What part of ‘no’ don’t they understand? Our politicians have proudly unveiled their new plan to license the press, as if this was is in their power to do so. In fact, the press in Britain has been free from political interference for generations. The British government simply does not have the power to regulate the press, so it’s not clear why ministers have wasted their time acting as if this is their problem to solve.
The mechanics of the new charter released today are not the issue. What the politicians propose is a near-duplication of the regulation which the press has already to set up: the £1 million fines, the toughest system in the Western world. The press has already agreed to implement Lord Justice Leveson's proposals, to the millimetre.
The argument now is about whether the politicians should be allowed to impose regulation on the press for the first time in 300 years - or whether they should whistle Dixie instead. We at The Spectator are in the latter camp.
And it's not just about the UK press.Free speech groups world over are asking the newspapers not to sign up to government regulation because if the notion of a fully-independent press dies in Britain it sets a dangerous precedent for countries where governments would like a similar power grab.
To recap, here’s what’s at stake.
The newspapers ought to thank David Cameron for his efforts, and have some sympathy - you can see how he has ended up boxed into a political corner. He had to get consensus, so ended up drifting very far from his original plan to defend liberty. But to go back to his earlier proposal: yes, the newspapers have actually come up with Leveson-compliant legislation. They can now introduce it, the politicians can back off, and we can all keep the flame of press freedom burning a little longer.
* An MP gets in touch to say it's not fair to call it a politicians' charter, as this stitch-up was agreed without consulting most politicians and will not be put to a vote. So a deal between the leadership of the three Westminster parties.