It is now ten months since Lord Justice Leveson made public the recommendations of his public inquiry into the press, and it is two years and three months since we learned that the News of the World hacked into the voicemails of a missing 13-year-old. By any measure, it is high time the politicians did something.
In the next few days they have their chance, because on 9 October the Privy Council meets and there is an opportunity to secure final approval of the Royal Charter that was approved by all parties in Parliament as long ago as 18 March.
Will the politicians act? Will the Government put the charter on the Privy Council agenda so that it may finally be nodded through by this arcane body? Or will they put the interests of the big papers before those of ordinary members of the public and allow further delay?
Already we have had to wait five extra months because politicians and officials treated with extraordinary seriousness a patently cynical spoiling manoeuvre by the publishers of the Mail, the Telegraph and the Sun. This was the PressBoF petition for a royal charter of their own, a document that could easily have been dismissed out of hand.
Elaborate procedural hoops have been jumped through, apparently to ensure that this can be rejected without legal challenge, wasting months in which the implementation of Parliament’s charter could have begun. If, as planned, the real charter had been approved in May, the scrupulous process of appointing an independent inspection body for the press regulator would now be almost complete. Instead, it has not started.
Always, the danger has been the political ‘long grass’ – the procedural obfuscation that prevents real action without ever revealing itself as a decision. That is what Murdoch wants, and what the bosses of the Mail and the Telegraph want.
So the leading politicians of the big parties now have a choice. They can play their part in implementing the recommendations of a properly-constituted, judge-led public inquiry. They can do what the whole House of Commons said should be done last March. They can comply with the wishes of past victims of press misconduct. And they can give the public – whose views have been made plain in countless polls – what they want.
Alternatively they can betray us all by caving in to a group of disgraced press bosses, and by so doing condemn countless more people to brutal, unfair treatment by unaccountable newspapers.
Brian Cathcart is the Executive Director of Hacked Off