Coffee House

Sorry, Maria Miller. We still won’t sign

8 October 2013

The very fact that a Cabinet member has stood up in the House of Commons to make a statement on the future of newspapers suggests there’s something going rather wrong in our democracy. For three centuries, newspapers have not been toys in the political train set. Britain has operated on an unspoken principle of liberty, so firmly embedded in the national DNA that the separation between government and the press did not need spelt out in a constitution.

Today, a medieval group known as the Privy Council (in fact, an octet of politicians) has decided to reject the newspaper industry’s plans for self-regulation in favour of politicians’ plans for press regulation. You can read Maria Miller’s statement here, and listen to it below, but the crux of it is that the newspapers’ bid to save their freedom is not ‘consistent with Government policy’. She says the politicians will now finish off their own charter:

‘All three political parties will work together in the forthcoming days and produce a final draft of the cross-party Charter to place in the Libraries of both Houses on Friday.’

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And so the newspapers will be given a new set of marching orders, from their new masters.  Ms Miller says that she hopes the newspaper industry can agree to the government’s plans. I sincerely hope they won’t. We should pause to ask just what it is the newspapers are being asked to accept.

  • The politicians’ charter is a deeply illiberal, internationally-condemned plan that would be illegal in several countries, including America (where it would violate First Amendment protections).
  • The politicians’ charter would bring in statutory regulation, which is a ‘hallmark of authoritarianism and risks undermining democracy’. Not my words, but those of a parliamentary committee just seven years ago.
  • The politicians’ charter implements a plan which does not ‘consider the signal that the creation of such a draconian regime would — if implemented — send to the rest of the world.’ So says the the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations.
  • The politicians’ charter would set a template that could be imitated in other countries still fighting for press freedom. Phenyo Butale, of the South African Freedom of Expression Institute, puts it thus: ‘African governments have shown they are uncomfortable with free press acting as a watchdog, holding them to account. A move to statutory regulation in the UK would really be a gift for them.’

When you consider the principles at stake, it would be hard for any newspaper that expects to survive the next decade to be complicit in whatever the politicians now intend to cook up.

As for The Spectator, our position is perfectly clear: we still won’t sign. We have opposed every attempted political power grab since 1834 and we will have no part in any government-mandated regulator now. Spectator readers would be appalled if we signed up to some kind of regulatory hierarchy which had politicians at the top. They expect us to be holding these guys to account, not dancing to their tune.

David Cameron has got himself in a mess. To his  credit, he knows and has spoken about the danger that lurks behind the dangerous idea of statutory regulation. He asked the newspaper industry to come up with a new self-regulation which endorsed Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals. It has done so, to the millimetre, and now stands ready to implement the toughest system of regulation in the free world with £1 million fines. I hope the newspapers now just ignore the medieval pantomime of the Privy Council and get on with setting up the new regulator – bringing this issue to a close.

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Show comments
  • Neil Dance

    The press have been responsible for regulating themselves for the last few years. They cannot and will not do it. Do not blame anyone else for the mess that you have created.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Where’s my message gone? Bloody amateurs..

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    O well perhaps those who don’t sign had better become amateurs – instead of so-called professionals. Like in cricket!

    Apparently ” The difference between the amateur and the professional in first-class cricket was much more than one of remuneration whereby the one received expenses for playing and the other was paid a wage.”

  • stag

    I agree with everything, Fraser, except the notion that it is to David Cameron’s ‘credit’ that he ‘knows and has spoken about the danger that lurks behind the idea of statutory regulation’.

    If he knows the danger, why is he alllowing it to happen? If he was ignorant of the danger, he might have an excuse; but being aware of it, he has none. He has been weak, and has – as usual – been guided by political expediency and a desire to be all things to all men rather than the clear and unequivocal principle that press freedom is a sine qua non of a free society.

  • mikewaller

    I will start to believe this kind of thing is sincere when editors agree to publish every exchange between themselves and their proprietors. To put the matter more specifically, I should very much like an explanation for the rapid disappearance the brilliant piece our Editor recently wrote pointing out that Osborne’s “black-hole” attack on Miliband was very seriously weakened by the enormous black-whole Osborne himself was concealing. It may just have been happenstance, but I thought the heavy hand of the Specie’s proprietors may well have been at work.

    The key thing is that about half a dozen individuals, all tacitly signed up to a personal and familial non-aggression pact, wield massive power in the formation of public opinion. As this is a far bigger threat to democracy than the very reasonable proposals arising out of Leveson, doing something about it would certainly qualify for a good martyrdom!

    As for all the crap about politicians taking their revenge, for the most part they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into actually taking action. And still they seem to be wavering. The real impetus to all this has been the deep disgust felt by millions of ordinary people in this country at the way in which our press have behaved for decades. Instead of thrusting his little chest out and saying “No”, dear old Fraser should be trying to organise a bare-foot march of editors and proprietors to some ancient place of worship thereby to show true contrition.

    Sadly I would not advise anybody to start lining the route.

  • Augustus

    “The politicians’ charter would bring in statutory regulation, which is a ‘hallmark of authoritarianism and risks undermining democracy’”

    History shows that totalitarian movements have been able to manipulate millions of people precisely because they eliminated freedoms of expression. But to voluntarily surrender one’s hard-won freedom is morally worse than capitulating to a powerful enemy. Democracy can sometimes be a dangerous form of society because there is an ever-present threat of demagoguery from within, and it can only be satisfactorily maintained by safeguarding all its freedoms. No half measures exist.

  • black11hawk

    We’re with you Fraser!

  • La Fold

    “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good
    of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live
    under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
    The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may
    at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good
    will torment us without end for they do so with the approval
    of their own conscience”
    CS Lewis

  • Bonkim

    Are the newspapers really impartial? Do they support particular political or commercial agenda? How free are they from control by their owners? Is the British press really free from bias?

    • La Fold

      No ones saying that the press should be free from bias you toby.

      People are saying we should have a press free from politicians saying what can and cant be printed which would be backed by the power of the state.
      If you dont like a newspapers political leanings or its methods then the easiest thing to do is not buy it, or as Lenin once famously said, vote with your feet.

      • Bonkim

        Not just a question of not buying the Gutter-Press. The rights of the average man on the street is often sacrificed by some newspapers to increase circulation and profit. Politicians have a duty to safeguard public interest and protect Jo Public who does not have the resources to seek recourse through the available legal channels.

        • La Fold

          And that was a failure of the police not enforcing the criminal laws already in place, not proof that the press needs a “charter”.
          Phone hacking? Illegal
          Bribing police officers? Illegal
          The facts are 1) the newspapers flagrantly broke the law and 2) felt they could do with relative impunity by their cosy relationship with politicians and senior ranking police officers.
          And yet you think the best way to counter this is give politicians even greater power and regualtions over the press?
          So again, A free press does not mean a press free from Bias but one from the control of the state.

      • Tzctplus –

        Please show us where in the proposed charter it remotely hints at what you are saying.

        • La Fold

          1. Independent
          Self Regulation – Orwellian doublespeak. Any regulator will be a 3rd
          party made up of individuals with their own agendas. As As has been proven by
          the likes of Hacked Off this will mean that some pretty unsavoury types will
          try and gain access to influencing how newspapers are operated in this country.
          Apart from cocaine addicts and the user
          of prostitutes but probably also politicians, which is really a case of foxes
          in the chicken hoop. One of Levensons recommendations is to use Ofcom, a board
          of unelected government appointees, as a back stop measure. Labour on the other
          hand want to use an unelected and unaccountable Judge to oversee this body.
          Either way its pretty undemocractic in my book.

          2. These
          people in the body will have the power to do such things as rewrite the
          Journalists code and to define what is and isn’t in the “public Interest” in the pursuit of their own aims and agendas.
          Couple the malleable definitons of ethical journalism and public interest with
          the ability to impose fines upon these Newspapers who they feel have done wrong
          up to the tune of £1 million it is a pretty handy tool when trying to coerce
          any publication into either publishing or not publishing an article.

          3. More
          Orwellian doublespeak with the term that the newspapers will sign up to a code
          of practice “voluntarily”. This is an attempt to financially penalise
          publications which will not sign up to their reforms through a form of indirect
          taxation. Incidentally the crown tried these around 300 years ago to stop
          people reading what our Lords and Ladies were getting up to.

          4. Levesons
          talks about introducing a Kite mark for a “Recognised brand of Trusted
          Journalism” Trusted by who? How does somebody become recognised? This sounds
          like State Approved journalism, which is really state licensing of journalism.

          5. The
          arbitration process Leveson recommends will not only be open to individuals who
          believed they have been wronged but to any and all representative groups who do
          not like anything they have read.

          6. Leveson
          advocates changing the 1998 Data Protection Act specifically to cover ways
          journalists legitimately gather information and also to change the 1984 Police
          and Criminal Evidence act to remove Journalistic Exmeption in regards to
          protecting sources and leaked information. He advocates letting even the FSA
          have the power to raid jounralsits offices and confiscating material.

          Theres at least 6 ways the State
          could use this new power to try and supress and stifle debate by defining what
          and how journalists and newspapers operate.

  • keith

    I agree with the opposition to any form of government regulation of the press, but the press need to stop playing the politicians game, refuse to be part of the cosy lobby system, have no off the record briefings name names when you are told something, don’t use the comfortable phrase a spokesman said, don’t play the game. let them be judged by what they say, you as the press have created the McBride’s and Campbell’s of this world by taking their pernicious stories and letting them hide behind you.
    we know people like nick Robertson, Robert peston, will continue to play the game because they like to feel superior to their audience.
    the press need to start showing the politicians that they will not be manipulated when it suits them and it could start with you Fraser will you name names when given a story or continue the cosy back scratching as always and then whine about the same politicians who are trying to gag you

    • La Fold

      the question is would you get the stories without the anonymity provided by journalists protecting their sources.
      And if this “Royal Charter” is implemented you can surely expect the newspapers to get even more involved and spend fantastic amounts more money on the lobbying game.

      • keith

        would we get the stories !!!, as we know those journalists who took the words of McBride and Campbell were do the dirty work. we are not talking about whistle blowers worried for their jobs or safety, we are talking about ministers or their spokesperson, talking about policy or fellow MPs, the journalists should not be used as a test of public opinion, name the minister or spokesperson let them stand up for what they are putting out into the public, we can then do away with I didn’t know my aide did this or said that, I don’t understand why newspapers would spend fantastic amounts on lobbying if the royal charter is implemented, what would be the point

        • La Fold

          alright, chill winston, you dont look like your average horticulturalist. It was just a question( admittedly i did miss out the question mark.)
          Never heard of journalists protecting their sources fella? Off the record? etc And to be fair, theres nothing going to stop anyone from denying they’ve said something or not is there?
          As for papers lobbying more, its a logical step which is seen regularly when governments introduce regulation into whatever sphere of life.
          If the politicians have a large influence in the way papers are owned and operated then the same papers have a vested self interest in trying to influence the very same politicians.
          This is one of the reasons why people are opposed to governments “regulating” the press.

          • keith

            I have just put my gardening gloves on again, ” fella ”
            the whole point is journalist do protect sources but really are we putting some snotty ministerial aide alongside a doctor blowing the lid on some scandal in the NHS. if the journalists didn’t go along with the lobby system, it would not perpetuate the nick Robinsons of this world, who love saying those words a cabinet minister told me in confidence, just let the cabinet minister say it to camera.
            I don’t think there is anything in the royal charter proposals that mentions who should own or operate newspapers and anyway papers have always influenced politicians through their front pages and the readership they reach and we all know prime ministers have had editors along for chats at number ten,
            how I think this is different is government saying what’s right and wrong in newspapers and journalists should respond by not keeping the status quo on the lobby system

            • La Fold

              This is kind of my point. With the anonymity rightly protected to those blowing the lid off NHS scandals, MPs expenses etc we have to accept that this will be used and abused by some. To tell journalists they cant do that anymore could end up with them throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Life is not perfect and some will bend and break the rules regardless
              The royal charter doesnt cover who can own a newspaper… yet However it sets a precedent.
              But newspapers being told what is right and wrong,by politicians of all people, is telling them how to operate. And in reality do you want that shower of nepotistic, perjuring fraudsters telling the press whats right and wrong? Just remember the state is not benevolent, it is at best self interested and egotistical, at worst murderous.

              • keith

                I don’t want to tell journalists what they should or shouldn’t do what I am saying is they cant perpetuate a system that allows people like McBride with the connivance of journalists to get his stories into the media on the one hand through the use of the lobby system and then to equate that with a whistle blower exposing a major scandal surely anyone one can spot the difference
                And I agree if the royal charter does go through what’s to stop future politicians from saying who should and shouldn’t own a paper, that’s why I oppose it,

                • La Fold

                  I think we’ve been agreeing all along here, albeit some what combatively.
                  Sadly, for every instance of good journalism there will be a number of spiteful hachet jobs or celebrity gossip fluff pieces to counter it.
                  Everything has an up and a downside.

    • Tzctplus –

      You are hilarious. You are calling for a voluntary code of conduct.

      Which by its own nature would be unenforceable.

      The press had *years* of self regulation and they blew it.

      Sorry, time for the politicians, our elected representatives, to sort out the mess.

      • keith

        politicians telling us what we can read and write, i thought that went out with Stalin and Hitler but maybe you prove there are people who look back with fondness on those years

      • keith

        nice to see someone who still stands up for the Hitler, Stalin method of dealing with the press, remind me do the Americans have political interference with their papers, or are you of the Mugabe school of call editors to task, once politicians have their foot in the door its all over for free press

        • Tzctplus –

          Oh please, spare us the hyperbole.

          People in the media have proved beyond doubt that can’t be allowed to police themselves to redress the frequent abuses they inflict in other people.

          Bringing the US media as a shinning example of freedom is frankly baffling. They lie, pre judge and taint even the most exemplary of people (both John McCain and the current secretary of state come to mind as people that were unjustly mauled with vulgar lies). If that is what you want, be my guest.

          The charter in no place is censorious, please point where in the draft charter the press is stopped of functioning as it currently does.

          As a matter of fact the charter is one of self regulation, but its board will not have neither politicians, civil servants or newspapers editors (unlike now, where the hopeless PCC has current editors in important position, thus becoming arbiters of their own faults, which doesn’t deliver natural justice of any kind).

          I would really like to talk to people that has actually read the draft charter, and not with people that speak on the basis of baseless hearsay.

          • keith

            hyperbole, i think you need to listen to yourself,
            listen to Harriet harmen just to see what those good people who you seem to trust want. you get on and read your Pravda, i get the feeling you would be happy with that

  • rtj1211

    Here are a few principles which, if Fraser Nelson cannot agree to, show him to be unfit to work in a Free Press:

    1 All proprietors must pay taxes in the UK and at an appropriate level.

    Commenting on Government and the disbursement of taxes should not be the purview of those who avoid paying them.

    2. Commenting on British Security or the ‘British National Interest’ should be limited to those with a UK passport.

    No publisher without a UK passport can comment without a conflict of interest, hence they should not be commenting at all.

    3. All members of the Press must be subjected to the laws of the land and the regulation by the lawmakers that every other member of society is subjected to.

    If you consider yourself to be above the law, then you have no place commenting either on the laws or on those making them.

    You are not some secret society of Knights Templar, you are not Jesus’ 12 disciples and you are not the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers or Phi Beta Kappa.

    You are UK citizens/subjects depending on your attitude and you are obliged to consider the Houses of Parliament to be the body tasked with making our laws and ensuring that they are upheld.

    If you can’t do all that, why should you have the right to be in the Press??


  • Lady Magdalene

    The British State is becoming more and more authoritarian …. copying the EU and its predecessor the USSR. They have no respect for Freedom of Speech, any more than they have respect for our Democracy and Sovereignty.
    I doubt if they’re really after the relatively tame MSM though. Their real target is the uncontrolled internet and blogosphere.

  • dalai guevara

    ‘All three political parties will work together in the forthcoming days
    and produce a final draft of the cross-party Charter to place in the
    Libraries of both Houses on Friday.’

    All three of them? That’s all the parties represented in the house? You never stop learning a new piece of BS every day.

  • Angry Harry

    Rupert Murdoch Tweet …

    “BBC massive taxpayer funded mouthpiece for tiny circulation leftist Guardian. Meanwhile print media about to be gagged to protect toffs.”

    • dalai guevara

      There we have it. Coulson will do time.

  • Daniel Maris

    You can post a big NO! – but the point is Fraser, you haven’t defended free speech as a general principle. In fact you’ve sat on the principle – by telling people that they are odd or racist to oppose Sharia.

  • Rockin Ron

    This ‘line in the sand’ would be valid if many of The Spectator writers were not already deeply embedded in the Conservative fold. The evidence is clear from the editor down of a consistent fawning around most of the people and policies emanating from the current Government. The number of puff pieces is vying with The Daily Telegraph and there is little critical analysis of the Conservatives. So, far from an independent view, The Spectator is really the house magazine of the Tory Party.

    • Andy

      And thank God for it. After all the BBC is the Labour Party broadcasting to the Nation.

      • 2trueblue

        You are right, the BBC is the Gaurdian on air. We pay for both. The BBC is their biggest customer.

      • David Lindsay

        Really? Is that why anyone from the Labour Party is always outnumbered three to one, by two Coalition politicians and a Tory journalist? And why even that Labour figure is usually an ageing Blairite ultra who hates Ed Miliband and prefers David Cameron?

    • Colonel Mustard

      You clearly haven’t read the Spectator very carefully because there is plenty of critical analysis of the Tories in it. And they host pro-Labour writers and politicians too.

      But you are correct that press regulation is basically the left trying to shut down right wing newspapers. That was always behind this.

  • kyalami

    Since 9/11, the Western World has regularly lurched towards authoritarianism.

  • David Prentice

    One group positively salivating at the thought of state regulation of the press are our good friends in the Religion of Peace (last count, 1600 UK mosques and rising). Every single article containing the ‘M’ word will be brought to the regulator’s attention, any decision found in favour of the press will be howled down as ‘state-sponsored racism’ and ‘Islamophobia in action’, endless revolting grandstanding from the likes of Mehdi Hasan…

    Have they thought this through?

  • dalai guevara

    A great few lines Fraser. I pull my hat to the one who dares to question the legitimacy of this process, and the bodies engaged in exercising it.

  • swatnan

    Just as well Frazer, we’ve booked your cell.

  • FrenchNewsonlin

    Stick to your guns Mr Nelson and let’s hope the rest of “Fleet Street” do the same. On the Index on Censorship website back in June Lord Lester of Herne Hill summed up how correct you are to reject out of hand this demeaning, demented and dangerous drift toward authoritarianism.
    He was quoted saying he doubted the proposed Royal Charter would “pass muster” under the Human Rights Act and went on to describe it as a “steamroller to crack a nut.” He called planned government regulation “unprecedented in the free world … one-sided and unbalanced. It would be unacceptable in regulating the legal and medical professions, and it is unacceptable in regulating the profession of journalism that is already subject to many criminal and civil laws and sanctions.”

  • global city

    The Charter has not been condemned by ‘Europe; though, as they are trying to impose similar state control across the EU, as Barroso stated two years ago.

    We must not neglect the Commissions hands behind this.

    Fraser still thinks that on the whole our continued membership is ‘a good thing’.

  • David Lindsay

    I don’t see much point in this thing if it doesn’t tackle ownership, which it doesn’t. But reading this thread, I hope that you are very proud of your supporters. Doubtless, they agree with you in hating British institutions while, not coincidentally, regarding the word “America” as a decisive argument.

    • Andy

      I agree: we must break up the BBC. After all it has a monopoly position in broadcast news provision. We can’t allow that.

      • David Lindsay

        For all its many faults, it does not have a “monopoly” at all. You need a new telly. They are cheap as chips these days.

        • Andy

          73% control in any market would be regarded commercially as a virtual monopoly. 20% should be the maximum allowed.

  • e2toe4

    I just stuffed this into a reply to..below…

    But it made more sense than my usual contributions so I dragged it up here as well….

    You would be listening to your own plight not ours.

    (Written in response to the idea that Government control of the press would be a problem for the press and no-one else)

    Most of the stuff we know about comes from the press…even the times when the press itself gets things wrong we most often find out about from the press.

    Sometimes the press (different parts on occasion) write wrong, nasty or malicious things.

    But nowhere in the world have the press snatched people from the street, tortured them or shot them…journalists have been kidnapped, tortured and killed however, often for trying to tell people that other people are being kidnapped, tortured or killed.

    As Joni Mitchell once said a long time ago… “You don’t know what you have till it’s gone”….that applies to a free press, and as so many hucksters today would tell you….’When it’s gone…it’s gone’.

  • Peter Stroud

    Good for the Speccie. Don’t give in to the politicians. I am disgusted that such a move should occur with a Conservative led government.

    • Holly

      I’m even more disgusted that all this arose under a, lauded by the press/journo’s, Labour government, who in the eye of all media outlets were/are fantastic….Makes you wonder why they love Labour so much….And dislike the Tories for taking them to task for their behaviour.

      Not all journo’s are bad,is their usual defence. Well those who failed to investigate WTF was going on in government & the media are just as bad as them that was ‘at it’.

  • MikeF

    Absolutely correct – these proposals have to be fought against and if necessary simply defied. We need our own campaigning group and a big protest event – a march through the streets of London.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Politicians are dispensable, a free press isn’t. Its long past time we got rid of the establishment political underclass. May our free press facilitate their demise in what is now becoming a war for a free society.

  • The_greyhound

    I would like to express strong support for the stance of Fraser Nelson and the Spectator.

    That’s all.

    • David Ganz

      More fool you.

  • Holly

    While I hate the idea of politicians anywhere near regulating the press, I also can not blame them.

    If you ever took the time to read any of my previous comments berating you lot for standing by while Labour wrecked the country, you wouldn’t now come across as ‘bleating’, if you know what I mean.
    Where were you all when hacking was going on?
    Where were you all when corrupt police/public sector workers were taking payments?
    Where were you when Bozo was wasting all the our taxes and borrowing?
    Where were all of your ilk, who for some reason think you are the bees knees, when time & again you would be spoon fed some crock or other about a Labour/Bozo policy, only to be made to look like fools by the same mob, as it fell to bits as cr@p.

    …So far up Labour’s dark place… and now you want US to listen to YOUR plight.

    • Abhay

      Holly, yours is a passionate post.
      But what are suggesting, the politicians should have regulatory powers over the press?

      • Holly

        Well when you have press owners, press workers, the police, public sector workers, hackers & uncle Tom Cobley, all doing what the heck they like liked, for money, just to get a story, why are we all now jumping through bloo*y hoops trying to abet them further?

        I want the press to behave,respect their readers, and the law, but the sad truth is they can’t, because ‘good behaviour’ does not sell papers.

        The press/journo’s will continue to behave as they always have, pay the fine or whatever, and do the same again. Only this time, if ‘regulated’ by bods in Parliament, they will be even more underhand.

        • Abhay

          I guess there is no good answer here. So many things are rotting that it is hard to expect one section of the society to be good. Freedom is messy. Esp, when there is general decay.

    • Andy

      I was busy fighting the Fascists. I was busy telling all and sundry what was wrong with the Fascist Labour Party.

      Question is where were you ? And another question is do you seriously want to allow the Fascists to control the print media just as they control the broadcast media ? If you do well fine. If you don’t then you should oppose press regulation which is the control of the press by the political class.

      • Holly

        ‘Do you seriously want to allow the fascists to control the print media’…

        I was under the impression they already did..
        Hence all this rubbish about even more control, so nothing really changes.

        • victor67

          They all ready do Murdoch, The Barclays and Rothermere all fascists with some spewing reactionary right wing bile
          Would British society be enhanced if The Sun, Mail and Express disappeared and replaced with more honourable newspapers.

          • Andy

            ‘honourable newspapers’ ? Like that Fascist rag The Guardian you mean. Give me Murdoch anyday.

            • victor67

              Just challenging the myth we have a free press.

              • Andy

                You’ll be challenging the BBC one assumes.

          • Holly

            It is not the title in the dock as far as I’m concerned.
            Or whether they are left or right in their view.

            It is the fact that they thought it okay to acquire information using illegal methods, and the fact that the law enforcers and public sector workers also thought it okay to ‘get in on the act’.

            We are now going through some fascicle, ‘updating of the rules’ that will be decided by politicians, that has been decided by their public sector staffers, and will be enforced by the law enforcers.

            As I reply to comments,and ‘digest’ what is being proposed, and by who(m) it is getting more & more ridiculous.

            • Andy

              Aren’t you guilty of hypocrisy ? You seem to forget that the MP expenses were exposed via stolen property – the disks the Telegraph bought were stolen. What about all the stuff the Guardian are only too happy to publish. All the result of stolen material which is and was illegally obtained. So The Guardian are guilty of a criminal act – receiving stolen property.

              • Holly

                Anyone who did not know that sitting politicians get us to pay for everything, got a very rude awakening then.

                I also said, it makes no difference what the title of the paper is, who owns it, or whether left or right wing in their view/
                target readership.
                The majority, just like the politician were doing the same thing, because..
                1..They could, due to the system in place under a useless government.
                2..The law enforcers/public sector workers, because the useless government had more important stuff to do, like getting rid of Blair, and then trying to portray Bozo as credible.

      • Tzctplus –

        Has the Guardian or the BBC ever supported Fascists? No.

        The Daily Mail? Gee. It is all in black and white.

        Accusing the BBC and the Guardian of fascism is just puerile.

        • Andy

          Socialism = Fascism.

          Go figure.

          • Tzctplus –

            Well, they themselves say it isn’t, and uncountable governments around the world have demonstrated that non fundamentalist Socialism is as far away from Fascism as you can be.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Perhaps you should explain who you are berating because it reads like you are berating the world.

      • Holly


        • Smithersjones2013

          Two wrongs don’t make a right.

          • Holly


            • Smithersjones2013

              Well you are berating the Spectator for being a patsy for Labour (not true in my view but still) and then basically saying tough the media should swallow it (this regulation) as a result.

              Two wrongs (press inactivity and subsequent poltical cotrol of the press) do not make a right.

              As I say elsewhere a free (if unworthy) press is the least worst option.

              • Holly

                I wholeheartedly agree, but the press, the politicians and the law enforcers were all in it together.

                Neither group can have it all their own way, when using their readers/the public to make a quick buck…
                Somewhere along the line the rules of the game have to change.
                The press have been here before, and I have no doubt they will be here again in future.
                Nothing will change, because the same players who allowed the press to wonder into illegal territory are ‘making the new rules’.
                Round & round we go…
                It is the ‘bleating’ of those who were at it, and those who did bugg*r all about it, that I am, again, berating.

                As for a ‘free press’, it wasn’t free, and a lot of it wasn’t true.

    • Kennybhoy


    • e2toe4

      You would be listening to your own plight not ours.
      Most of the stuff you know about comes from the press…even the times when the press itself gets things wrong.
      Sometimes the press (different parts on occasion) write wrong, nasty or malicious things.
      Nowhere in the world have the press snatched people from the street, tortured them or shot them…journalists have been kidnapped, tortured and killed however.
      As Joni Mitchell once said a long time ago… “You don’t know what you have till it’s gone”….that applies to a free press, and as so many hucksters today would tell you….’When it’s gone…it’s gone’.

    • 2trueblue

      The hacking went on during Liebores tenure in government. There were laws and they were not reenforced. Liebore have such power and are also used by others, (Hacked Off) when frankly it all went on in their time. Gagging the press because the law was not enforced is illogical. We have seen where Millipede sit with his exploitation over recent weeks. He has kept it going for his own parties benefit. He had the opportunity to tell us all about his father.
      The Mail were stupid to word it as they did. The facts are that his father hated British institutions, such as the monarchy, parliament, etc.

      • Colonel Mustard

        It’s fantastic the way Labour have escaped the consequences of their crimes and now profit from them. Leveson and the NHS are two examples of where the Coalition tried to do the right thing and the Tories ended up getting the blame for the wrongdoing that preceded them.

        Cameron was far too soft on Labour. He should have purged and prosecuted. We need a radical conservative leader who will take no prisoners.

        • Daidragon

          Maybe Cameron would have more credibility if he hadn’t employed Andy Coulsen and if he hadn’t brought Rebecca Brookes into his social circle.

          • Colonel Mustard

            This is not about his credibility but about the way he used the power he was given in 2010. He failed to dismantle the leftist machinery of government and non-government around him and it began obstructing him from day one. Far too compromising, placating and appeasing. Much too ready to accept lefties inside his tent and to believe they all mean well. He should have told Grieve to sack Starmer and if Grieve refused sacked him too.

            And he initiated Leveson, the fool, instead of an independent inquiry into the role of the New Labour police in hacking – both corruption and their failure to investigate. He has been hoist on his own petard, the fool.

            • Daidragon

              I’m no Tory and loathe Flashman but feel you need reminding that we don’t have a Conservative Govt, we have a coalition. They obviously can’t be as right wing as you’d like for that simple reason.

              • Colonel Mustard

                Fair enough and I am duly reminded of that. But a stronger leader should have been able to overcome that disadvantage. From day one it felt like a double act rather than Clegg being put firmly in his place as a subordinate.

                • Tzctplus –

                  Well, being in government is like being pregnant: one either is or isn’t, so if the LibDems became partners in government clearly it was a political impossibility just to overrule them at the whim of the senior political party in the coalition.
                  Clegg need only saying the deal was over at a time of his choosing.
                  Be glad (if you are a Tory) that so much of the Tory Agenda is being implemented in a country where most people disagree with it.

            • Tzctplus –

              He was given shared power with a Left Leaning party. Starting a witch hunt was impossible.

        • Andy

          You are right. There should have been a mass clear out across the board to reduce Labour’s malignant influence. And we should now be having some trials – Mid Staffs for a start.

        • 2trueblue

          Cameron needs to up his game, but he is hampered by the LibDums, otherwise we will end with Liebore in the seat and that is not a good option. I am hoping that the Tories can up their game and at least get airtime to reply when Liebore are let loose on the airwaves with their spin. It is amazing how they are always on the air.

      • Andy

        Miliband’s father was a Marxist piece of scum. He got on the last boat to sail from Ostend and found safety here, and then turned round and wrote that he wished we would lose the war. Had we done so he would have disappeared up a chimney at Auschwitz. After the war he did not return to Belgium, where he was born, much less to Poland where his parents actually came from. But then again his father was a traitor to Poland. Seems to run in the family.

        • Tzctplus –

          This has been explained ad nauseam, but since you seem to be misinformed: he uttered such thought when a being a young lad of 16 and facing quite a bit of hostility from the local population for harboring these foreigners (some things never change).

          He was young and hurt, and in spite of that he fought the war for Britain (small detail you obviated, surely as an oversight).

          Being a Marxist has never been a crime, although with hindsight it seems foolish now, but that doesn’t make you a quasi traitor as implied by that fine publication so fond of the people and their ideological descendants that actually praised so publicly the enemies of Britain at a time of the utmost danger.

          You see, when you praised the enemies of Britain and then turn to denounce a war veteran your credibility as a newspaper may seem a bit dubious to put it mildly.

      • kingRichard Morris

        You might want to think about censorship vis a vis The Spectator
        Editor vetoed my advert Israel The State that Tortures Children without explanation Before you turn bluer look at the Israeli newspaper’s Haaretz head line Torture of Children by IDF Maybe Haaretz editor is a self hating Jew?
        Richard Morris Writer and Performer Bitter Fruit Of Palestine on Youtube and

        • 2trueblue

          And aren’t you a bit late to the party.

  • Abhay

    Maria Miller probably finds herself boring.

    The worst tyranny is when the tyrants tyrannise you for your own good. You can’t escape from that. The throttle is never released.

  • Andy

    A free press is a bulwark against Tyranny and oppression. We already have 73% of the broadcast news media controlled by the ‘State’, skewing the debate in a Fascist Left direction. The right to offend, the right to be wrong is not something we should allow the scummy political class to get their hands on. They have f***** everything else they have touched.

    • David Ganz

      Cut the cant. The Uk has the most despicable newspapers in Europe, bleting about press freedom but lacking the guts to expose Lord Freud, ATOS, the medical industrial complex, etc. Lacking the guts to denounce either Murdoch or Dacre. In thrall to bigotry and simplemindedness. and dripping with hypocrisy. UK journalism makes the Tory party look ethical. Any bimbo can fit a press release into a column, but there si no evidence that most newspaper staff can do anything else, and if they can, they are pulled into line.

      • Andy

        It’s you that should cut the cant. We don’t want a media dominated by that Fascist rag The Guardian and its broadcasting arm also known as the BBC. Your hypocrisy is sickening: the broadcast media is dominated by that monopoly the BBC (73% broadcast news is BBC), so when you start demanding that the BBC is broken up and we have more diversity of provision some of us might start to listen to you. Until that day dawns we wont.

        • David Lindsay

          There are dozens of non-BBC television stations, quite a few of them doing news. And I write as no slouch when it comes to criticising that anti-NHS propaganda voice for its Chairman’s business interests. But is is very far from being a monopoly. People just prefer it, that is all. Although not enough to kill the competition.

          • tastemylogos

            You have been told on three occasions that the BBC doesn’t have a chairman yet you continue to say it does.

            You truly are horrendous, Lindsey, luv.

        • Daidragon

          People trust BBC news which is why they watch it. They have plenty of other tv channels to choose from. Describing the Guardian or BBC as Fascist is quite possibly the thickest thing i’ve read on here. And that’s saying something.

          • Andy

            You are thick. Socialism and Fascism are one and the same. The BBC needs to be reduced so it does not control 73% of broadcast news output.

  • Justathought

    It was our free press who exposed the MP’s expenses scandal and precipitated the hasty exit of one third of the commons from every political hue. Such an exodus as has not been seen since Cromwell’s reign. It is hardly surprising that the long knives are out now.

    These politicians are the same who would pass a snoopers charter and turn every citizen into a terrorist suspect while at the same time grant asylum to terror suspects (see today’s Times p5). The same terror suspects can then go on to cause mayhem around the world from the comfort of their all expenses paid welfare housing here in the UK.

    Politicians are trusted even less than journalists and so we can be confident that this current attempt on our democracy will be thwarted however the price of freedom is constant vigilance.

    • Andy

      Indeed. And look at some of the disgusting individuals involved in ‘Hacked Off’.

      • 2trueblue

        And the power they have in this whole event. Chilling.

        • Andy

          Exactly. They had far too much say with Leveson and have basically imposed what they wanted on everyone. Leveson was a damn fool and has demonstrated quite clearly that he did not understand freedom of speech. Michael Gove hit the nail on the head.

          • 2trueblue

            They should not have been invited by Millipede. The whole thing taken together with the recent events portray exactly why politicians can not be trusted. Their agenda is not the same as the publics, yet they are meant to be there to represent our views. I am pretty hacked off with their behaviour. Liebore did little to improve society in their time and left a very poor legacy behind them.

      • Tzctplus –

        Who do you have in mind? The bloke whose character was assassinated because he is a bit eccentric? Any of the people’s whose phones where hacked? The McCans? Who exactly are these disgusting people?

    • David Lindsay

      If the right-wing media hate Parliament so much, then why do they all want to be in it, those of them who are not in it already? Consider that one very carefully. It explains a lot. A truly awful lot.

      They are enthusiastic supporters of the Lobbying Bill, which would place trade union publications under direct State control. But woe betide that even the mildest expression of the Rule of Law might be extended to themselves. Again, consider that one very carefully. Very, very, very carefully, indeed.

      Neither of these proposed Charters addresses the real issue, which is ownership, itself intimately connected to sovereignty.

      The root of this whole business is the question of what to do about the presence of a transnational and anti-British State within this State. No one seems to have thought that the solution might be to kick it out, and then to set up sufficient defences against anything remotely like it in future.

      In any case, that is about to be overtaken by events. When The Sun goes down, then the Independent National Directors of The Times and the Sunday Times will have the opportunity to come into their own during, and as a result of, the inevitable, entirely appropriate effort to save those titles.

      Something similar will apply, and rightly, to Sky News, which at least bothers to report demonstrations in defence of the English National Health Service, and the welcome willingness of which to speak truths about what are, and what are not, major political forces in this country has significant potential ramifications.

      • Martin Jennerson

        “They are enthusiastic supporters of the Lobbying Bill, which would place
        trade union publications under direct State control. But woe betide
        that even the mildest expression of the Rule of Law might be extended to
        themselves. Again, consider that one very carefully. Very, very, very
        carefully, indeed.”

        Laws of the land already apply to them.

        “The root of this whole business is the question of what to do about the
        presence of a transnational and anti-British State within this State. No
        one seems to have thought that the solution might be to kick it out,
        and then to set up sufficient defences against anything remotely like it
        in future.”


        • David Lindsay

          The law of the land already applied to the trade unions in the 1960s and 1970s. And neither Barbara Castle nor Margaret Thatcher thought that those, after all, entirely British bodies ought to get to write their own changes to it.

          Speaking of Thatcher, her failure to stand up to Murdoch, followed by Blair’s, is why we are in this situation. Undisguised in his contempt for this country, he ought never to have been allowed a foothold here.

      • tastemylogos

        You have been told on three occasions that the BBC doesn’t have a chairman yet you continue to say it does.

        Your Communist style contempt for truth and critical thinking truly is abhorrent, Lindsey, luv.

        Your views used to be argued against on these pages, but you’ve since been worked out and are fast being deemed just another hate filled loon with a chip on your shoulder… hence why (the odd exception aside) you are simply ignored.

        Good work, Lindsey, luv.

        Is it the lady’s name that makes you so blinded with resentment of others? You remind me of ‘Darling’, from Blackadder.

    • David Lindsay

      The right-wing papers are all in favour of snoopers’ charters and such measures. They wouldn’t be happening, otherwise.

      The overmighty (press) barons need to be checked and balanced by the Crown in Parliament. Especially since the biggest of them all is foreign. It is all very Medieval, even if the Privy Council arguably isn’t.

      Those barons’ courtiers and retainers are making the same argument as was made against Barbara Castle by the unions. They ended up getting Margaret Thatcher as a result of their own intransigence.

      And at least they were all British. The biggest trade union baron was not a Britain-hating foreigner, as the biggest press baron is.

    • Bob Hutton

      You are absolutely right in your first sentence – I suspect that MPs see this as a chance of revenge for the fact that the press exposed them for having “their hands in the cookie jar”.

  • AndyB

    Power to your elbow, Fraser. The Spectator – Primus inter pares.

  • HookesLaw

    ‘The very fact that a Cabinet member has stood up in the House of Commons
    to make a statement on the future of newspapers suggests something
    going rather wrong in our democracy.’


    I think rather the activities of the press have led to it.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Is there anything this lot do that you would not defend?

      • Abhay

        This guy is another Telemachus / David Lindsay – devoid of critical thinking

  • IanH

    Fraser, we really don’t care, you may be the oldest journal, but you prioritised an Apple app rather than an Android one, just goes to show you really don’t know your audience, and just went with the sad crowd who favour bling over substance

    • Fergus Pickering

      What the f*ck does that mean? Do you know?

    • Smithersjones2013

      Is this the most irrelevent and crass post of the year?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    So, you Speccie teenagers have been most loyal soldiers in the politically correct army, always kowtowing to the demands of the bien pensant luvvies with whom you share your bubble, and as would be expected your mates are now extracting an even further pound of flesh, yet you’re crying about it?

    You don’t seem to do irony well, lad.

  • Paddy Briggs

    Oh dear! But there is already regulation of the Press and you have to obey it. If you defame someone you break the law. If you use your medium to incite hatred and/or call for revolution you break the law. If you print a photo of A penetrating an orifice of B in glorious close up you break the law – and so on! So the bridge of Press regulation was crossed long ago. The issue is not whether there should be regulation – there’s plenty. The issue is whether there should be more. And the Press has had more than ample time to gets its act together and failed. The Last chance Saloon shut its doors long ago. So don’t throw the “evils” of statutory regulation in our faces – you’ve lived with that for centuries.

    • HookesLaw

      How many people were kept quiet by Robert Maxwell and is deep pockets and his lawyers?

      We are still talking about self regulation backed by a Charter. Cameron rejected Levenson and received opprobrium for it. The public supported Levenson.

      Does the shallow schoolboy Mr Nelson show any sense of gratitude or any sense of self awareness? Well in truth he displays no sign of sense at all.

      • Fergus Pickering

        The public has no idea what ‘Leveson’ is. The musings of an ignorant lawyer.

      • La Fold

        “You know what the public like? Public executions!”

    • Smithersjones2013

      You forget that the reason that the press was allowed to carry on for over a decade in such a manner was that politicians from both major establishment parties derelicted themselves mainly out of self interest (until the media humilated them over expenses). Not to mention how Labour used the threat of the BBC charter renewal to silence the BBC over Iraq

      About the only good thing you can say about our media is that it is not our establishment political underclass. Handing their power over to the political classes is the worst thing that could happen.

      Like democracy a free press is the least worst option.

  • Rjs2662

    Proof that there is something wrong with our democracy is that when a measure has unanimous support from our elected representatives it will be resisted by a vested interest that has proven itself to be incapable of regulating itself many times over. The “freedom” of the press is not threatened by this – the headline in last week’s Daily Mail would not be censored, but rather victims of stories researched by illegal means or of stories that unreasonably intrude into private lives will have recourse to a regulatory body whose powers will hardly be draconian.

    • CharlietheChump

      Well, we shall see . . .

    • HookesLaw

      When you have idiot schoolboys running magazines like this – is it any wonder the press is in a mess?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …sorta like what your incompetent Cameroonian poshboy buddies are doing in government, you mean?

      • Smithersjones2013

        When you have idiot voters like yourself is it any wonder the country is in the mess it is?

    • Russell

      “victims of stories researched by illegal means or of stories that unreasonably intrude into private lives “..already have resourse to the police and the courts for illegal practices, and the civil courts for intrusion into their private matters with large fines and compensation available through those courts.

      • Tzctplus –

        Yeah right. Justice for the rich , and not even for them often enough.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Well it doesn’t have support from me. If stories are researched by illegal means then the law is being broken. The law as it stands.

      • Holly

        But it was the law enforcers/public sector workers who were also breaking the law, which I find even MORE scary than politicians regulating stuff.

        • La Fold

          Why does the though of the police or even public sector workers shock you so much? It was the neglection of enforcing the law which is scary.
          Lord Acton summed it up nicely i think, and thats why people are more concerned with the politicians regulating “stuff”.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Naive. The children in parliament think that what they intend is what will be the outcome. It won’t.

      • Holly

        Never is.

        • Abhay

          Don’t say ‘never’.

          • Holly


            • Abhay

              Well, if the last 12-15 years are something to go by then on big issues of the day, they get their way. Syria was one pleasant exception.

  • Normandee

    People constantly worry about socialists getting control of the press, I see no difference between any of them. Control of the press by any politician would be worse than control of the press by unscrupulous journalists and that’s bad enough.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Oh there is a difference alright. The idea that they are all the same is a wonderful distraction from the Fabian cultural revolution coming under scrutiny.

      • Normandee

        I think you were right until Cameron, he has drifted towards the left, and despite them drifting further left themselves he seems to be determined to keep up with them. So now any party having control over information is equally bad, and don’t forget Cameron will give the press to European control as well, he has given them everything else.

        • Colonel Mustard

          I have no time for Cameron and I do think that he has both surrendered ground and failed to articulate an effective conservative narrative against the left. I can’t see many fighters amongst the Tories and too many of them underestimate the ideological malevolence of the left and buy into its charade of democratic and parliamentary process – ‘business as usual’. They are all far too chummy and laid back instead of reminding themselves “This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing” whenever they engage a Labour politician, activist or journalist.

          • Normandee

            Failure to articulate an effective conservative narrative comes from one source only, he is not a conservative, and the sooner the whips fodder that follow him around in some kind of awe realise that the better. It’s not just the whips fodder either, most of the so called in house sceptics are the same, their immediate priority is getting the party re elected, not getting us out of Europe.

  • The_Oncoming_Storm

    Funny how the same people who tell us pulling out of the ECHR would encourage despots are also the biggest cheerleaders for Leveson which according to this report, is being watched eagerly by despots!

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