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

    Comment number 401.


    Right. So (i) imagine a dark and sinister motivation behind everything Labour do, and (ii) pronounce them hypocritical liars for not admitting to what you've imagined. That is all your 'stuff' amounts to.


    Ed comes out of it 'okay', I said. Clearly true. And it's this very fact that's bothering the labourphobes. You're not a sufferer, are you? I do hope not, can be rather nasty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    No399 Ghost,
    'Administrative capability'
    Have you forgotten that George was treasurer of the Bullingdon and Eton Bingo Clubs? I remember David made a lovely cup of tea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Maybe the Tories had been out of office too long to have retained anyone with any administrative capability?
    And the LibDems...

    This farce has really gone on long enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    No396 Steve M H,
    Are you fearful of the possibility of a demoralized failed Cameron rump and the 'fruitcakes splitting the right and centre right vote allowing Mr Miliband a smooth passage into No10?

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    "Which comes first, the acronym or the full title?
    Viz: "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act." versus "PROTECT"?
    Lets call the new rules "MURDOCH" and think of the detail later!"
    Got it!
    "Mostly Unenforceable Regulations Devoted to Overseeing Control of Hacking".

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.


    Completely changed?

    With the same faces in the shadow cabinet as last time?

    Dont be so ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Which comes first, the acronym or the full title?
    Viz: "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act." versus "PROTECT"?
    Lets call the new rules "MURDOCH" and think of the detail later!

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    No389 Pickled,
    Do you know anything about 'The Golden Age of Capitalism' it was characterized by strong trade unions, extensive influence over the 'commanding heights of the economy' and British trade unionist finding time to set up a very successful Industrial Relations in Germany which of course has stood the test of time.
    Have you ever considered learning anything?

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    No389 Pickled
    Only the political backward think that 'Trade Unions' vote in Labour Party elections. Individual trade union members who choose to pay the political levy vote in a secret postal ballot in the comfort of their own homes.
    We will have to stop displaying such ignorance if we are to prevent Mr Miliband entering No10.
    Abandon the tabloid trash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.


    Your blogs are surfeited with the myth of union power.

    Their jobs and factories have been exported with no retraining and re-investment to compensate.Those who lost their jobs are scapegoated as benefit cheats.

    Government and corporations failed to retool and retrain.They sold the jobs and factories to Asia and now their dupes complain of union power

    In reality they`re too weak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Hacked off lobbyists. I seem to recall DC making a comment that the next political scandal would be the power of lobbyists. Maybe, just maybe, that time has arrived just a pity that some of the 'little people' had their campaign for justice taken over by some (if not all) people who have lived on publicity

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    I don`t know what the fuss is about.A charter with a dab of statute is a very English solution..

    The outrage is not about press freedom but a bully being confronted., The criminal law doesn`t hack it,- forgive the pun-,because newspapers could behave obnoxiously within the law

    These gorilla`s have been given a slap and about time.They love dishing it out and scream foul if you retaliate

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.


    "But I have never understood this 'Union paymasters' thing. "
    Quite simple Ed M is where he is today because of the unions and their funding. He is bought, paid for and owned by the trade unions.

    My point was - Does he reveal the details of private meetings he has with them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.


    "labourphobia. You don't give a monkey's about the actual issue. All that's irking you is that Miliband has come out of this looking ok."
    Ed Milibandwagon did demand that the reports finding implemented in their entireity, which is some way off the current postion.

    Also, New Labour were in power when all this was going on? Was Ed M concerned about this then ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    If you behave criminally expect a restraining order round your ankles.

    If Mr.Plod is at the other end of a hacker`s telephone expect lawyers to take a dim view.

    Cameron has been burnt,you can`t play with Coulson and Brookes without cost.There`s also Osborne,Hunt and BSkyB

    Freedom is not a licence to run riot over the liberty of the subject.They`ve had 300 and still don`t know it

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    375. Strictly Pickled
    I can definitely understand some of the criticism directed towards Labour in the past. But I have never understood this 'Union paymasters' thing. Personally I am very proud that hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people are plugged into our party and helping shape it's direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Seems to me that allowing Hacked Off rep to be in on the negotiations is not much different from when Labour used to have beer and sandwich meetings with the TU leaders. Cameron and the other political leaders should be quite ashamed of allowing this 'very interested party' giving them directions as to what they should agree to. So much for the supremacy of Parliament

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    who gives a toss about all this garbage. how about giving the old folk some extra money for heating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    This isn't about Labourphobia. People broke the law and will be punished.

    The people to be punished work for Mirror Group too.

    Stop throwing your toys out of the pram, and support law and order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    377. Idont Believeit
    Just to let you know that the Labour party has undergone massive grassroots restructuring (refounding labour). Perfect...No. Completely changed... No, but definitely noticeably different to what it was a few years ago and for the better IMO.


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