Political reaction: Battle lines are drawn as ideological split over Leveson grows wider

A brief consensus about the need for press reform has given way to an increasingly bitter war of words
  • @iburrell

Next week will bring fresh claims of phone hacking, protests outside Parliament over the relationship between politicians and the press, and frantic negotiations between newspaper groups who normally see each other as bitter rivals.

Fresh battle lines are being drawn up over press regulation, as the smoke clears after Thursday's exchanges over Lord Justice Leveson's report. Hugh Grant and his fellow reformers won initial gains with the judge's call for independent regulation underpinned by statute. But that territory was quickly lost as the Prime Minister rejected the idea of press law.

The newspaper industry now has a chance to avoid regulation by statute and put its own house in order by establishing a beefed up independent watchdog. "Things are going on as we speak, talks are going on between newspapers – and there's a sense of urgency," said Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of The Sun, yesterday. Associated Newspapers executive Peter Wright said: "I think we have got to sit down and work out a really good way of guaranteeing independence and I'm sure we can do that."

The editor of The Independent, Chris Blackhurst, said he approved of most of Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations, except for the use of statute, the involvement of the media watchdog Ofcom and the vague nature of some proposals. "We have to find something that's going to last not just for this year but for future generations," he said.

For Hugh Grant's Hacked Off group and other press reform campaigners there is a determination not to allow papers to take control of the debate.

Mark Lewis, the lawyer for the Dowler family, said writs will be served in the High Court next week against Trinity Mirror, publishers of the Daily Mirror, making allegations of phone hacking. The claims are understood to have been made by the former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, the former Premier League footballer Garry Flitcroft, the Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati and a former nanny to the Beckham family Abbie Gibson. Trinity Mirror denies phone hacking.

Mr Lewis said yesterday that victims of press misbehaviour were not going to allow Lord Justice Leveson's proposals to be ignored. He said the Dowler family was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's response. "They are flabbergasted that the Prime Minister has not had the courage of his convictions," he said.

Reformers, who claim that there is overwhelming public support for a regulator backed by legislation, face a struggle to keep the issue at the top of the agenda. Rather than remain in Britain to campaign for his proposals to be adopted into law, Lord Justice Leveson, left, is heading to Australia.

On Monday, attention will turn to Parliament and an emergency debate on Lord Justice Leveson's proposals. Outside the Commons, the campaign group Avaaz, which has been seeking to reduce the presence in the British media of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, will stage a demonstration.

"Our big push is on media plurality," said Avaaz spokesman Sam Barratt. "Some media owners have too much dominance which allows them to behave badly."

But for Hacked Off the issue is simple: implement Lord Justice Leveson's proposals. The campaign's spokesman David Hass said the proposal for a regulator with statutory underpinning had the backing of a majority in Parliament and "a very solid base of public support".

"In a sense this has only just started," he said.