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Sunday 2 December 2012

Leveson Is Served (36)


The dishonesty and dissembly has started: Tory MP John Whittingdale signalled part of the line this morning on The Andy Marr Show (tm) as he tried to suggest that lots of people who have backed the full package of what has been proposed by Lord Justice Leveson are going to have second thoughts. Thus he fraudulently assumes that his pals in the Fourth Estate will succeed in their propaganda efforts.

That the Hacked Off petition has already passed the 100,000 signature mark (at around 1120 hours today) after being started only three days ago does not seem to enter the world of Whittingdale, who like his party leader appears to believe that the press will, on its eighth attempt, miraculously manage to sort its act out and produce genuinely independent self regulation.

This will somehow emerge from a meeting next week convened by Lords Hunt and Black, whose last minute proposals to Lord Justice Leveson did “not go nearly far enough”, and which will be chaired by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, who is not known as the Robert Mugabe of Fleet Street for nothing (Dacre was another who did not impress Leveson with his ideas).

What will come out of this meeting will, as with the Hunt and Black final submission, not go nearly far enough. Dacre is frightened witless that any successor to the failed PCC might mean the end of his being able to bend it to his will: his idea of being able to “edit with freedom” (the reason he turned down Murdoch) extends to the freedom to ignore any external body until his paper is at the courtroom door.

So there will be no proposal for an independent system of self-regulation: whatever is put forward may be claimed to be so, but it will be another case of caveat emptor. There will be no kind of quick and inexpensive arbitration and settlement mechanism unless it can be routinely hobbled by editors and owners, and potential claimants fobbed off with the kinds of excuses that made the PCC so utterly laughable.

Moreover, it will be glaringly obvious that whatever is offered up will not be good enough, and any industry observer knows that already. And so do the politicians – so why does Young Dave even pretend otherwise? Simples. His calculation is that the press will be nice to him for giving them yet another last chance, while dumping on Corporal Clegg and Mil The Younger big style.

This, in the Cameron reckoning, will make enough of a difference to get him and his party over the majority line in 2015, and by then the furore over rejecting Leveson and continuing to let the press please itself will, he hopes, have died down. It is the kind of calculation that can only come from a member of the establishment. It is crude and cynical. And I have to tell him that, on this occasion, it won’t work.

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