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Press regulation: Tory backbenchers worried by proposals

18 March 2013

MPs are continuing to debate the cross-party deal on press regulation in the Commons at the moment. The debate has been divided between congratulations for the party leaders and their colleagues who hammered out the deal, and wariness from some Tory backbenchers about what the proposals actually mean. David Cameron insisted during the debate that this wasn’t statutory underpinning, but Nick Clegg said ‘of course’ when asked whether it actually was. Some Tory MPs agree with Nick: they believe this does include statutory underpinning.

Perhaps the most forceful speech came from Charles Walker, who started his speech by saying that this country has a ‘pretty revolting’ press, but that he was suspicious of the lack of ‘tension’ in the Chamber:

‘I’m also concerned, Mr Speaker, that we say that we are not enshrining these laws in statute, but we have amendments on the Order Paper today. We talk about having to pass it into law both in this House, and in the House of Lords, and to me that feels very much like statutory regulation and legislation.’

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He added that MPs should ‘strike a note of caution’ on the deal, saying:

‘I’m not sure today is the wonderful day that everyone is portraying it to be: I think it’s actually a very, very sad day, and I hope that we don’t live to regret this at some stage in the future.’

Sarah Wollaston was similarly unimpressed, intervening to say that she suspected politicians would come to regret this day. And Peter Lilley said ‘when both frontbenches are agreed, we invariably make our worst blunders’. Lilley counselled other publications to ‘have the courage’ to emulate the Spectator in opting out of any state-backed regulator.

I’ve also spoken to Douglas Carswell, who says:

‘It stinks. We are less free. Having grown up in a central African country where editors had to submit to what satte officials required, I feel particularly strongly about this. The issue of accountability to Parliament is a red herring. it’s making editors upwardly accountable to officialdom that’s so awful.’

So the PM might be relieved that he has satisfied those 20 Tories who were minded to rebel against any proposal which lacked statutory underpinning, but he now finds himself with another group irritated by the new proposals. Still, he had Chris Bryant congratulating him from the other side.

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Show comments
  • Tom Tom

    Getting to be like Hungary apparently. Is Viktor Orban offering advice ?

  • Ron Todd

    I don’t care too much if I don’t get told about some very rich left wing actor type getting blow jobs in his car, i do care if I can’t find out what the politicians are up to.

  • Walter Ellis

    As a journalist, I’m trying, and failing, to be enraged by this business. The police and the courts have done their job and now, post-Leveson, we’re going to get a reformed Press Complaints Commission. Nevermind the three-party minuet over what’s statutory and what isn’t. The Press, much as it is now, will continue. Let’s get back to real issues.

  • 2trueblue

    Everybody trying to claim that they did it, they thought of it. Shame that the law was not implemented when the crimes happened. The hacked off had every right to be hacked off, and that has nothing to do with what is now going on in parliament. Ah, but that would have been when Liebore were in charge, and not much got done then, just talk.

  • George_Arseborne

    While this deal was going on the PM was sleeping, Milliband easily manipulated Oliver Letwin and brought in Statutory regulation which Cameron never understood. Now his backbenchers are now rattling. Great job Ed you won

  • Ian Walker

    What a disgrace, the bunch of spineless toadies. I am deeply ashamed that I voted for Cameron’s pathetic puppet in my constituency, and I shall not make that mistake again. There is no Conservative Party anymore, just a blue-coloured branch of the Glorious Hegemony.
    And the Liberal Democrats should be sued – twice – for false advertising in their name.
    When the Coalition first came together, I hoped for Tory pragmatism tempered with a little Liberal heart. Instead we’ve got state regulation of the press and a stagnant economy. What a bloody mess.

    • McRobbie

      The only problem is the alternative is even more frightening…. millie and balls, I shudder. Please dont say UKIP..they have a long way to go to be a grown up party.

      • Abhay

        I understand your sense of hopelessness but if you don’t vote to strengthen an alternative (big or small) there will never be an alternative. And we cannot forever wait for the best person / party. By voting alternatives, conditions can be created where the main parties are drawn back into taking the right stands.

  • Portendorfer

    Bugger the backbenchers.
    They are killing Cameron

    • telemachus

      The Tory backbenchers are doing a sterling job
      Did yall see the prime ministerial Miliband today, flanked by able lietenants Balls and Harman
      Today was indeed their triumph

      • Colin

        Too funny…

        • telemachus

          And glorious

      • Noa

        wonderful to see you satirising yourself Telemachus, that is, if you are Telemachus.

        • Vrai Telemachus

          You and the vicar need to be whipping up emails

    • Noa

      Not quickly enough for our or their own good.

  • Smithersjones2013

    We need to be very afraid of these despots in Westminster. The sooner we are rid of them the better!

  • Thatcherite Lee

    Same can be said for some Labour MPs. Why not mention them?

    • Russell

      It’s Isabel! What did you expect

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