Leveson was right to worry that MPs are part of the problem. We are bound at the hip to the press

Leveson's proposals were not "bonkers", they were nuanced and level headed, but will the politicians - nevermind the press - be brave enough to act

Share

Watching the prime minister dance around the minor issues in Lord Justice Leveson’s report, so as to avoid the fact that he was trying to reject the central recommendation of the independent inquiry that he had set up, I couldn’t help think that the good judge was absolutely right to worry that MPs have always been part of the problem.  We have an interest.  We are bound at the hip to the national press. We breathe the same air as them and we fear that if we do anything they dislike we shall be deprived of oxygen. We crave their support, we need their column inches, we fear their censure. Our political futures, both as individuals and as political parties are in their gift. Just occasionally we will allow ourselves to go out on a limb on some political issue or other and hang the partisan consequences. But generations of politicians have reckoned that tackling the manifest abuses of the press is just too dangerous. And so we have, in Leveson’s words, ‘traded power and influence in ways which are contrary to the public interest and out of public sight’. We have declined to act, we have sided with the press magnates and we have let our constituents down.

Yet Leveson lays the abuses bare for all to see.  It’s not just what happened to the likes of the Dowlers and the McCanns.  Nor is it just the criminality that went on at the News of the World, which Leveson had to skirt around so as not to compromise criminal proceedings. It’s the countless instances where a story became so interesting that the individuals, even if they were victims of horrific crimes, stopped being human beings in an editor’s eye and became mere pawns in the business of selling papers. Personal lives became a commodity.

In this the PCC was not just incompetent, powerless and docile; it was an active cheerleader, defending the News International line that there was just ‘one rogue reporter’ long after it was clear that it was a fabrication and accepting assurances too readily because it saw defending the press as a core part of its raison d’etre.

Some say that this is all a storm in a tea cup, that the criminality can and should have been dealt with by the police and that the libel laws and the privacy clause of the Human Rights Act are sufficient, but in many cases the gratuitous abuses had no legal remedy, as the Hillsborough families know only too well.

David Cameron previously said that if Leveson’s proposals were not ‘bonkers’ then he would implement them. Well, Leveson takes a pretty nuanced, level headed approach.  Whatever you may have read at the more fanciful end of the press, it doesn’t seek to introduce state regulation. Indeed the report expressly requires that the new body be independent of government and of Parliament.  He even wants the industry itself to draw up its independently chaired, staffed and financed body. But crucially he reckons that without the underpinning of a change in the law to give the body legal recognition it will have no more respect from the public than the present PCC.

In Shakespeare’s Othello Cassio wails ‘reputation, reputation, reputation, O I have lost my reputation’. The press should wail with him as a large majority of the public reckon that the press is nowhere near as honest, as fair or as accurate as it should be. Instead of railing at the proposals the press should try to make them work, if only to restore their own reputation which lies even more battered today.  And politicians should be brave enough to act this time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The rules were simple: before the results are announced, don’t mention the S-word

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Howard Jacobson has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for the second time  

In praise of Howard Jacobson

Simon Kelner
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week