One of the foundations on which David Cameron based his decision to reject statutory underpinning of press regulation was that editors would set up a new system based on Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations which would prove far tougher than the Press Complaints Commission.
The failure of the industry to reach consensus on a new body – and this is a real risk given the refusal of some publications to join the PCC – would pull the rug from under the Prime Minister’s feet as he fights critics pushing for statute. Cameron is also facing claims that he is bowing to bullies in the press, and it is for these two reasons that the Prime Minister will be applying great pressure on editors as they meet Culture Secretary Maria Miller this week. He must make clear that he is opposing statute because he believes a properly powerful regulator would address the problems that the criminal law does not, and allow victims to take up grievances on issues such as libel where they would not be able to afford court action, rather than because he is afraid of the media lobby. And he needs to be seen to be tough on the newspaper industry, rather than its faithful friend.
The Prime Minister will make an appearance at that meeting between his minister and editors on Tuesday. The Financial Times quotes one of his aides saying:
The PM doesn’t want to legislate but he thinks the onus is on the industry to act pretty sharpish. We have had a lot of indications that the industry is prepared to take it very seriously.
Boris Johnson underlines the importance to editors of taking the Leveson report seriously in his Telegraph column this morning.