Following this afternoon’s statements I am certain that David Cameron is in a minority in the House of Commons in not wanting to create a statutory back-stop for a press regulator. But, so far, no one can explain how even an alliance of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Eustice Tories can force the Prime Minister to provide parliamentary time for a bill that he doesn’t want.
Cameron got the tone and content of his statement right. I’m reassured that Cameron appreciates that while he set up an inquiry, he didn’t outsource his judgment to Lord Justice Leveson. He is also surely correct that a press law, however brief, would have worrying consequences.
Just before the statement, a visibly agitated Miliband walked over to Cameron to talk to him. When he rose to spoke, Miliband was passionate and sincere. But I do find it odd how keen Miliband is to simply take Leveson whole, saying that ‘we should put our trust in Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations’ and that he wanted Leveson ‘accepted in its entirety.’
Nick Clegg’s statement following David Cameron’s turned out to be a less dramatic moment than I expected. Cameron sat there calmly and the Tory backbenches largely behaved, there was no barracking of the Deputy Prime Minister. Labour attempted to hug Clegg close. Miliband nodded at the key lines, Harriet Harman praised him in her opening remarks and even Ed Balls tried to listen courteously—but he still couldn’t resist checking his phone repeatedly. A moment of Labour-Clegg reconciliation seemed to be on the cards.
Significantly, though, Clegg rebuked Harman when she accused Cameron of bowing to vested interests and betraying the victims. That seemed to me an indication that Clegg is not prepared to inflict structural damage on the coalition over this issue.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.