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.