Leveson: We the press only have ourselves to blame

I don't wish for any state involvement in the press, but we did not give enough ground to Cameron in the aftermath of the Leveson report.

Share

The three main political parties do something that has been flagged up for months – arguably for nearly two years – and the howls of outrage are deafening. To read the outpourings of anger at the cross-party agreement on press regulation, you could be forgiven for supposing it came from the ether.

But we, the press, can’t say we weren’t warned. For years, as scandals enveloped our industry, we collectively sat back and did nothing. We had every opportunity to strengthen our own watchdog, but we chose not to. Then, when the furore was at its loudest, in July 2011, following the revelation that Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked, the Prime Minister instigated a judicial inquiry to look into our conduct and how we’re governed.

From that moment, the game was up. You don’t appoint a judge to do nothing. Indeed, in his hearings, Lord Justice Leveson said as much. Finally, his report was published, and he advocated independent self-regulation cemented with a small statute.

Then, David Cameron said he rejected the need for legislation. Cue press applause for his courage and vision. Of course, it caused hesitation that the Tories do not enjoy a majority, that at some stage he was going to need the backing of the Lib Dems or Labour, which are pro-Leveson, pro-statute. But such was Cameron’s confidence, and such was the press’s willingness to side with him, that any doubts were assuaged. His aide, Oliver Letwin, came up with the mechanism of a Royal Charter and the negotiations on the detail began in earnest.

All along, though, not enough attention was being paid to Cameron’s weakness – he cannot carry the House. From the off, he required votes from elsewhere.

The papers, too, did not heed the signal from Cameron that while he would avoid statute he was keen to accede to the principles of Leveson. This meant that a formula in which newspapers could still determine who was their overseer was not acceptable. Similarly, an easily accessed arbitration service was also a key Leveson recommendation, as was the placing of apologies and the ability of third parties to make complaints.

At the same time, we, the industry, did not find or properly search for a unifying figure, one who was not so easily identifiable with the existing regulator, and could represent all facets of our trade, from national to local, broadsheet to popular, right to left. We did not engage early enough with Labour and the Lib Dems. We were too disparaging of Hacked Off. We did not read the runes, that while Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were talking to us, they were still listening to the campaign group.

I never wished for any state involvement in the press. But it’s happened, and I’m forced to ask: who is really to blame here?

React Now

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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?