By the time you’re reading this, David Cameron will probably have made up his mind about how to respond to the Leveson report. For members of my trade, it will be the defining moment of his premiership.
I’m not all that optimistic. I bumped into a Conservative whip last week who said he thought it would be difficult for the Prime Minister to ignore Leveson if he recommends statutory regulation, however much he’d like to.
He trotted out the familiar line that Cameron will be under enormous political pressure to implement Leveson’s proposals, both from the Lib Dems and some of his own backbenchers. If he decides not to, Ed Miliband will immediately start assembling a coalition of pro-regulation MPs and railroad through a law that, in all likelihood, will be more draconian than anything Cameron might introduce.
The whip did not make it explicit, but the implication was that lovers of press freedom such as myself should support whatever form of regulation the Prime Minister proposes because the risk of him doing nothing in response to Leveson is that we’ll end up with something worse. [Itals] Cling on to nurse Cameron [Itals].
I didn’t buy it. Forty-two Conservative politicians may have written to the Guardian in support of statutory underpinning, but would all of them really vote for a Labour-sponsored bill that allowed the state to control the content of newspapers and magazines in perpetuity? I’m not even convinced the whole of the Parliamentary Labour Party would support it. (To read more, click here.)