DAVE DOES DACRE’S DEEDS
As soon as he backed away from Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals soon after they had been announced last November, Young Dave had boxed himself in. Desperate for those few favourable headlines that might come his way from keeping the Fourth Estate on-side, he caved in to their demands even before their representatives came calling. Now he’s in ever deeper trouble.
At first, there was the pretence of independent press regulation following the model suggested by Leveson. But then the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre got his one-on-one with Cameron and it became clear that the new PCC was going to be very much like the old PCC. Low cost arbitration, no selective dropping of inconvenient cases, and independence: all were dropped.
But then came efforts to achieve a cross-party consensus, with Corporal Clegg and Mil The Younger joining the discussion. This morning, however, brought news that Cameron had suddenly pulled the plug. Rumours of his being leant on are rife, and it is a remarkable coincidence that he abandoned the process rather than agree to a solution not influenced by the press.
Whoever might have been involved, the whole business now comes down to a Commons vote next Monday evening, and that evening could turn out to be rather a long one. What it boils down to, as Roy Greenslade has pointed out, is whether or not there is statutory underpinning for a new press regulator, which is where we came in in the first place.
On top of that, if the regulator is not properly independent, it will once again become a doormat for editors and proprietors. As Brian Cathcart noted, under “new PCC” editors “would have been able to pick and choose which complaints their self regulator dealt with and would have given the self regulator little power to tell a paper to give an apology or a correction due prominence”.
Moreover, “the editors would have been able to write their own rules and handpick the people who ran the regulator”. That would have suited Dacre fine: he would resist to the death anything that could force his paper to put corrections on the front page, an area of papers that he has judged to be inviolable. But as a solution it’s stuff all use to those trampled on by the press.
And it’s no way for a Prime Minister to govern, hoping that enough MPs will be frightened by the thought of being smeared by the Mail and Sun to win the vote. After all, Dacre tried that tactic with the Eastleigh by-election, and it didn’t work.
It’s time for Cameron to ask himself who he’s working for: the people or the press.