All three party leaders agree to 'urgent action' on the press 'in this Parliament'
Boris Johnson tells MPs 'don't you think about regulating the press'
Michael Gove compares Brian Leveson to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
All three party leaders met with representatives of the campaign group Hacked Off yesterday and reportedly all said that they “want to see action in this Parliament and as soon as possible” to regulate the press.
Their alleged comments - related via Hacked Off - would appear to suggest that all now favour legislative action to control the press.
In separate meetings David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg met 25 individuals “who have suffered some of the most awful abuses at the hands of the press in recent years: cruelty, intrusion, misrepresentation and bullying”, Hacked Off said.
Hacked Off director Brian Cathcart said afterwards: “I’d like to stress the vital and historic character of these meetings with the leaders. There is a danger in this debate that the voice of the victims can be lost. We hear the voice of the press very loudly, but the voices of the victims can be drowned out.
“These were private meetings but we can say a few things about what was discussed.
“Firstly, all of the leaders recognised the vital importance of hearing from those who have suffered press abuses and the usefulness of today’s meeting. Each of the party leaders acknowledged the great contribution that victims of press intrusion have made to the debate.
“They all stated that the key test of the outcome of the Leveson Inquiry is that victims of hacking and other abuses are satisfied that the systematic failures in press regulation are being properly addressed.
“All of the leaders spoke of the importance of waiting for Lord Justice Leveson. That is the most important thing and it is a mistake to prejudge or debate the Leveson report before we know what it says.
“That said they all recognised the urgent need for radical change in the way the press is regulated.
“All of the leaders agreed that the best way forward to the Leveson recommendations is an all-party approach. They want to see the parties working together, rather than descending into party-political point scoring on this important issue.
“We urged all three leaders to meet as soon as Leveson has reported in order to work together.”
In recent weeks lobbying has grown more intense ahead of the publication the Leveson report, which is now expected next week. Last week the Daily Mail devoted 12 pages to an investigation which alleged a left-wing conspiracy to undermine the free press involving the Media Standards Trust, Hacked Off, some of the Leveson assessors and the training and networking organisation Common Purpose.
Cathcart said: “All three leaders were ready to stand up to the propaganda and smear campaigns of some newspapers, who are trying to undermine Leveson before it has even reported.
“Finally, all of the leaders agreed that when Lord Justice Leveson has reported, there should be swift action. They rejected any suggestion that this would be something that could be kicked into the long grass or bogged down in long consultation procedures. They want to see action in this Parliament and as soon as possible.
“We have proposed to all of the leaders that when Lord Justice Leveson has reported, they meet the victims of press abuses again. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss the report in full at that later stage.”
Meanwhile, at the Spectator awards yesterday London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “MPs, ministers and all the rest of it – don't you for one moment think of regulating a press that has been free in this city for more than 300 years and whose very feral, fearlessness and ferocity ensures that we have one of the cleanest systems of government anywhere in the world. Very little financial corruption. And which ensures, by the way, that London not only put on the greatest Olympic Games that have ever been held but is also the greatest city on earth to live in and to invest in."
Education secretary Michael Gove told the event: “ "It's … a pity that His Honour Brian Leveson cannot be here so he could receive the Bureau of Investigative Journalism award for commitment to truth-telling for his wonderful comments: 'I don't really need any lessons in freedom of speech, Mr Gove, really I don't'."