Alastair Campbell says Leveson clever and thought-through

Nov 29, 2012

Tony Blair's former spin doctor praises Leveson's report, but others demur

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FIRST REACTION to Lord Leveson's report on press standards suggests that the judge was desperate to avoid the expression "statutory controls" - but had to admit that a statutory process was necessary to underpin the establishment of a new independent, self-regulatory body.

He said, diplomatically, that in the vast majority of cases the behaviour of the press was "one of the true safeguards of our democracy", but added there were times when the very organisations that "hold power to account" had not performed that role "in relation to their own power". In the worst cases, "the media has wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people", reported the BBC.

Two of those people, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler, said today the Leveson report gave them cause for "cautious optimism", but their solicitor added they needed more time to read the detail in the 2000-page document.

As The Guardian reports, Chris Blackhurst, editor of the Independent, said the report "goes about half-way to what we wanted. Ideally we would not have wanted statute at all..."

Blackhurst said Leveson had "sort of gone for" independent self-regulation – the proposal favoured by most newspapers – but added the caveat that, "he [Leveson] doesn't really trust us, the press, to administer that, to decide what independence means. That independence test will be left to MPs."

On the BBC, Alastair Campbell, former spin doctor to Tony Blair who gave evidence to Leveson about his relationship with political journalists, said he found the report "very clever and thought-through" and saw no reason why the Prime Minister should not accept and follow Leveson's proposals. "The press will go bonkers," he said, "but they will anyway."

Max Mosley, who famously won a privacy case against the News of the World, said it would be "astonishing" if Leveson's advice were ignored.

There was measured support from Jacqui Hames, representing the pressure group Hacked Off. She said: "These proposals are reasonable and proportionate. The press must be given a deadline. The inquiry is over, now is the time for action."

Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of free speech group Index on Censorship, said Leveson's recommendations warranted "serious, considered debate" . Hughes said her organisation was worried about the inherent freedom of Leveson's proposed statutory-voluntary approach to independent press regulation, "even if it is with oversight from Ofcom rather than politicians".

Political journalist Andrew Neil concurred, tweeting that the idea of Ofcom having a role in press regulation will "cause a row".

Political blogger Guido Fawkes dismissed the entire report as irrelevant, given that it applied to print media. "Bonkers thing about Leveson is the principle of state licencing a declining industry," he tweeted. "New media knows no borders, won't pay attention."

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