March 11 2014 Latest news:
Joseph Watts, Political editor
Friday, November 30, 2012
Earlier this week before Leveson was even published, I spoke to the Norfolk MPs about where they stood on statutory regulation.
Two of them, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman and North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, were among the 42 that signed the original letter published in the Guardian that appeared to back state regulation.
But actually, when I spoke to the pair, their attitudes were more nuanced. Henry Bellingham made the following comment: “I’m not for all-out statutory regulation, but I do think the press need to accept that with the phone hacking scandal things need to change.”
Meanwhile George Freeman said: “Nobody wants to shackle the media’s vital role in democracy of defending free speech or holding politicians to account. “But somehow we need a mechanism to protect those unable to afford expensive lawyers to protect themselves against irresponsible journalism where it occurs.”
Neither gave any outright supportive comments for any new statue. I’d wager that when it came down to it, as long as any new regulatory body could be shown to have teeth they would back the government in a vote, regardless of whether there was any statute involved.
That got me thinking about the original letter of the 42 and how mealy mouthed it was; a sure sign that it was made so in order to get those wavering around the edges of a particular viewpoint to sign up.
In other words I suspect there are others from the 42 who would not die in a ditch to defeat the government over press regulation.