How the leaders reached Leveson deal

 

A deal. At the 59th minute of the 11th hour. After months of behind-the-scenes talks. After David Cameron went public declaring the gap between the parties to be unbridgeable.

Yesterday David Cameron met Nick Clegg to put a new proposal to him. Clegg then discussed that in three separate phone calls with Ed Miliband. A resumption of the cross-party talks followed involving Oliver Letwin and Harriet Harman. Meetings continued until 2.30am.

If the deal they made holds, there will be endless spin and analysis about who moved and who blinked, but perhaps more significant is that all parties wanted a deal rather than to stand alone and risk the wrath of either the victims of press abuse or of newspapers enraged by regulation.

Lord Justice Leveson's call for a system of voluntary independent self-regulation of the press posed a problem for the politicians - how to make any new system independent enough to satisfy the victims whilst at the same time making it not so independent as to convince the press to walk away and refuse to take part.

Months ago the government proposed that a Royal Charter rather than a legally based system was the key to unlocking a deal. A Royal Charter is, in effect, a letter from the Queen which establishes a public body like the BBC, or the new press regulator, without the need for a new law.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats abandoned their calls for a full new legal framework but, until last night, were demanding full legal underpinning of the charter. They now appear - and we still don't know the full details - to have accepted a watered-down version of that.

The Tories who argued for no press law of any sort now appear to have conceded the need for a legal clause designed to give parliament the assurance that the new press regulator cannot be amended by a minister under pressure from the press without the agreement of MPs.

Although not in the negotiating room, the press were constantly being informed and consulted. Key players, I'm told, were the Telegraph's Lord Black who is the key fix-it man for the industry, Associated Newspapers' Peter Wright, who is the former editor of the Mail on Sunday, the editor of the Times John Witherow and the editor of the FT Lionel Barber.

In the end it seems that politicians in all parties preferred to defuse a political time bomb together rather than face the blame on their own for failing to do so or for it blowing up in their faces.

It has, though, not been entirely defused yet.

UPDATE 1: 7.59am: Harriet Harman has just spelt out how the deal works. It comes in two parts :

1. A regulator established by Royal Charter, not law, which states that it can only be amended if parliament has a two thirds majority

2. A law which does not mention the press or a press regulator, but gives power of law to any Royal Charter that states that two thirds majority of parliament is needed to amend it. There is, of course, only one Charter of this sort - the one establishing a new press regulator!

UPDATE 2: 8.05am: I should make clear that not all those newspaper men I named were called or consulted in the last 24 hours. They were, however, seen as the "go to" figures in the industry in the past few days and months

UPDATE 3: 8.40am: It's all in the name.

The Conservatives are insisting that the deal done overnight rejects so-called "statutory underpinning" of press regulation. They can say this because there will be no new law that mentions either the press or their new regulator. They want to stress this as it is their reassurance to the newspaper industry for whom any so-called press law represents an unacceptable infringement of their rights by the state.

However, Labour will reply that the new Royal Charter establishing the new press regulator does have one small bit of law which underpins it ie a clause to be tabled today which legally enshrines any Charter (in reality, of course, this one) which states that two thirds of Parliament must support any amendment.

Whether someone calls this "legal underpinning" will depend on whether they are backing the Conservative argument or the Lab/Lib Dem one.

UPDATE 4: 10.30am: I understand that a representative of the pressure group Hacked Off was in the room through the night when the deal on press regulation was agreed by all parties last night. Sources are refusing to say who it was but I am told that it was not one of the victims.

 
Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 141.

    I think it's quite obvious that Milibandwagon has caved in as he did soon after standing up in Parliament when Leveson was published & saying he backed all the recommendations in the report until his spin team got hold of him & told him the press would not forgive him & he performed u-turns.He's better watch his back as Rowlings will not forgive him & will probably try to get him out now.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 140.

    Who blinked first?

    Friday: Cameron walked away and said he would go it alone.

    Monday: Cameron strikes a deal giving Labour what they wanted.

    Yes difficult one.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 139.

    Is it possible for people to express their disgust with the Peeping Tom antics of the Press without the Press and their cronies (the BBC) doctoring the message?
    Press freedom should not be the freedom to assassinate character. You'll notice that when anyone criticises the Press, the pack will then savage them.
    Power without true accountability - protection racketeers policing selves?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 138.

    I love the way Ed Miliband says Politicians are NOT going to be behind regulating the free press, when all 3 major parties spent 5+ hours compromising in the back rooms last night over what powers an "independent" press regulation organisation can and can't have, which essentially underminds Leveson.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 137.

    Oh for political leaders with the backbone to stand up to the press barons. Finally another fudge with the gutter press left free to continue polluting our social consciousness. I'm disappointed with anything less than full Leveson.
    Personally I boycotted the national press decades ago. Once in a blue moon I buy a paper to check if my decision was right; it was. It's a tactic I recommend.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 136.

    Perhaps today is the day when we should come to our senses and kick them all out (politicians)

    New press rules

    No foreign ownership of any media

    You have to have British passport and pay full tax in UK

    Can only own or have shares in one media company whether National or local

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 135.

    I think we should go back to the old days of outside lavs, we would have a proper use for newspapers, that and fish and chip wrappers of course.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 134.

    Is an unintended consequence of this compromise that it reinstates some powers of the monarch? For example, if a future King Charles issued a populist Royal Charter on say Rural Planning and the Environment would it take two thirds of parliament to overturn or amend the Charter?

    Info so, whoops!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 133.

    oooooh ... a new coalition has formed ConLibDemLab !

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 132.

    @122. Hugo Grotius
    In the first case the Act makes holding an unpopular government to account harder.
    In the second case it prevents future governments changing the provisions of the Royal Charter without the scrutiny and agreement of Parliament.
    The next item is to prevent any PM from creating hundreds of life peers for his own party political advantage.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 131.

    In post 50 I suggested, partly in jest, that "Next Clegg will claim it as a victory for the LibDems"..

    Just read "Nick Clegg said it was essentially a victory for the Lib Dems...."

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 130.

    IT’S THE SUN WHAT WON IT

    So much for democracy

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 129.

    Looks like the press are not going to play ball with this deal, comments from all involved coming thick and fast. I fear the whole thing is turning into a farce.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 128.

    Front page of Sun:
    "IT WOS DAVE WOT WON IT!"

    Page 16, Column 6, Paragraph 5
    "Dowler's and McCann's express their dismay."

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 127.

    9. rockRobin7 So, David Cameron called Miliband and Clegg's bluff and ... they choked. What a surprise.

    ###

    Yeah right - like the fact that Cameron was about to get his political head kicked in at the vote had nothing to do with him compromising.

    His stance last week was just plain idiotic.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 126.

    My, the convolutions they go through to be 'popular', with both sides! I don't care what they do so long as they leave libel costs alone.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 125.

    I can't believe that so many people are missing the point, this deal is not about regulating the press, free speech or justice and never has been...it's about saving political skins. The fact that something had to be done was beyond dispute, the name of the game is/was to do as little as possible to keep all interested parties happy and still claim the moral high ground. It's another epic fail.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 124.

    Why do people on here think Cameron won? This still looks like statutory underpinning to me.
    The good news is we won't hear any more of corruption in parliament... Because it won't be reported. In fact all we'll hear is good news from the government.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 123.

    Cant help wondering whether this all matters very much. The new press complaints system will either be effective or it won't. The failure that damaged victims the most was the failure of police to properly investigate and then law officers to prosecute illegal acts by the press e.g. hacking. This is rather like the total absence of prosecutions or proper investigations of the banking industry.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 122.

    The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced a measure where an early general election could not be called unless two-thirds of MPs voted in favour of the motion and Labour called this undemocratic.

    Yet they now champion that a Royal Charter on press regulation requires the exact same two-thirds of MPs in favour of changing it.

    I smell a whiff of hypocrisy.

 

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