Leveson, the morning after the Report before: what Lib Dem bloggers say

by Stephen Tall on November 30, 2012

Caron Lindsay blogged about Nick Clegg’s Commons statement here on LibDemVoice: Nick Clegg: We won’t find better solution than Leveson’s. Here’s a quick round-up of other reaction so far from Lib Dem bloggers to Lord Justice Leveson’s report on media standards…

Contributors split on broadly pro/anti-Leveson Report lines. Let’s start with the pro-Leveson bloggers:

Shock as politician behaves like a grown-up! (Caron Lindsay)

I can’t, for the life of me, see what the problem is with Leveson’s clever proposal for a self regulating body with true independence – ie not full of newspaper editors or chaired by politicians. It seems pretty obvious to me that Cameron is trying to protect the powerful corporate interests that run the media for some reason. Well, protecting powerful vested interests is what Tories do, so we shouldn’t be surprised. I really don’t get how giving statutory underpinning to a regulatory body the press sets up itself along Leveson’s guidelines infringes press freedom in any way. Is the BBC, which is regulated to within an inch of its life, curbed or compromised in any way? Of course not.

Welsh Government Seeks to Censor S4C on the day of Leveson’s Report (Mark Cole)

With freedom comes responsibility and elements of the press in recent years have shown a scant moral disregard to the many whose lives they have violated in this time. The system of self-regulation has clearly failed but there is no cross-party agreement as yet, on what should take its place. We await to see if an agreement can be made but I am not wholly confident that there will be. If there isn’t, David Cameron runs the risk of showing himself to be more concerned about keeping on side with the same media barons who have brought about so much of the great discontent that has been expressed in the Leveson Enquiry.

Time, Gentlemen, Please… (Andrew Brown)

As a Liberal, I believe that the state shouldn’t interfere in society beyond what is strictly necessary for the good of all. But I also believe that the state has a responsibility to society to prevent abuse of privilege where it occurs. I believe that we are at that moment with regard to the conduct of the press. Good journalists, acting legally and ethically within an agreed code of practice should have nothing to fear. Those who could previously transgress with impunity – or just opt out of the Press Complaints Commission altogether – need to know that they can and will be brought to book by a regulator with authority.

Not everyone agreed, though — here are those bloggers broadly in the anti-Leveson camp:

Why is it left to the Tory leader to stick up for a liberal principle: a free press (Stephen Tall)

Two principles are crucial to me in framing my thinking on this issue: 1) The state should not have power over the press; 2) The press should not have power over individual citizens. You could call those two principles a level playing field approach. Or even more simply: equality. Nick Clegg didn’t speak for me today. It is not only a question of Leveson being practical and proportionate. It matters to me whether the proposals are also liberal. … It’s a depressing irony that Lib Dems – so quick to mount the liberal barricades when it comes to secret courts or the internet snoopers’ charter – desert them the moment the free speech of a group few of us like is threatened. Hatred of Murdoch and the Mail trumps fundamental liberal tenets.

Leveson: a private law entrepreneurial opportunity? (Jock Coats)

[Leveson] says that to get [self-regulation] going will require legislation, and some are interpreting that as meaning that the “independent body” and the sort of things its terms of reference would have to cover, would thus be “regulated” and that this is the start of a slippery slope that could open a gateway for more intrusive state interference with the press. This is a position with which I agree. But, I’d still like to see some kind of self-regulation amongst the press, given that they benefit from huge (if dwindling) positions of privilege and access to power. Something that makes getting justice for people they wrong (even if I don’t accept libel and defamation as things that should be actionable, I know lots of people do so accept it for now) more cheaply and swiftly and with the benefit of not involving the state would be welcome.

Nick Clegg’s wrong headed Leveson response, or why I bloody love Stephen Tall (Charlotte Henry)

That Liberal Democrats would rather give the Murdoch press a kicking than stick up for free speech is a terribly depressing state of affairs. We are absolutely right to be distrustful of big media empires and powerful proprietors, but we should be equally distrustful of handing new laws to the state. The fact that we on Secret Courst we are being out-liberaled by Sadiq Khan, and on media regulation we are being out-liberaled by David Cameron, not to mention the right of the Tory party, is very very worrying.

Any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below…

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.