Leader: The press divide on Leveson

 

In December 2012, we observed in a leader that the private meetings between David Cameron and selected newspaper editors to discuss the legislative response to the Leveson report had “all the makings of the kind of cosy establishment stitch-up that has allowed journalistic malpractice to flourish for so long”. It would seem that the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times, whose representatives attended the initial discussion between editors and the Prime Minister, now support this view.

In co-ordinated editorials, the three newspapers argued that rival publications – notably the Mail and Telegraph groups and the News International titles – had become too entrenched in their opposition to any reforms, unfairly characterising them as an untenable threat to press freedom. The FT called for a “practical gesture of goodwill to break the deadlock and avoid a sweeping press law”.

Meanwhile, the Labour peer Lord Putt - nam has attached a “Leveson clause” to the Defamation Bill in an attempt to establish a press regulator. His frustration with Downing Street is understandable but his amendment threatens to derail a much-needed and widely supported piece of legislation to reform our absurdly punitive libel laws.

Politicians and newspaper editors owe it to the public to replace the Press Complaints Commission and revive hopes of libel reform. The refuseniks must be prepared to yield some ground – and to set out their proposals as transparently as possible.

This article first appeared in the 18 March 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The German Problem

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What can you do about Europe's refugee crisis?

The death of a three-year-old boy on a beach in Europe has stirred Britain's conscience. What can you do to help stop the deaths?

The ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean dominates this morning’s front pages. Photographs of the body of a small boy, Aylan Kurdi, who washed up on a beach, have stunned many into calling for action to help those fleeing persecution and conflict, both through offering shelter and in tackling the problem at root. 

The deaths are the result of ongoing turmoil in Syria and its surrounding countries, forcing people to cross the Med in makeshift boats – for the most part, those boats are anything from DIY rafts to glorified lilos.

What can you do about it?
Firstly, don’t despair. Don’t let the near-silence of David Cameron – usually, if nothing else, a depressingly good barometer of public sentiment – fool you into thinking that the British people is uniformly against taking more refugees. (I say “more” although “some” would be a better word – Britain has resettled just 216 Syrian refugees since the war there began.)

A survey by the political scientist Rob Ford in March found a clear majority – 47 per cent to 24 per cent – in favour of taking more refugees. Along with Maria Sobolewska, Ford has set up a Facebook group coordinating the various humanitarian efforts and campaigns to do more for Britain’s refugees, which you can join here.

Save the Children – whose campaign director, Kirsty McNeill, has written for the Staggers before on the causes of the crisis – have a petition that you can sign here, and the charity will be contacting signatories to do more over the coming days. Or take part in Refugee Action's 2,000 Flowers campaign: all you need is a camera-phone.

You can also give - to the UN's refugee agency here, and to MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), or to the Red Cross.

And a government petition, which you can sign here, could get the death toll debated in Parliament. 

 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.