Following the conclusions delivered by part one of Lord Justice Brian Leveson’s Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press the three major political parties have agreed there should be a state sanctioned regulation of the publishing industry.
Interestingly, the politicians of all parties were unable to agree a straightforward piece of statute (law) to deliver this but have instead resorted to an odd instrument – a Royal Charter – which is part of Britain’s curious and piecemeal constitution of conventions and behaviours.
The ‘press’ inevitably shows every sign of resisting this imposition which breaks more than 300 years of freedom to publish (subject of course to the many challenges of the other existing laws, the Police and m’learned friends.)
The objections to politicians having any hand in oversight of what can be published are strongly held and often based in a straight forward philosophical objection. I’d count myself of this opinion. Liz Gerard explains it well in a piece at UK Press Gazette noting an underlying stink of class especially about tabloid newspapers. The Human Rights lawyer Lord Lester offers a view about the plentiful existing criminal laws too.
The Leveson Inquiry was established by Prime Minister Cameron during July 2011 as a series of stories about the employment of his Head of Communications Andy Coulson, a former editor of News of the World, which caused him acute public embarrassment.
If I was to try and type this process in tabloidese, I’d hazard a - PM passes turd to lawyer.
The lawyer has, naturally enough, turned this horror into something equivalent to a piece of law. Thank the politicians.
For his own part Andy Coulson is due on criminal trial at the end of October 2013. Perhaps the law of unintended consequences will strike again.