Editorial: Publish, or be damned

 

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When it comes to the Leveson Inquiry, David Cameron is full of warm words. Yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions was no exception. For all that Labour's Steve Rotherham tried to goad him, Mr Cameron was full of reassurances about the need for proper regulation of the press and reminders that it was he who had set up the probe in the first place.

All of which is fine, as far as it goes. But the question remains – as another Labour MP, Chris Bryant, pointed out – as to why the Prime Minister will not publish the cache of communications, between himself and key Murdoch executives, deemed by Downing Street lawyers as "irrelevant" and therefore kept hidden?

Mr Cameron relies on two answers. One, reiterated yesterday, is that he will not respond because Mr Bryant is yet to say sorry for a slight back in April. Regardless of the whys and wherefores of offence and apology, the Prime Minister's stance is so patent a dodge, on so flimsy a pretext, as to be almost embarrassing.

Perhaps such shenanigans become more understandable, however, in the light of Mr Cameron's second argument on the subject, which is that he provided everything for which he was asked. Perhaps. But the fact remains that the Prime Minister may be adhering to the letter of the inquiry's request, but he is flagrantly flouting the spirit in which it was supposedly set up.

While the likelihood that the supressed material is a "smoking gun" may be slim, Mr Cameron's evasiveness can only raise suspicions that he has something significant to hide. Furthermore, as Mr Bryant rightly notes, a lowly political aide, Adam Smith, was forced to reveal his every communication with News International employees.

In the interests of openness, of fairness, and of ensuring that Lord Leveson's conclusions retain all possible credibility, the Prime Minister should do the same. If his original decision to publish only a sample was wrong-headed, the subsequent battle to keep the full picture hidden is downright undignified – and his refusal to answer Mr Bryant is childish to the point of absurdity.

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