of the self-interested distortions and industry manipulations inevitable in behind-closed-doors haggling’. That sets the pressure group against all politicians, not just the anti-statute Tories, which is not good news for Labour.
One thing to look out for over the next few weeks before a crunch vote on the legislation towards the end of January is how many Tory MPs continue to back statutory underpinning: a few have already retracted their support, but will the government’s current proposal of a Royal Charter satisfy many more?
Is Leveson a fundamental threat to a free press? On Wednesday 30 January, the Spectator hosts a debate between advocates of statutory regulation Chris Bryant and Max Mosley and those against statute, Richard Littlejohn, Paul Staines and John Whittingdale. You can book tickets here.