Anyone remember freedom of expression?

John Rentoul

camlev 300x205 Anyone remember freedom of expression?Can any normal person remember what the row about the Leveson report is about? David Cameron is in favour of regulation of the press (but not the internet?) by a regulator created by Royal Charter. Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are in favour of the same thing by a regulator approved by an auditor created by statute.

Well, that’s worth having a vote on in the House of Commons on Monday, isn’t it? (The BBC certainly fails to explain what the difference is about.)

What seems remarkable, however, is how the state-regulation knee-jerk seems to be stronger than the freedom-of-expression knee-jerk. When this first blew up, I thought Cameron was right to stand on the side of free expression. But the state-regulators seem to be winning the propaganda war, with everyone pleading the interests of “the victims of press intrusion”.

Protecting people whose privacy has been invaded by journalists is something I would do by getting the police to enforce existing law.

Which leads to another common mistaken comment this week: that Cameron adopts strong and brave positions and then drops them under pressure. On Leveson, he has adopted a strong and principled position and he has stuck to it.* On minimum pricing of alcohol, he adopted a strong and principled position and was persuaded that it was a bad idea – nothing to do with free-market ideology, as alleged by my excellent colleague Steve Richards, but because an out-of-touch, toff-led Tory party could not afford to be seen as being opposed to cheap pleasure for the low-income masses.

*Although I am puzzled by how a Royal Charter, created by the Government, is not state regulation and a “statutory underpinning”, created by the Government, is.

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  • Pacificweather

    It was probably “Oh, Mr. Porter” in 1937. A good year for porters I believe. Try finding one today when you need one. The country is certainly free of porters but the Evening Standard is free thanks to the Russians which is some compensation – not a lot. I liked those films, very silly but good fun. They should be shown more often.

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