Friday, 30 November 2012

Predictably bonkers

Oh no, not again! First Dilnot. Now Leveson. Faced with a crisis, whether the cost of social care or the collapse of trust in journalism, David Cameron sets up a commission or an enquiry, under distinguished and extremely intelligent experts, who spend many months of intensive work of evidence-gathering and deliberation. They then come up with long reports with workable conclusions.

Then in Parliament the Prime Minister makes polite noises about the reports as he presents his verdict. But when it comes down to the nub of the matter he weaves and ducks. What a shame! In the case of Dilnot, the Government has been dithering about the limit of contribution towards social care that people should be expected to make. The suspicion of course is that HMG wants to set it higher than Dilnot's recommendation, to reduce its own perfectly affordable input. The effect of that would of course be to penalise those with modest savings, as they'd lose a larger proportion than those with fat-cat pensions.

And now with Leveson the plan is to present a bill to Parliament which, as the Culture Minister, Maria Miller, admitted to John Humphris on the Today programme, is designed to prove Lord Leveson's proposal unworkable. Unsurprisingly virtually all today's newspapers have been rubbishing the report. When you come to think of it, that's a pretty strong recommendation for it. They don't want to see their licence to kill reputations, privacy and even worse curtailed - and that is what they fear a more independent effective regulatory body might do. In Parliament time and again we heard the old canard that Lord Leveson was proposing state regulation of the press, the myth which that same press is very busy promulgating. It is clear that he is not. He is proposing that someone guards those who are keeping an eye on the guardians of our freedom.

Lady Helena Kennedy QC, the great champion of free speech, compared the Prime Minister's rejection of Leveson's central recommendation to a genuine Whitehall memo that followed the last enquiry into press standards by Sir David Calcutt 20 years ago. "We know we're not going to do anything. We can't say we're not going to do anything, so we have to say something that covers up the fact that we're not going to do anything." As she said, it could have been a line out of Yes, Minister. The tragic thing is that "not anything" means nothing for people like the Dowlers and the McCanns. David Cameron assured such victims that he would ensure the implementation of Lord Leveson's proposals "unless they were completely bonkers". Apparently he reckons they are. Most of us know they're not, and wonder whether our politicians have learned anything from the past few years.

Why the picture at the top of this piece? Well, you know what they say about kicking things into the long grass... One way we can try to prevent this happening to the Leveson report is signing the petition launched today by Gerry McCann and Chris Jefferies, the traduced teacher from Bristol:

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