Only a parliamentary charter will do for press regulation

The Privy Council must not crumble in the face of bullying

Share

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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all