Leveson – more party talks next week
Tonight, No.10, Lib Dem and Labour sources are saying that the talks between the three party leaders lasted half an hour or so and resume next week.
David Cameron is said to have promised that he will get the DCMS to draft some sort of bill along the lines of what Lord Justice Leveson asked for, but it looks like a measure to keep opinion on-side and look willing.
The PM said before the report that he would implement the Leveson recommendations unless he thought they were daft (my word not his). You get the impression listening to some of the PM’s criticisms of the Leveson report in the Commons that that’s exactly what he thinks of some of the conclusions.
In the Commons he sounded exasperated that the judge could think Ofcom an appropriate overseer for press regulation when it’s the government that appoints the Ofcom boss. He was critical of the idea of tightening the Data Protection laws to stop journalists getting relaxed rules – as was Nick Clegg.
As Lord Justice Leveson left the stage after his rather sterile “non press conference” statement to a room filled with journalists and interested parties, Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail shouted out “did you enjoy it, Sir Brian?” Lord Justice Leveson visibly shrugged, before walking off the set, hoping perhaps that was his last ever direct contact with a journalist.
Gordon Brown didn’t get the sweet vindication he sought from the judge who writes he can’t arbitrate between the vastly contrasting accounts of whether The Sun published a story about his son’s health with or without his permission. Leveson’s report says it is difficult “to resolve the stark evidential dispute” between the Rebekah Brooks/Gordon Brown versions.
On the “grand bargain” allegation that began with Gordon Brown’s camp suggesting David Cameron was cooking up policies to please Rupert Murdoch ahead of the 2010 election, the judge writes: “the evidence does not, of course, establish anything resembling a ‘deal.’ ” He goes on: “the problem is public perception … the public .. has been entitled to worry about the way things have been done…”
On the question of whether David Cameron properly quizzed Andy Coulson about allegations of phone hacking before bringing him into the top echelons of No.10, he judges: “I am quite sure that it was raised; given the significance of the issue, it was most probably raised on … four occasions.”
On pages 1793-4, talking about the back-stop if even state certified self-regulation fails, Lord Justice Leveson repeatedly refers to how he thinks there would need to be a fully-fledged state regulator of the press. But rather tellingly he talks about this being “my personal view” and “my preferred solution,” which sounds like some divergence of opinion between the judge and his panel of assessors for whom this maybe just went too far.
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