It is claimed that the Government has decided to delay pressing ahead with the Royal Charter for press regulation – the one that enjoys all-party support – and instead, the Privy Council will next week consider the Charter submitted by the press as an alternative, which, as any fule kno, is merely a re-heating of the discredited Press Complaints Commission (PCC), supposedly to head off further legal action.
That Culture Secretary Maria Miller was about to make this decision was known to Zelo Street almost two days ago, and the appearance of yet another roadblock is par for this particular course. And something I can say is that those who were likely to be disappointed by the delay have already experienced their disappointment, but are not about to be diverted from their purpose.
So with their Royal Charter being looked at first, where are the cheerleaders of the Fourth Estate? The answer is that they aren’t. Their Royal Charter is going to the Privy Council, yet the Murdoch, Rothermere, Barclay Brothers and Desmond hacks are effectively mute. And that is for one good reason: that the press Charter is being considered is effectively no more than a procedural device.
And there’s the rub: what Government sources are saying is that only one Charter can be considered at once, and this means their own Charter cannot yet proceed. Not being an expert on our (unwritten) Constitution, I have to yield to others on this point, but this explanation has not convinced the unwavering Brian Cathcart and the rest of the Hacked Off team.
Hence their letter today to Maria Miller, signed by several victims of a variety of press abuses: Kate and Gerry McCann, Christopher Jefferies, J K Rowling, Jacqui Hames, Sheryl Gascoigne and Alex Best are among those endorsing the call for the Charter agreed by Parliament to go forward without further delay. The letter also noted that Ms Miller has been subject to a highly personal and negative press campaign.
That was exemplified by a typically mean spirited hatchet job to the personal order of Paul Dacre by the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), with “A Culture Secretary who has been promoted way beyond her talents. Worse: she’s a bore. QUENTIN LETTS asks… What is the point of Maria Miller?” and “Does Mrs Miller the prosaic plodder deserve chivalry?” headlines typical of the genre.
Well, now that Lord Justice Leveson has agreed to appear before the Commons culture Committee as early as July 24 – that’s three weeks today – there would be no point in delaying matters for long after that, summer recess or no, unless there were something seismic to come out of that Committee meeting. Once again, it’s time to ignore the sniping and do the right thing by the public.
And that right thing is properly independent press regulation. No ifs, no buts.
This post originally appeared on the Zelo Street blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks