Press victims could stand in next election against Leveson deniers
Charlotte Church and Gerry McCann mooted as candidates to stand against Cameron, Gove & Co
SPECULATION is growing among Labour MPs that some of the victims of press abuse who gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry - and who are now demanding statutory backing for the judge's proposals - could stand against Cabinet ministers at the next election.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, will sit down with press barons and editors today to hear how they plan to introduce a new voluntary independent press watchdog to replace the discredited Press Complaints Commission.
Yesterday she threatened: "If action is not taken as requested in terms of putting together a self-regulatory approach", the government response "would include legislation".
But after yesterday's Commons debate on Leveson, rumours were running around Labour MPs that the Hacked Off campaigners could keep up the pressure into the next general election by fielding candidates against the Cabinet ministers who are holding out against public opinion - including David Cameron (Witney, majority 22,740).
Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP and former select committee chairman, picked up the rumours when he tweeted this morning: “Wouldn't be surprised if some of the victims of press harassment stood against opponents of #Leveson at Election."
Miller would be one of the key Cabinet targets for the campaigners, if she fails to act on her threat to editors. She had a majority of 13,176 in Basingstoke in 2010.
Another possible target is Education Secretary Michael Gove, the former Times journalist, who will be defending a majority of 17,289 in Surrey Heath in 2015 and has been one of the most vociferous opponents of statutory codes - he even had a row in public with Lord Leveson while giving evidence.
The likes of rom-com actor Hugh Grant and TV comedian Steve Coogan may not be up for standing for Parliament, but Charlotte Church came over as a budding politico when she appeared on Question Time recently, and Gerry McCann, father of the still missing Madeleine, is seen as another possible candidate. McCann believes strongly that MPs owe it to the general public to back statutory measures.
But having got the best newspaper headlines since coming to power by rejecting Leveson's key proposal, there is no sign that Cameron is going to “redeem himself" by embracing the entire Leveson report, statutory underpinning included, and setting Fleet Street against him at the next election. Unless, perhaps, he risks seeing the vote split in key Tory seats.