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Lord Justice Leveson Report(Put up or shut up press must change the way how they report news)


indexLord Justice Leveson ended his statement on the future regulation of the British press by declaring the ball was now back in the politicians’ court.

An hour later the prime minister set about trying to whack one of the judge’s key proposals out of the game altogether, only to meet fierce opposition not just from Labour, but also from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners and some in his own team.

Leveson’s hopes of cross-party agreement on his proposals seem unlikely to be fulfilled.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband met for talks on Thursday evening, but there are profound differences which will be difficult to overcome.

The key disagreement is over Leveson’s recommendation for legislation to reinforce a new regulator for the press.

David Cameron made it clear he has serious misgivings over both the principle and the practicalities of this.

“We would have crossed the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land,” he warned in a Commons statement, adding that this would endanger free speech and a free press.

Phone hacking:

The prime minister’s practical concern is that once a new law exists, it could be used as the basis for still more new rules and obligations.

His Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg then laid bare the depth of the divisions within the coalition by making his own separate statement to the Commons.

Mr Clegg said changing the law was the only way to ensure a new regulator was independent for good. He accepted Lord Justice Leveson’s argument that legislation was needed to ensure a system which covered all of the press.

Ed Miliband sided with Mr Clegg, endorsing the principles of the Leveson report and supporting the plan for the role and criteria of a new regulator to be set out in statute.

Some Conservatives also believe there is a strong case for new laws, although the prime minister did win support from key figures including John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture and media select committee, which played a pivotal role in the phone hacking saga.

It’s clear that David Cameron was hugely relieved at some of the other important conclusions in Leveson’s report – that there was no deal between his government and News International and no attempt by the former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to rig the bid for BskyB.

Political battle

He called on Labour to admit that some of their accusations were wrong.

The immediate challenge for the prime minister is the political battle – it is hard to see how the three party leaders can resolve their differences over new laws.

Mr Miliband has said he wants a vote by the end of January.

As things stand the odds appear stacked against Mr Cameron who could be defeated by the combined forces of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and some Conservative MPs.

He is also up against the victims of press intrusion and celebrity campaigners who want tough new measures to rein in the newspapers.

The press will undoubtedly welcome the prime minister’s stance, but that may not sway public opinion.

His biggest danger is that voters will believe he has failed victims such as the family of Millie Dowler and failed to stand up to his friends in the media.

I would like to throw in my two pennies worth we are faced with a government intent on attacking and destroying our welfare state, our public services, our trade unions and – if it can get away with it – our NHS.

Don’t know how what the reaction will be to the Leveson report in coming days, but hope that whatever system is introduced will in no way inhibit a free, responsible press from investigating and exposing can’t, hypocrisy and downright lies. Democracy requires this and in this sense the smaller newspapers has done great work for democracy over the years.

Its voice is needed when the left’s long-term goal of wealth being distributed equally seems further away than ever.

Income inequalities in Britain are increasing at an alarming rate – towards levels not seen since Victorian times.

Since the 1970s wages and earnings have dropped considerably as a proportion of Britain’s wealth.

By contrast the remuneration of FTSE-100 directors increased by over 40 per cent last year alone. So, probably, have their donations to the Conservative Party.

Back in Thatcher’s day it was obvious she was hell-bent on privatisation, the destruction of our manufacturing base and killing the trade unions.

This patrician lot seem to be if anything even more ideologically driven. They have no truck with a state that exists to provide people with security and equality, that protects the weak against the strong or that provides equality of opportunity for all.

They have no interest in social or cultural provision.

Their interests lie in promoting the vested interests of their own class – cutting taxes for corporations and the rich.

This supposedly encourages investment. All it actually encourages is a huge tax avoidance industry where armies of accountants are paid a fortune to ensure that their employers can avoid an even bigger fortune in tax.

The government expresses outrage but in the meantime it’s business as usual.

If it was really serious about the economy it would mount a sustained attack on organised tax avoidance and reform the National Insurance system and a whole raft of other mechanisms.

That would lead to a more equal distribution of wealth and income, without which a vibrant, sustainable economy is just not possible.

But all this government offers is austerity and more cuts. It hasn’t worked in Greece. It hasn’t worked in Spain. It won’t work here.

Austerity and the rising unemployment it causes don’t help the economy. They make it worse.

If people have no jobs they have no money. If they have no money they cannot purchase goods or services.

Businesses that provide these goods or services then go bust. So more people become unemployed.

Sound simple? It is!

But try telling it to Chancellor George Osborne, who continues to maintain that his policies are right.

Right for who? Not for people facing economic meltdown induced by savage pension cuts, soaring energy and food bills and lower incomes with which to pay them.

The coalition has no answers and offers no hope. The people live in fear.

Young people fear the future. Working-age people fear unemployment. The elderly fear rising costs and cuts to the services on which they depend.

Fear is everywhere but the government does nothing but proceed with its misery measures and indulge in the economic equivalent of crystal-ball gazing.

It can see for itself the crushing impact of austerity and poverty across Europe.

The overall effect of these policies on the European political dynamic is impossible to predict, though some countries are already at breaking point. Still our rulers blunder on, causing untold damage to individual lives and society as a whole.

The government is inured to the suffering and hardship of millions of citizens.

There is poverty in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland – real poverty. Not just for the unemployed. There are more working people in poverty than unemployed people.

Two hundred years on, Charles Dickens would not feel out-of-place in modern Britain. He’d still be writing the same heady mix of poverty, greed, corruption and the collusion of crooked bankers and politicians.

Poverty is the biggest issue facing Britain and the government has nothing. Its idea that incentives to enter work through slashing benefits will provide a remedy is shot. That would assume a healthy labour market, whereas ours provides badly paid, insecure or part-time jobs.

These arguments will be familiar to many of you. You might say that the situation speaks for itself.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced that they would take the unprecedented step of making separate statements from the despatch box on the Leveson report, the Prime Minister’s hostility to its key recommendation was an open secret.

Despite his previous indication that he would be prepared to implement the report provided it was not “bonkers,” Cameron has retreated to a business-as-usual stance.

The Prime Minister drew comfort from Leveson’s all but complete absolution of the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s treatment of the proposed Murdoch takeover of BSkyB and his conclusion that “the evidence doesn’t establish anything resembling a deal between News International and Cameron.”

However, despite these charitable interpretations, Cameron is not prepared to give an inch in his defence of the media moguls’ position.

The press monopolies that have, in Leveson’s words, “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people,” defend the indefensible.

They claim to have listened to public opinion and to regret past misdeeds while insisting on being left free to continue as before.

Media bosses and their political apologists have whipped up a storm in recent days, brandishing the red herring of state control of newspapers.

They have tried to belittle the inquiry by suggesting that it was all about celebrities, ignoring the atrocious treatment of the families of Milly Dowler and Madeleine McCann as well as survivors of the London transport bombings.

In the final analysis they have adopted the fallback position of agreeing to the report drawn up by Lords Hunt and Black, which recommends that media bodies sign up to “self-regulation contracts” and would have all the effectiveness of a fig-leaf.

Leveson is right to say that the public would have no confidence in any regulatory system dominated by the newspaper industry’s owners and editors.

But he has offered the industry the opportunity to devise a new system independent of publishers, politicians and the state, backed up by a statutory verification process.

Leveson is insistent on his support for a free media, which is an admirable goal, but his declaration that Britain already enjoys such freedom is contradicted by the narrowness of ownership and of political viewpoints.

The increasingly monopolistic ownership of Britain’s media concerned the Leveson inquiry only as far as the Murdoch BSkyB deal was concerned, but it cannot be excluded from consideration for an independent and accountable media.

Leveson’s reference to the need for greater media plurality is essential to provide the diversity to which politicians pay lip service but do little.

Cross-ownership of national newspapers and electronic media has created a handful of very powerful conglomerates with authoritarian management structures that put pressure on editorial staff to comply with instructions, even when these contradict journalistic ethics.

It is a decade since the Commons home affairs select committee supported the National Union of Journalists campaign in favour of a conscience clause to protect reporters unwilling to engage in unethical behaviour.

This ought to be a key clause in any new system of independent self-regulation for newspapers.

It must be remembered that the “outrageous” behaviour criticised by Leveson is not universal in the industry.

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