The relief among the Press Establishment at the narrow defeat of the amendment to the Data Protection Bill which would have forced completion of the Leveson Inquiry - as solemnly promised to victims of press abuse by David Cameron - was considerable. But it was only temporary: part 2 of Leveson has not yet gone away.
It could still be completed ...
Campaigning group Hacked Off had already made it plain that Wednesday’s vote did not mean it was over, telling “This is not the end … The fight goes on in parliament and the courts”. As the Guardian told readers, “peers had already discussed whether to send the relevant legislation back to the House of Commons in the event of a tight vote”.
And so it came to pass: as Politics Home noted yesterday, “Crossbench peer Baroness Hollins is set to table a fresh amendment to the Data Protection Bill calling for so-called 'Leveson 2’ … MPs narrowly defeated calls led by former Labour leader Ed Miliband for the next part of the probe - which was promised by David Cameron - to be established”.
There was more. “With the opposition having a clear majority in the upper chamber, it is highly likely that any vote there would see the Government lose. That would come hard on the heels of the 14 defeats the Lords inflicted on ministers over their flagship EU Withdrawal Bill. It would also set up a fresh Commons battle over Leveson 2, with its supporters piling fresh pressure on MPs to support it”.
At this point, it needs to be stressed that Leveson 2 is not about any change to the current régime of press regulation. It is merely about, as Lord Justice Leveson himself said, “Who did what to whom”. But such is the febrile and paranoid mood in our free and fearless press, that is not how they see it, as one look at the Murdoch Sun shows.
... and guess who's not keen on that prospect?
“PEERS were last night preparing a fresh bid to muzzle the Press … Crossbench peer Baroness Hollins was working with Labour on a new amendment to push for a Leveson 2 inquiry” howled the Murdoch goons. But then, this is the newspaper group which would be put under the spotlight as never before if Leveson 2 were to go ahead.
Then, we would find out “who did what to whom” over the decades of bent and corrupt not-really-journalism generated by “Fake Sheikh” Mazher Mahmood (in the Screws, the Sunday Times and the Sun), and the role of the Murdoch press in reporting events such as the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, the “Battle of Orgreave”, and the Gibraltar shootings.
We would see a light shone on the complicity, collusion, cover-up, and corruption that was the Daniel Morgan murder and all the failed investigations into it that followed. And along the way, we would most likely see many more revelations of the kind that repulsed the public in the way the Dowler hacking did when phone hacking was being uncovered.
Small wonder then that the Sun is already on a hair trigger over the prospect of another vote on Leveson 2. No, it’s not about muzzling the press. It’s about not muzzling the news that the press wants to keep muzzled. Which may prove difficult for the press.
When it’s difficult for anyone else, the press has no problem publishing it. But when the boot is so firmly on the other foot, we should just “move on”. Or this time, maybe not.