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John Major was right that it is the politicians who are in last chance saloon – his successor has bottled it

Posted on 29 November 2012 | 9:11pm

In Lord Leveson’s introduction to his report, in the very first paragraph, he states that his work ‘carries with it authority provided personally by the Prime Minister.’ He must have been a little shocked when the PM withdrew that authority as soon as he spoke in the Commons, when he rejected the main proposals for regulation.

Also in the introduction, I was impressed by the words of John Major with which Lord Leveson chose to close this initial chapter.

‘I have no idea what this Inquiry will recommend,’ said the last Tory actually to win a general election, ‘but if it makes recommendations that require action, then I think it is infinitely more likely that that action will be carried into legislation if it has the support of the major parties. If it does not, if one party breaks off and decides it’s going to seek future favour with powerful proprietors and press barons by opposing it, then it will be very difficult for it to be carried into law, and I think that is something that is very important.

‘So I think there is an especial responsibility on the leaders of the three major parties. 20-odd years ago – 23 years ago, I think – a senior minister said the press were drinking in the last-chance saloon. I think on this occasion it’s the politicians who are in the last-chance saloon. If, at the end of this Inquiry, with the recommendations that may be made – and I don’t seek to forecast what they may be, but if the recommendations that are made are not enacted and nothing is done, it is difficult to see how this matter could be returned to in any reasonable period of time, and those parts of the press which have behaved badly will continue to behave badly and put at a disadvantage those parts of the press that do not behave badly.

‘I reiterate: I think the underlying purpose is to eliminate the bad behaviour and bring the bad up to the level of the good, and the bad is just a cancer in the journalistic body. It isn’t the journalistic body as a whole. And I think in the interests of the best form of journalism, it is important that whatever is recommended is taken seriously by Parliament, and it is infinitely more likely to be enacted if neither of the major parties decides to play partisan short-term party politics with it by seeking to court the favour of an important media baron who may not like what is proposed.’

Major was absolutely right, and Cameron totally wrong to go down the route his predecessor warned against.

  • As thousands will point out, the phone hacking was illegal when Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked, it didn’t stop them from hacking. The press needs something more than self regulation as, like the banks, they don’t seem to be doing an awfully good job. Once again Cameron is showing the public he cares little for ideas that are not his, the victims have been forgotten.

  • JohnHW

    The immediacy with which Cameron has rejected Leveson’s proposals shows his utter contempt for the conclusions of the inquiry he himself set up. However, powerful sections of the media will make a huge and sustained noise to trumpet his decision not to legislate as a great blow for freedom, so one imagines that he might get away with it. Very depressing.

  • Cameron’s response to this has left me with absolute disgust for him. Normally I am fairly measured in my comments about Cameron & Co. but it is difficult to not feel that this is simply a cheap sell out.

    Cameron has calculated, no doubt, that the support of the press he will receive will overcome the negativity of the public reaction, and unfortunately he might be right in that.

    It is totally shameless.

    I haven’t read the report but judging from the commentary on it, it is extremely light on the Conservative party. Maybe Leveson did this because he really didn’t want to annoy Cameron too much as he will have wanted Cameron to implement the important legislation.

    Although I haven’t read the report I think Cameron has been mis-representing it and suggesting there is a threat to the free press in it, which judging by the descriptions of others, it would seem that there is no threat to free press in this report at all.

  • Anonymous

    Terrible own goal by Cameron on the day of three by-elections around England, as if he thought it was a good day to bury this inquiry, as if no one would notice.

    Torys overall with these three results pushed into third by Farage’s UKIP, with the Lid Dems disappearing further into hyperspace. Good solid three wins for Labour, with Rotherham nothing to panic about after all, despite strange goings ons in it’s Social Services department.

  • Olli Issakainen

    According to Mark Twain if you do not read newspapers, you are uninformed.
    But is you read them, you are MISINFORMED.
    William Randolph Hearst famously said that “news is something somebody doesn´t want printed; all else is advertising”.
    Karl Marx stated that mass media is pernicious because it is controlled by a small number of rich men who conceal the truth that ECONOMIC FORCES control all social and political life.
    MEDIA OWNERSHIP is the key issue which should also be looked at.
    Leveson inquiry into culture, practices and ethics of press heard 184 witnesses and received 42 written submissions.
    Stanley Baldwin said that press has power without responsibility.
    Newspapers have not been regulated by a statutory body since licensing was abolished in 1695.
    Successive commissions and public inquiries have been held.
    Self-regulation by PCC has not worked.
    Privacy and libel have been left to courts.
    Self-regulation is a flawed concept. We need a new INDEPENDENT MEDIA REGULATOR backed by LEGISLATION!
    This is also what the public wants.
    British press operates according to general laws against bribes, libel and intercepting communications.
    There are NO SPECIFIC LAWS to regulate press. Nothing like the US first amendment guarantees free speech.
    Statutory regulation does not mean CENSORSHIP. New regulator is useless unless backed by LAW.
    Status quo is not an option.
    Rupert Murdoch claimed that he had never asked a PM anything. Well, Sir John Major tells a different story on Europe.
    Press must be a servant of the people, not a slave of the elite.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, against the law, and why there is a lack of convictions/people strung up, it is up to us to simpley conclude. Think it is a corrupt tory establishment thing, which Blair and Brown struggled with to cope.

    But that is the public private school system in the SE of Engurland for you – say no more!

    Song for you Lucy,

    Old school Torys, when they fall at the wayside due to loss of wealth, their fickle tory friends don’t want to know them after – old post Brit Empire post-India times especially, and before, back to the South Sea Bubble.

    Hope I haven’t spooked you, it is all proper history. All the very best Lucy..

  • Anonymous

    By the way Alastair, New Zealand poisoned by the Cameron present day establishment? or was it the Israelies as usual?

    Wouldn’t put it past the south east england public schooled torys, with very close friends in that MI5 and Twickers…

    WHARRRT! Oh shut up will you all, you nothing foghorns!

  • Anonymous

    So Major is a smart guy then Alastair? A good guy? A guy whose ppolicy prescriptions you’d recommend? Is that what you are saying? Care to tell us what you used to say about him?

  • Loving the song choice! The “old boys network” will always be a let down. Roll on 2015, we desperately need to get rid of them.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it seems to have worked! 38-21! Blimey! Drinkies in MI5? : )

    But don’t ask about Wales – oh bwgger! Lost with last 20 seconds try by Oz. Rubbish last minute defending by Wales/Cymru, frankly. H’Penny in hozzie with last minute desperate tackle – hope the boy is alright Alastair, didn’t look good.

  • Anonymous

    No probs. And yes, roll on 2015, but really we shouldn’t be waiting that long, after Leveson and Cameron’s response – there is something darker in the background there, I think! Say no more.

  • Anonymous

    H’Penny is alright – was left in a darkroom through Saturday night, and was back to himself by daylight, ready for chapel, so no worries, thankfully. He was with the fairies when he got carted to hozzie though.