Clegg hints at split with Tories on Leveson


The Liberal Democrats may join Labour in supporting legislation to implement the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press standards, phone-hacking campaigners revealed last night.

Nick Clegg privately told members of the Hacked Off campaign group, including the comedian Steve Coogan, that there was nothing in the Coalition Agreement that prevented him from taking a different position on press regulation from the Conservatives.

He also repeated the comments he made last Sunday that he was prepared to support any "proportionate" response to the phone-hacking scandal including "backstop" legislation to create a new press complaints body.

Mr Clegg's comments are significant, as senior Tory figures have privately suggested they are opposed to implementing far-reaching press reforms – even if they are proposed by Lord Justice Leveson.

It raises the prospect that Labour and the Liberal Democrats could join forces to inflict a Parliamentary defeat on the Conservatives on an issue which they believe they have widespread public support for.

However, Mr Clegg's aides later played down the significance of his comments. They said they were confident that agreement could be reached within the Coalition on a satisfactory way forward. "We have had to deal with lots of difficult issues," they said. "I am sure we can find a common position on this."

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Coogan said he was concerned that there might be an attempt by some politicians to push the Leveson report – expected later the autumn – into the long grass. "My guess is that most people will give tacit lip service to what Lord Leveson proposes," he said.

"But what we might see is tactical obfuscation. Nick Clegg said he was not bound with his Coalition partners to act in unison on this. The Liberal Democrats can take their own position."

The former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who helps run the Hacked Off group, added: "He repeated again that if the Leveson recommendations were proportionate and workable they should be supported.

He did make the point that he is not bound by the Coalition programme to reach a common agreement with the Conservative party on this.

"It was obvious in the room that the mathematics in Parliament is that there is majority in Parliament in favour of backing the Leveson report if it's workable."

Mr Coogan said his campaign was not against press freedom which, he claimed, he was passionate about defending. "There is a lie being pedalled by some sections of the press that any kind of independent regulation underpinned by statute is an attack on press freedom," he said.

"We are all in favour of press freedoms. Journalists who pursue stories that are genuinely in the public interest should be protected and enabled. We want a healthier press. We don't want to curb their freedoms – we just want to them to behave in a more responsible and accountable way."

Rebekah Brooks appears in court

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, along with her husband Charlie Brooks, and five former NI employees, will appear at the Old Bailey today. They will be asked whether they plead guilty or not guilty to charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, linked to Scotland Yard's phone-hacking investigation.

Six former executives of the now-closed News of the World, including former Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner and former private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, will also be in the same courtroom of the Old Bailey in connection with conspiracy charges relating to illegally intercepted phone messages.

Preparation for the criminal trial is taking place alongside the second wave of phone-hacking civil actions against NI. At least 155 new civil lawsuits were lodged at the High Court before the recent cut-off date of 14 September. Prominent names in the second wave of claimants include Cherie Blair, Geoffrey Robinson, Paul Burrell, Emma Noble, Lord Blencathra and Tony Woodley.

James Cusick

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk