Only a parliamentary charter will do for press regulation

The Privy Council must not crumble in the face of bullying


The Privy Council is an anachronism. One thinks of quills and signet rings, seals and curtsies. It’s the UK’s appendix, a once vital part of the constitution, but now almost entirely redundant. Were it removed, all the remaining vital organs of the state would function perfectly adequately. Yet it persists. Cabinet members, plus a smattering of lesser ministers, bishops and judges are members for life. Although there are 600 members, just a few are invited at the PM’s discretion to each meeting. It is the last remaining absolute fiefdom of the Crown (aka the Government).

So, at the last meeting, in Windsor Castle in July, they amended the Guide Association’s charter, ended burials in five English churchyards, agreed the pattern for a new £5 silver coin, signed off measures for Jersey and Guernsey and received petitions for two new charters, one for the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers and the other for the Press Standards Board of Finance  (Presbof) Limited.

Aye, there’s the rub. I was always suspicious of handing the matter of regulation of the press over to this antiquated, unregulated and autocratic body. I’d have preferred a democratically agreed act of parliament. The front door of parliament rather than the backdoor of Buckingham Palace.

But back in March, after deft and determined work by Ed Miliband, the Commons and Lords agreed on an all-party basis that a Royal Charter for a new regulator should be sealed at the next meeting of the Privy Council.

Since then there’s been much jiggery pokery. The Rothermere/Murdoch/Barclay Brothers axis wound themselves up into a Dacre-induced lather and produced their own charter. The Government got the collywobbles and invented some Privy Council rules that this one had to be considered first. Hence the Presbof petition in July. Next Wednesday, this will come to a head when I hope the Privy Council will reject the Presbof Charter and agree the parliamentary one.

The differences between the two are vital. Parliament insisted the regulator must have the power to require papers to print an apology and not just to do so on page 83 under the adverts for stairlifts. Presbof disagrees. It wants to keep the whole operation, including appointments to the regulator and the drafting of a new code entirely in its hands. But PCC-style self-regulation failed miserably. The Privy Council mustn’t crumble in the face of the bullies. Only parliament’s charter will do.

Still grim in Bosnia, but we’re trying

I’ve spent the week in Bosnia with two Labour, two Tory and one Lib Dem colleagues. It’s a depressing place. Eighteen years after the war, it feels as if ethnic cleansing has been rewarded as the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are firmly entrenched in their enclaves. A new generation is growing up in schools and towns that are less diverse than ever.

The beautiful 16th-century Ottoman bridge at Mostar has been rebuilt, but mutual distrust simmers away and the constitutional settlement that was brokered in the Dayton Peace Accord perpetuates the ethnic apartheid that means that one young woman we talked to cannot think of standing for election because she is a Croat living in a Bosniak area.

Meanwhile, the politicians blame the voters, the voters despise the politicians and passing the buck has become a national pastime.

The only signs of hope lie with the active (though increasingly weary) involvement of the international community, as the EU and the European Court of Human Rights have cajoled, bullied and bribed Bosnian politicians to break with past enmities. One thing is clear from the  Cypriot experience: the EU cannot afford to allow Bosnia in until there is at least a process towards an ethnically blind constitution.

The UK plays the most forthright and energetic role of all the European embassies and many individual Brits are engaged, but one Bosniak politician looked simply amazed that Britain (“the country of Magna Carta,” as he put it) should even think of leaving the ECHR or the EU. “Do you want to be completely irrelevant in the region?” he asked.

These trips for MPs aren’t just freebies

As I was on the way to Heathrow on Monday morning I tweeted that I was off to Bosnia. Within seconds, back came an angry question, “who’s paying?” The answer, the Inter Parliamentary Union, and therefore, in part, the taxpayer, did not go down well.

But 99 years ago an assassination in Sarajevo led to the mud and blood of the Somme. British troops served in Bosnia trying to put an end to a bloody and barbaric war and we are still committed to the rapid reaction force in case everything flares up again. Indeed, as I had to point out to two Serb politicians who adamantly denied the fact, British troops died in action in Bosnia.

Of course, MPs could just read up about the Balkans, but having a few who have looked the likes of the shovel-handed Republika Srpska leader Milorad Dodik in the eyes is worthwhile.

Alcohol is less fun than I thought

This week saw the start of Macmillan Cancer Support’s Go Sober for October campaign. As it happens I’m just at the end of a similar six-week booze-cation. Party conference was an interesting affair as I realised every night about 11.30 that alcohol makes people talk baloney, aggressively and repetitively.

There were other things I learnt: most bars serve boring, unhealthy and expensive soft drinks; most orange juice served in Brighton doesn’t taste of oranges; non-drinkers can get very sanctimonious – and their regular drinking mates very pushy. And alcohol does not improve your singing ability.

React Now

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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The racist abuse of Mario Balotelli on Twitter is disgusting, but it can be stopped

Anna Jonsson
A survey by Which? found that some of the UK’s biggest airports, including Heathrow, left travellers the most agitated  

Third-runway momentum is gathering. We need to stop it in its tracks

Mary Dejevsky
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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