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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen