John Bercow is without doubt a reforming Speaker. None of his predecessors would have allowed the odd situation to come about yesterday, where the Prime Minister made a formal statement on the Government’s response to the Leveson Report, followed an hour later by the Deputy Prime Minister formally announcing that he did not agree with the Prime Minister.
Now that the precedent is set, perhaps the next reform should be to vary the rigid rule that each formal statement from a minister has to be answered by the relevant shadow minister, which led to the silly position in which Ed Miliband replied to David Cameron, with whom he disagreed, while Harriet Harman replied to Nick Clegg, with whom she agreed – which Parliament already knew because they had heard it from Ed.
A heavy read longer than all of Harry Potter
The full Leveson Report, which you can buy for only £250, fills 1,987 pages. At an average word count of around 700 words per page, the report is not far short of 1.4 million words. For purposes of comparison, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace has 460,000 words; the St James Bible has 783,137; and the seven Harry Potter novels run to 1,084,170. Only Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu is truly up there with Leveson, at around 1.5 million words.
You have 1 hour 45 minutes for the exam
It was a strange experience for the journalists allotted the privilege of reading the report in advance, in a locked room in Westminster’s QE II Centre. It was like sitting an examination all over again: though they had the reports in front of them, they were tantalisingly told not to open them until exactly 11.45 am, when they were given the go and the frantic scramble began. The report was embargoed until 1.30 pm, but given that not all timepieces are exactly accurate, someone had to adjudicate on when it was, in fact, 1.30. That role fell to John Toker, the inquiry’s press secretary. When his watch said 1.30, the broadcast media and the internet came alive.
Judge comes clean over Chief Constable
Lord Justice Leveson set one good example to us all: when you make a mistake, own up and correct it as fast as you can. Less than three hours after it was published, an email was circulated saying: “In the Leveson Inquiry Report we have wrongly described Chief Constable Colin Port as the ‘former’ Chief Constable of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. He is in fact still in post....”
A rare feeling for Lib Dems
Veteran Lib Dem spin doctor Olly Grender, who recently ended a stint of duty in 10 Downing Street, was a happy bunny, when the disagreement between David Cameron and Nick Clegg over press legislation became public knowledge. “Oh joy oh joy. Lib Dems are on the overwhelmingly popular (in polls) side of the argument and the Tories aren't - this is rare!!” she tweeted.
The other Bercow's back
An eager nation need wait no longer: Sally Bercow is back on Twitter, after a brief interruption caused by the threat of lawyers’ writs and a hacker. “Will not screw up again,” she promised her 61,000 followers. She thinks Lord Leveson was too soft on the press. “What's the point having a self-regulatory body if media not obliged to join it?” she demanded.