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If only Cameron was as bright and principled as Norman Fowler … Leveson burial chapter 324

Posted on 9 February 2013 | 1:02pm

You know how hard I find it to be overly nice about Tories, but I must salute the indefatigable Norman Fowler for his attempt to make sure the government does not wriggle out of doing the right thing on press regulation.

While David Cameron has acted only when he has had no choice, and at every tactical turn hoped the issue would quietly go away, Fowler and a few other Tories have acted out of a principled view that something wrong in British life needs to be put right, and political leaders have to be part of doing so.

There is something sinister and slightly disturbing about the way the debate on the Leveson proposals has gone quiet. Just as the press sought to control the terms of debate before and during the inquiry, not least with oodles of dishonest reporting, they are seeking to do so now by keeping quiet publicly and trying to do deals with Cameron and Oliver Letwin privately. Letwin is the poor soul who has been tasked to find a political fix to the ‘principle’ Cameron discovered post Leveson that statute was not an option. As Fowler points out, he would be far better just going with Leveson.

If this was any other issue on the government’s agenda, it would be the subject of never ending debate, accusations of dither and division. But because it is about the media seeking to maintain and pursue their own interests, it has gone quiet.

So Norman Fowler’s article in The Guardian today is a welcome one. I publish it below. Meanwhile, given the reports about the huge rise in measles, surely it is time for the health select committee to call before it the editors who, along with Dr Andrew Wakefield, were most responsible. It’s time Dacre had another public outing.

Here is Lord Fowler’s piece…

For weeks Lord Justice Leveson and anyone who has had the temerity to support his moderate report on the British press have been subjected to a barrage of newspaper abuse. It has been one of the most disreputable campaigns seen in this country for a long time – made even worse as it has all been done in the name of press freedom.

Even before Leveson had reported, the distortions began. In November the Daily Telegraph carried an advertisement with photographs of the likes of Assad, Mugabe, Castro and Putin. It was headlined “These people believe in state control of the press. Do you?”, with the injunction: “Say no to state regulation of the press”.

Only a lunatic would compare Leveson with Assad, but this has not stopped the campaign. Any allegation will do. Only a few days ago, a leader in the Sun said that a Leveson law would “muzzle the press” and “silence newspapers” – and, commenting on the Chris Huhne case, charged that “many at Westminster want papers stopped from investigating scandals like this”.

As Harry Evans, a journalistic giant, said in a strangely under-reported recent speech, the misrepresentation of Leveson’s main proposal is staggering. In truth, he said, the plan was for the regulation of the press organised by the press but with a statutory process to ensure that the required levels of independence and effectiveness were provided.

This proposal was rejected far too quickly by David Cameron, and next week we are due to see his alternative. At its heart will be a royal charter – an idea dreamt up by Oliver Letwin at the Cabinet Office when the more sensible Leveson course had been closed to him. The trouble is that a royal charter is an antiquated and undemocratic process – and, to be fair, there has never been any pretence that it is otherwise.

The privy council’s guidance is quite clear. “Once incorporated by royal charter, a body surrenders significant aspects of control of its internal affairs to the privy council … This effectively means a significant degree of government regulation of the affairs of the body.”

To understand the full disadvantage of this route, we should go back to the debate on the BBC royal charter nine years ago. The Labour government proposed that the management of the BBC should be divided into an executive with non-executive directors, and a trust where the chairman could call himself chairman of the BBC as an honorary title .

The proposal was met with a hail of criticism, but it is the structure that unhappily we have now. The reason for that is the government did not require the approval of parliament or anybody else – it was a deal between the government and the BBC made possible by the royal charter .

The final irony of the Letwin plan is that – in spite of all the fine words about how unacceptable it is to have statutory intervention – it looks as though the royal charter will require legislation to enable it to work. How else can the new system of damages and costs be introduced?

The tragedy is that Leveson produced a carefully argued report after months of open investigation. The Letwin proposal has not been remotely subject to that process. The debate on it has been behind closed doors, and a news blackout has been imposed in direct contravention of Leveson’s plea for greater transparency. The fear is that we will end up with a system which is bad for the public and bad for newspapers. If I were a Sun leader writer, I would be tempted to say that it is little more than government regulation backed by statute .

  • Anonymous

    The bell tolls slowly, balls of tumble weeds roll past boot hill, for Leveson report, it looks.

    Certain people want to put it six feet under and forget it, it seems. Cameron and Coulson relationship comes to mind as reason – that has not really been invesigated, in fine detail, has it? Can of worms that is, no doubt.

  • So Cameron and his band of thieves are still in the pocket of Murdoch Inc Then!!!
    Only what I expected of a puppy on a lead no guts at all,
    And he thinks he is going to win the next election outright Not a chance when the public hear he has ignored Lord Leveson’s recommendation

  • With this Leveson business I think Cameron did a calculation in which it was more important to keep the press happy by opposing Leveson than it was to keep his word to the victims of press hacking. Cameron knows that it is so very important for him to have the press on his side.

    I don’t think Cameron can take unpopularity easily. The absurd position that the UK is now in with regard to the EU comes from an excessive anxiety Cameron has about UKIP taking away potential voters. I think when the voters work out the situation we are in, he will lose many more of them.

    Cameron believes it is far better for him to have press support than to do the right thing for the victims of hacking. I am concerned that in this he might be right, because no matter how hard the hacked off campaign works, they need press coverage.

    This is why I believe that Leveson needs to be fought for in parliament with dedication. I really welcome Norman Fowler’s article and I hope that many more politicians support him.

  • Anonymous

    The funny about such, I think, Reeves and Mortimer – good northern lads, by the way – with such, no doubt,

    And Ms Johansson, I am yet to see what is contained in your knickers, I am wanting it sooo much…

    Sorry, lost control a bit there, Ulrika, I apologise. Notice I never mentioned dogging in a layby possibilities…

    ok ok, so I did. : )

  • Jacquie R

    Lord Fowler has been an intrepid torch bearer for a fair press, but Cameron is anything but stupid. Why would he further ruffle the feathers of Murdoch and the other proprietors and editors who will help to keep him in office?

    The sad fact is that, with or without Leveson’s proposals on regulation, nothing has really changed. The same right wing newspapers, with their right wing owners, dominate Britain’s national press. And now Murdoch dines again with the likes of Osborne and Hague, as if the past couple of years had never taken place,

    Frankly, without a cap on media ownership and the establishment of other models of ownership, everything else is fiddling.

  • Anonymous

    And no, I am NOT suggesting Cameron and Coulson held mutual mastabation sessions with each other – no I am not, honest, Ulrika.

  • Anonymous

    Malcolm McDowell,

    Me above, no doubt, if I ever did got into such a situation, being “educated”.

    a dog barks, farmyards away…

  • Anonymous

    Song, such, sweet, us still well alive sassenachs/saes,

    By the way, ten years ago, I was known as Drowned Forest in online Wales, and I lost them, until they got it, eventually. Like feeding beans to jack the beanstalk it was.

  • Anonymous

    bugger it, might as well post some Alison, who I bump into, now and again, Alton Hampshire, since days of Middlesex Poly,

  • Anonymous

    did it again, sorry Alison.

    Feck the fecks in the world, Alison.

  • Anonymous

    Alison was born in 1966, the year of the horse, which is quite topical, non-chinese, and is a bull taurian too, mmm, which makes her, to me, even more interesting.

    Knew i should not have told her that I was in the RAF, back in ’89…

    She and Will have got a new album out very soon, day’s away – gawd knows what madness she will come out with this time, the poor dab.

    Just give me a shout Alison, and I will pop into Enfield, to discuss such shit, all the way from pagan Cymru, but only for tea mind. maybe. BEHAVE!

  • Anonymous

    Thing is, with all this horse meat, and since I have been told to keep clear of gluten and cattle milk products, where does it leave us?

    Who do we trust with these capitalist cants?

    Seriously, I throw up seriously, after manageging to get up, after non-goat milk, let along a square of bread. I am in a maze of life, with my god-given immune system, and it is fucking pants, with shits about.

    and when I say spew, it is totally watery spew in the morning. I am being devolved out of existence, and I know it, and I don’t really like it.

  • Anonymous

    Bevington a welsh prop, sorry Fowler for bumping in, running in a try from forty yards friday evening, against top of the table Ulster, for Swansea Ospreys to win, in Ravenhill, Ulster, what is going on there, them shites attention seeking again, prot chapter enn,
    Fuck them prot white hypocritical NI bullies – let them waste in their own ignorant crap.

    What does Ulster RFC does for their local community? I will tell you, fuck all, the warped perverts. 12,000 crowd at their ground, all prot fucks. I’d rather have a fraction of that watching my side, if they were kosher, if you get what I mean.

  • Dave Simons

    I wish you were right but I don’t think the British public are all that bothered about the outcome of the Leveson inquiry, if there is any actual outcome. The General Election is now just two short years away. I still hold the opinion that the Tories will relax excessively tight controls and engineer some pre-election economic sweeteners when they think the time is right. As Kenneth Baker has reminded us, the LibDems will suffer the same fate as other junior partners in Coalitions. Ed Miliband is very unlikely to win the next election, which means we are likely to get a minority Tory government, unadulterated by the LibDems – and thanks to the LibDems we’ll be stuck with it for five years, whatever happens. I wish I could be optimistic but I’m not.

  • Anonymous

    WHOOPSIE! overcelebrating from La France win it looks.

    Apologies for bluntness, and the more effs than a dictionary…

  • Anonymous

    On such a site as this, Dave S, I love your optimism. Eastleigh on the 28th this month will be a good weather vane how things are going, for all. O’Farrell seems to be giving his all to be selected for Labour this Tuesday – watch and shoot.

    But agree that Cameron with get his machine going for May 2015, in an attempt to brainwash the brit electorate. It should be interesting, is all I have to say at this moment in time, apart from that he is no Thatcher, with her brainwashing machine from then….

  • Anonymous

    Alizee is from Corsica, like Napoleon Bonaparte, but has a different reaction, you could say, Alastair. Nothing wrong with being a dorty ol’ sort, I suppose…

    And Billy Childish is from the Medway – Gillingham/Chatham/Rochester/Strood way, in North Kent near to the Thames estuary, with a song about his mam’s love of cycling, past and present, since ’44, when she worked in the docks there, covering, with things going on then, in Europe and elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    …and by the way Alastair, but it is totally up to you, but try getting your daughter not to go too much down the male castration route. Advise her, and tell her “Grace, us meninn are not all the same”.

    Hope this helps, Alastair, AND Fiona.

  • Anonymous

    Alastair, George North’s dad carted off here by gay Parii security, when he got on the pitch to help his son to celebrate his stunning try, as mentioned on BBC Wales ScumV programme Sunday yesterday – you just could not simply make it up,

  • Anonymous

    More Alison for you here, but for only over sixteens please. But if under, and your mam says it is alright, feel very free, lads, and young ladies,

  • Anonymous

    By the way, Alison tells me she likes Weeble and Bob stuff that appears, as such,

    Five legged stallions, ey Alison, ey?

  • Anonymous

    Totally off topic again, but please pick and choose Alastair, but sad to hear Cameron and his mob has not got basic childs environment health in mind, with road safety. Told my Siân to look left, then right, and left again, not only in crossing the road – get it Dave Cee?

  • Anonymous

    as with life safety, not only roads, but yes life, what me and Alastair no doubt remember, from then.

    they certainly did puff something in brit late sixties, or take something… A right spin out.

  • Anonymous

    Question – what with bother building up with the tories and Cameron about Scottish Independence, my main observation is what major UK institutions are in Scotland? Us in Wales have our fascist DLA, but what in Scotland? Heard tax office was in Scotland Glasgie, but since SE Ingurland has made that a tax dodging waste of space, what other?

    Hope they leave us, in body, but not in whisky spirit, I say, to educate these tory knobs, under Dave Cee’s watch. It would be healthy for most of England, too.

  • Anonymous

    Scots, our experiences of the english and romans before, us lot time suffered below Hadrian’s Wall – I am with you lads and lasses, oh yes.

    They cleared your high lands of your humanity, and they nicked our fecking coal, down by ‘ere.

  • Anonymous

    And yes Alison, you don’t have to wear your stilts for me, darling, put your flat daps on. And you will still look down onto me, you silly little cow,

  • Anonymous

    But to tell you the truth, when youtubby first came online, I used to amuse many with my first name – blokezed, ladies mainly no doubt. in self-wotsit…

    My daughter Siân encouraged me about this new youtube site then, when she was only fourteen, or something. She’s a bit like me, has a sixth sense, has far sight, celt druidic-like, or something.

    But I go as yippitydodah these days there,

    Without the double o, but is top of the list on google search list, I think. Genius see. : )

  • Anonymous

    Tip for Steffans, head of room – he should have said “Good Evening House Prefect, all is fine and well, as well as can be expected, House Prefect”, but he didn’t have the english imagination to say such a thing, without a bit of welsh inside him, Tudor-like.

  • Dancing Gangnam style with Prezza at Mansion House.

  • Anonymous

    Yes – John O’Farrell it is. Now things will start to get interesting. Think quite a few of Soton Uni’s students reside in Eastleigh, I believe. That should be interesting for Clegg and co., if such students still have a vote there at such a short notice.

    And I notice the odds are dropping for him and Labour for Eastleigh – was sixteens a couple of days ago, and already down to ten now since he has been put up for the fight. Can only go one way, so shove your ante-post coin on now.

  • Anonymous

    Better vid of it has just been posted, and not off a telly in one’s front room, to escape right’s issues legal, just in the last few hours. With an explanation after by his old coach Lyn Jones on how good a try it was.

    Try of the year award this year from RD league, got to be already,

  • Anonymous

    Xmas party held at Bounds Green site(now flattened, should have been grade modern listed, but too late now), Middlesex Poly/Uni, in ’89, after going around the party, dragging a bottle of free plonk with me, quaffing straight from the bottle, spotted this red haired, five foot eight, and started, mutually, inspecting each others toncils, and noticed that Alison was at the side, looking at my performance, amongst other ladies, as one does.

    And said beautiful ginge said she had to join the queue for the ladies bogs, and then things got hazy, and then it was Saturday morning, I could have got buggered all I knew, but, as with ladies, think this they were planning on lining me up with Alison, with their diplomacy, in their strange ways, lav powder room diplomacy, by the end of the night. But I was fucked. Knew I shouldn’t have had those pints of warmers for the evening at lunchtime.

    Wish I never drunk those bottles of wine, nor being so 27 stoopid, but there again, Alison would not have done her brilliant music, you could say, so there we go.

  • Anonymous

    think I could have been or even be a five foot nine version of Warren Beatty, same what Madonna was so fascinated with, in the eighties,

    But maybe not, or yes, ladies…

    flies like round horse shit they have been, which very young I got immune to not notice, and people don’t understand that. Living like a cave dwelling hermit at times makes me realise it. Hate when wives of blokes come on to me, what with their hubbies getting shirty with me after, as they do, as if it was my fecking fault. Really pissed me orf that did.

    What was I supposed to say, ey? “Get back to hubby you whore?”.

  • Anonymous

    ladies, libido lacking, if you get me, try high dose folic acid and niacin vitamin bee tablets, a couple of hours before, Just them two of the vit b crowd, and avoid b6 – them two only brings the sneezing levels up, if you get me ladies…

    Well, that is what I have heard!!

    And ladies that already get there easily already, don’t try it, or you will wear your man/other down to nothing, as well as going nuts, nympho-like.

    Think I am getting a bit, umm, disgraceful here. Ah well, sex sells, as page three for decades suggests.