Why did the Leveson report say little about regulating politicians?


by Robert Sharp    
11:10 am - December 11th 2012

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Almost all the debate about the Leveson Report so far is over whether the Government should introduce statutory regulation of the press. The other grave issues covered by the Inquiry, and Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations for how to fix them, seem to have prompted less discussion.

He offered a detailed plan for how a new self-regulatory body might be emboldened by some kind of law, but fewer ideas on how to regulate the way the media interacts with the police and politicians.

It was the failure to properly investigate the phone hacking that made this controversy into a bona fide ‘gate’. Had the police done their job, and not sought friendship and favour with the News International titles and other tabloids, then the entire controversy would have amounted to nothing more than a few criminal prosecutions.

What does Leveson recommend for this malaise affecting our boys in blue? A vague sense that the police should be… better. He speaks of “inculcating the right sense of professional pride” (Executive Summary, para 92) in the police and that they self-report the off-the-record briefings they give to the press.

It is for the club of Chief Police Officers to decide how junior officers should interact with journalists. Chief Constables themselves should “lead by example”. And “serious consideration” should be given to the idea of a 12 month cooling-off period between leaving a police force and working for a news outlet.

Lord Justice Leveson also considers the relationship between politicians an lobbyists, and in particular the collusion between Adam Smith (Jeremy Hunt’s right-hand-man) and Fred Michel, Public Affairs advisor to News International.

120. I have concluded that a combination of these factors has contributed to a lessening of public confidence in the conduct of public affairs, by giving rise to legitimate perceptions and concerns that politicians and the press have traded power and influence in ways which are contrary to the public interest and out of public sight. These perceptions and concerns are inevitably particularly acute in relation to the conduct by politicians of public policy issues in relation to the press itself.

A few paragraphs later, Leveson exonerates Jeremy Hunt of wrongdoing, and attributes Adam Smith’s failings to some kind of man-crush (“when faced with the intimacy, charm, volume and persistence of Mr Michel’s approaches, he was put in an extremely difficult position”).

As with the police failings described above, the fact that the political elites acquiesced to this kind of behaviour compounds the scandal.

Leveson’s recommendation to correct this is that politicians be more “transparent” in their meetings with lobbyists like Fred Michel (paragraphs 134-136). But in this crucial area he does not suggest legislation. The regime he proposes instead reads very much like, well, self regulation for the politicians! His prescription for the malaise is that that ministers give “serious consideration” to giving “some degree” of information over and above what the law requires.

Lord Justice Leveson produced a report that recommends legislation to keep the press in order, but suggested self-regulation and guidelines for the police and politicians.

If there has to be legislation, why not regulate the behaviour of the police and politicians in relation to the press?

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Our democracy ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. Churm Rincewind

Legislation like what, for example?

2. James from Durham

Quis custodiet custodies ipsos?

This problem has been around for a couple of thousand years. It may be a problem which is insoluble.

With regards to regulating the politicians, we’ve already got a body for that. It’s called the electorate.

120. I have concluded that a combination of these factors has contributed to a lessening of public confidence in the conduct of public affairs,…..
Does this man really believe that the public have any respect for, or confidence in politicians, or for that matter the police?
See turnout at recent elections, Hillsborough. Orgeave, de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson etc.

Barrie,

Indeed. Hilsborough is a good example of police self-regulation gone wrong, is it not?


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Jason Brickley

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  3. Dibiarma Darmawan

    Why did the Leveson report say little about regulating politicians? http://t.co/RmH4INUR

  4. Pauline

    Why did the Leveson report say little about regulating politicians? http://t.co/RmH4INUR

  5. #Leveson recommends self-regulation… for the politicians | Robert Sharp

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