It’s funny that the pizzas that ministers, advisers and lobbyists munched as they thrashed out a deal on press regulation in March have become a symbol of all that was wrong with those late-night negotiations. Today when Maria Miller decided to distance herself from the talks in Ed Miliband’s office, a source close to the Culture Secretary explained that this included ‘the Miliband office, the pizza, it was the presence of Hacked Off’. Obviously the presence of Hacked Off was more menacing than a few boxes of ham and pineapple pizza, but both have been banned from the three days of talks that the parties will now go into, ahead of a final decision on Friday. Labour says it will ‘be speaking to the victims’, which means Hacked Off, but no campaign groups will be present during the negotiations proper.
As Fraser explains, neither the charter on offer now or whatever Maria Miller, Harriet Harman and Lord Wallace cobble together over some kind of healthy alternative to pizza is palatable to those publications who fear political meddling with press freedom. But it is interesting that Miller made a point of telling the Commons this afternoon that ‘I have to say that the optics around 18 March did not help a difficult situation’. Aides insisted that she wasn’t blaming anyone when asked whether Miller blamed Oliver Letwin, who led for the government in those March talks. But she is clearly trying to wrestle back control of her brief, suggesting that she would have done a better job on the Pizza Night. But she hasn’t given any indication that what is on the table now won’t kebab the press.