I was about to write my inevitable response to Leveson, once again laying out why I think bringing regulation of the press under the guise of politicians is wrong. I was going to write about how disappointed I was with Nick Clegg, almost for the first time this Parliament, for not returning to liberal first principles and making the tough decision to reject the calls for statute. I was going to write about how despondent the response of some party colleagues had made me.
Then I read this piece of brilliance by Stephen Tall, and it saved me all the effort.
Stephen quotes Index on Censorship’s response to Leveson:
Statutory underpinning of an ‘independent’ and ‘voluntary’ regulator is a contradiction in terms. Any law which sets out the criteria that the press must meet, by definition introduces some government or political control of the media. Politicians of all hues have an interest in getting the most positive media coverage they can. Keeping print media independent of government so journalists can report on political debate and decision-making, robustly and without fear, is fundamental.
This is absolutely right.
However safe you try and make the words independent, voluntary, or underpinning, once legislation is a passed you are having politician set the terms of how newspapers operate, in a way that goes far beyond the laws that already rightly exist.
In typically succinct and eloquent fashion Stephen then gets to the crux of the issue, the real reason Lib Dems are happy to accept nearly all of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations:
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.
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.
Thank goodness there are still a few Lib Dems like Stephen Tall around.