Cameron the Censor

by Andrew Stuttaford

Writing for Tory Diary, Paul Goodman takes a careful, and  (I think) fair look at how Cameron got to where he has on press/internet censorship in Britain.

The concluding  paragraphs are a killer:

Imagine how you’d feel today were you the editor of a centre-right Fleet Street title.  A campaign that wants to neuter your paper, and turn today’s mixed newspaper market into a BBC Fleet Street, was directly involved in the talks that framed the laws that now govern you.  You not only weren’t in the room, but didn’t even know (in some cases) that these talks in Miliband’s office were taking place.  One bill, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, sets out the mechanism by which the press is to be regulated.  Another, the Crime and Courts Bill, sets out how you will be punished if you don’t co-operate with it.  This is not “a dab” of statutory regulation.  It is an ugly splash on a previously blank canvas, which Parliament can now add to at will.

And as Peter Lilley pointed out in the Commons yesterday, the new regulator will have “open-ended powers”, including those to prevent and require material to be published.  “We are giving a body the right to decide what is fact and what is true,” Mr Lilley said, adding that there seems to be “no limits to the powers that the body can grant itself or the extent to which it can go”.  (Nor is it clear where the limits of the new system lie where the internet is concerned.)  I think that were you such an editor – or the editor of any paper, come to think of it, including the thousand or so regional ones represented by the Newspaper Society – you would feel angry.  No wonder Index on Censorship described yesterday as “a sad day for press freedom”.

Every Fleet Street editor will be aware of the claims of Downing Street incoherence and incompetence with which Cameron’s own Ministers ceaselessly regale their lobby staff (and with which the editors of this site are only too familiar).  Now they have experienced it at first hand.  The millionaire-funded interest group which wants to censor your paper was in on the talks which shaped the laws that govern your industry – but you, for whatever reason, were not.  “The Quad” (the Sun, Mail, Telegraph and Express titles) have long had little time for the Prime Minister.  They will now have even less.  This is not exactly a cheering prospect for Number Ten as it prepares for the budget this week and local elections this spring.

No it is not. And nor should it be.

That only fourteen Conservative MPs were prepared to vote against this disgusting piece of legislation shows how far that once great party has sunk.

Meanwhile, here’s UKIP’s Nigel Farage, himself  (it should be stressed) a victim of “hacking” by the media:.

This is a Charter for the Suppression of the Press, not for its regulation. UKIP will fight these proposals as hard as we can.

UKIP and the Conservatives, freedom and censorship, contrast and compare.

It’s not hard, is it?

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