David Cameron has been forced by newspaper bosses into a potentially disastrous vote over press reform. Should Mr Cameron lose the vote, scheduled for Monday, his authority would be severely weakened and leave the door wide open to those such as Home Secretary Teresa May who wish to replace him as Conservative party leader
In fact, TheOpinionSite.org believes it is quite possible that the prime minister may very well lose the vote over whether or not the implementation of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations for press reform should have statutory backing rather than be without the strength of the law as Mr Cameron believes they should.
The Liberal Democrats and Labour party, who believe in some statutory foundation for the reforms, may well be joined by some Tory rebels who disagree with Cameron.
All three parties now see a Royal Charter as the way forward but Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg want it written into Law whereas Cameron does not.
The prime minister has managed to get himself into the most terrible mess already this week by upsetting the nanny-like health lobbies after scrapping minimum pricing on alcohol. Theresa May and the Education Secretary, Michael Gove rightly pointed out that the poorest would yet again be the hardest hit and in any case, the measure was unlikely to solve the problem of binge-drinking.
Now, Cameron’s Crime and Courts Bill has been hijacked to include an amendment on press reform which clearly has nothing to do with either crime or the courts.
If the amendment to include statutory backing for Leveson is lost, the government runs the risk of a massive backlash from those affected by phone hacking and intrusion into their lives by the tabloid press.
If Clegg and Miliband win the vote, the prime minister will appear weak and will also be the target of hatred from Britain’s newspapers who believe that they should be able to do whatever they want to anyone at any time.
So why is the prime minister playing such a dangerous game at such a critical time, just a few days before what is likely to be another disastrous and damaging Budget?
Very simply, he has been leant on; heavily. Editors and newspaper proprietors, who have regular meetings with the prime minister in any case, have been lining up to supposedly ‘defend the free press’ from what they see as draconian reform that will severely limit their activities – and their profits.
Reform that would protect ordinary people from being exploited by the tabloids and from having their privacy needlessly invaded. Reform that would also suck the life-blood from papers such as the Sun and the Daily Mail, both of which frequently publish unproven and unfounded statements as being fact.
The ‘paedo-bashers’, xenophobes and ‘little Englanders’ who regard the Sun and Mail as in house journals would no doubt argue that the British press should be free to publish anything it wants.
Those who are affected by the appalling behaviour of some newspapers may think something else however.
The likes of Chris Jefferies, the McCanns, the Dowlers and those who have been falsely accused, hacked and disparaged by the gutter press that is apparently so popular in Britain today, believe that the press is out of control and has been for years.
TheOpinionSite.org agrees with them.
Successive governments, especially the Blair administration, have relied heavily on press support during elections, the trade-off being the introduction of populist policies that are often unjust, unfair or simply serve to sell newspapers and provide income for money-hungry charities regardless of who gets hurt in the process.
In 1997, the Sun and News of the World pushed hard for the introduction of the Sex Offender Register (believe it or not, Blair was having second thoughts) and promoted the idea that only ‘the most dangerous sex offenders would be placed on the register’; today, there are 60,000 individuals on the register including children as young as 10 years old and who are unlikely to be amongst the ‘most dangerous’.
The Sun, supported by Sara Payne (who now writes a profitable column for the Sun as ‘Dr Sara Payne’, a title she is not entitled to use) insisted on the introduction of the now repealed and utterly disastrous Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP).
David Blunkett saw cooperation with the tack tabloid as a means to further his own career, only to discover later that the same newspaper would skewer him over misuse of his powers as home secretary. Blunkett was forced to resign.
Again, the press argued that just a ‘few hundred’ people would end up serving IPPs. In fact, there are now 6,500 individuals serving the sentence, half of whom have completed their tariff and should have been released years ago.
Thanks to the tabloid press threatening political damage on justice ministers, those prisoners are still in jail with little or no hope of any true justice being available to them any time soon.
TheOpinionSite.org would argue that a free press is indeed necessary to a true democracy.
However, Britain has a ‘free for all’ press and it is equally arguable that we do not have true ‘democracy’ in this country anyway; something that is demonstrated by the never ending gifting of powers to the police by government, the segregation of certain types of offender despite having served their sentences in full, institutional prejudice in the law enforcement agencies and the steady erosion of freedoms and liberty in Britain today.
When an un-fettered press gets together with an authoritarian government which is itself backed up by one of the most powerful police forces in the world, the only people to suffer are the citizens themselves.
Put the children into an inadequate and failed education system which is based on indoctrination of ‘acceptable’ ideas and it does not take too many years for the state to establish phenomenal power over their citizens whilst portraying that power as necessary ‘protection’ and ‘support’.
That is what we have in Britain today and to a large extent, the popular press is responsible.
With editors, reporters and even proprietors of newspapers being investigated and charged for colluding with the police, hacking phones and computers, police officers accepting money from newspapers and those newspapers then making stories up as they go along and publishing them as the truth, it is clear that press regulation is necessary and that such regulation must be strong.
It is for the above reasons that any ‘voluntary’ code will not work. Mr Cameron’s Royal Charter won’t work either because the terms of reference can be changed by future ministers; ministers that would still be open to pressure from an already over-powerful press. Hence the need for the charter to be backed by law as proposed by Clegg and Miliband
TheOpinionSite.org believes that whilst some of the press occasionally do something good – like exposing the MPs’ expense scandal – British tabloid newspapers will do anything, absolutely anything to sell newspapers.
Anyone who believes that the tabloid press are there to ‘serve the country’ or to ‘hold the administration to account’ is either blind or extremely naive.
The only thing newspapers are interested in is…selling newspapers. If the truth is distorted, tough. Profit is King, no matter who gets hurt in the process.
As previously stated, it is quite possible that Mr Cameron will lose the vote on Monday and, if he does, he will have only himself to blame. The Conservatives were creeping around Rupert Murdoch and others just as much as Tony Blair was when he was in government and the Tories were in opposition.
Previous statements by Blair and Cameron alike that policy was not influenced by the popular press are simply not true; as any brief comparison between events and news copy will show. They both said that Leveson confirmed that newspapers did not influence policy but in fact, if one reads the whole report, that is not the case.
The measures being proposed by Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband do not equate to ‘Statutory Regulation of the Press’ as the Mail, Express and Sun would have you believe.
What the amendment would do however is to give whatever mechanism is finally decided upon, the backing of the Law. Editors could not simply refuse to join as they can – and some do – now. The regulatory system would have substance in Law and not rely on the ‘self-policing’ that has been allowed so far.
Many thousands of people, rich and poor, young and old, have had their lives ripped apart by the obnoxious British tabloids that are a disgrace to this countries media; and we say that not because they are popular (though less so than they were) but because they mislead people, deliberately and callously in the quest for profit and influence.
The tabloids say that if the public didn’t want to read their newspapers, people would not buy them. But when half the copy is sport, a quarter is special offers and the 2 inch high headline screams at people’s lascivious human nature, many buyers will be sucked in; even if the headline in fact refers to a small article on page 16 that contains nothing other than speculation and hearsay.
Throw in a nude picture or two – possession of which might land an ordinary person in jail if a particularly zealous policeman discovered it in that person’s possession – and for 30 pence, the temptation is just too much for some; despite the fact that what they are reading may be either entirely untrue or designed solely to promote a particular policy.
TheOpinionSite.org sincerely hopes that Mr Cameron is defeated on Monday. In our view, it is time for press regulation with teeth, not a system where editors investigate themselves much as the police investigate other police officers.
Britain needs a press regulatory system with the force of Law behind it.
Why? Because we have corrupt politicians, corrupt policemen and a whole raft of influential, money-making lobby groups masquerading as charities, all out to exercise control over our lives under the guise of ‘protection’ and ‘democracy’ and all of which are clearly out of control.
These groups and individuals want things to stay the way they are now but, for the sake of real freedom and liberty, the press that acts as their sycophantic mouthpiece must be properly regulated – right now.
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