So the latest twist in the surreal saga of statutory regulation of the press is that the campaign group which had unparalleled access to the three parties hammering out a settlement in the silent watches of the night now thinks there’s been a terrible mistake. Whoops! Hacked Off has put out a statement this afternoon which says the amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill approved by MPs on Monday night contain ‘an accident in the drafting’ and is now trying to change the amendments so that they won’t impact bloggers and small publishers. You can read the full statement here, but this is the key section:
‘The amendments are the work of Conservatives in government and not of Labour, the Liberal Democrats or for that matter Hacked Off.
‘They have not been endorsed in any way by Hacked Off. On the contrary, at the weekend we urged the three parties not to approve them finally there and then, but to leave time for them to be improved. The parties agreed to this.
‘For what it is worth, we believe the potential impact on bloggers and small publishers was unforeseen – an accident in the drafting – and we know of no reason why politicians might resist efforts to put things right.
‘The amendments go to the House of Lords on Monday for what is likely to be their last stage in Parliament. New changes, if they are to be adopted, have to be ready tomorrow.’
The campaign group says it hopes its changes will mean ‘almost all bloggers, with a very few, rare exceptions will be completely untouched by the changes’. Aside from the fact that Hacked Off isn’t a minister or a backbench MP or indeed a representative of the industry (a campaign group that seems to hate newspapers, particularly successful ones, had four representatives circling the talks on Sunday night, but the newspapers didn’t get their chance to have a say), this shows what a mess this late night deal is.
You can read Fraser’s cover piece on why the Spectator won’t be signing up to a Royal Charter here. And the Economist has also announced it opposes the plan, while increasing numbers of regional and local papers are warning that the deal could cripple the cash-strapped press. It’s worth noting that now the New Statesman has said it won’t back the Royal Charter either, it’s difficult for those pushing for this system to make the argument that it’s just angry right-wingers who don’t like the new system. For a publication close to Labour, who initially backed full implementation of the Leveson report, to say that this deal stinks shows that politicians might have been unwise to be so self-congratulatory in the Chamber on Monday night.