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Dec 102012
 

In the last week, we have seen two example of the arrogance of leadership; on both occasions David Cameron has unilaterally decided that the considered opinion of a group of experts is wrong and his snap judgement is right. Of course he is not the only example of this sort of thinking – most Prime Ministers of the past have committed the same sort of error of judgement.

The two decisions in question were the response to the Leveson report, and today’s report on the future of recreational drug legislation. In both cases, people have gone to a considerable effort to consider what to do about certain issues. And of course have spent a lot of my money on doing so.

I do not resent my money being spent on such things; what I do resent is that some puffed up politician is wasting my money by not spending an appropriate amount of time considering the report(s).

A snap decision is necessary in some circumstances, but not in these circumstances! There should be nothing wrong with a political leader saying that they would like to spend some time considering the report – rather than respond with gut instinct to the report’s headlines.

Ripping up a report within hours of it being released is contemptuous of the work that has gone into it, and wasteful of taxpayers’ money.

It may well be that ignoring the report’s recommendations is the right thing to do, but to do so too quickly is definitely the wrong thing to do.

Dec 012012
 

So Leveson has finally released his report on press regulation, and as quick as a flash the Tories and the chief Tory (David Cameron – the Prime Minister) have announced that they will have nothing to do with it. They prefer some form of self-regulation; in other words a toothless organisation which the press routinely ignores or sticks a middle finger up to (i.e. a modified version of the old Press Complaints Commission).

Nothing could demonstrate more clearly that the Tories will bend over backwards to support any kind of business (including the demonstrably corrupt), and ignore the needs of the public. Without reading the report, it is still possible to determine that the recommendations are sensible merely by looking at who opposes it – the Tories, and the press themselves. Just about every other politician is right behind Leveson.

The big trouble with self-regulation (at least of the press) is that it has been tried again, and again, and still fails. As Leveson himself reports, we have had 7 inquiries into press standards over the last 70 years. The press regularly acts “as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist”.

Or in other words, when the press barons say that they will behave now, we know they are lying seeing as they have promised that before and have yet to live up to their fine words.

Interestingly the Tories seem most concerned about Leveson because they believe that the government and parliament should have no say  in the regulation of the press. Thus demonstrating that their reading comprehension is perhaps at the level of a 10 year old.

As Leveson himself says :-

Not a single witness has proposed that the Government or Parliament should themselves be involved in the regulation of the press. I have not contemplated and do not make any such proposal.

Personally I am not opposed to self-regulation in general; at least until that self-regulation has been demonstrated to be useless. But in practically every case where an industry or professional group has regulated itself, it has failed to do so properly. We have trusted the press to regulate itself and ultimately it has failed to do so.

Statutory regulation of the press is very definitely something to be wary of – let the politicians have a say in how the press is run and we would never have heard of the MPs expenses scandal! But this is not what Leveson is suggesting; he is suggesting that an independent body regulates the press with statutory authority.

Frankly if a regulatory authority wants to punish a rogue editor – perhaps with a thousand lashes of the cat – it needs statutory authority or the rogue editor is likely to raise the finger and walk out.

Finally, and the main reason for this post; time to give the Tories a bloody nose by telling them that we want the Leveson recommendations implemented. Visit the petition site and tell them so!

 

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