Are there conflicts of interest in the Leveson response?
Author: Zoe Stavri
Published on Nov 28, 2012
In the run-up to tomorrow’s publication of the Leveson report, a group of 86 MPs and peers have written to the Guardian and Telegraph positioning themselves against any statutory regulation and suggesting a restructure of the self-regulatory system. This is in the face of 79% of the public who are in support of statutory regulation of the press by an independent regulator.
Beneath the surface of this letter may lie conflicts of interest. John Prescott points out one possible person who may be being influenced by powerful media moguls who are against statutory regulation: David Blunkett:
On top of his job as a backbench MP, Blunkett has another role advising News International on “social responsibility”. In exchange for his services, News International are paying Blunkett £49, 500 for 14 days’ work. In the past, Blunkett has also written a column for The Sun, a News International publication.
Fundamentally, this incident reminds us that the debate over press behaviour is as much about lobbying transparency as media standards.
The truth is, we don’t know, and we can’t know how many MPs and peers have been influenced: on either side. While the register of interests may cover some of this, we don’t know the extent of meetings taking place behind closed doors. Have some of these MPs and peers been lobbied by those who are against regulation? Without this information available as a matter of course, we cannot know.
It’s times like this that the need for transparency becomes urgent. This is information we need to know, and without it, it is difficult to trust our politicians and easy to assume the worst. They need to trust us to make up our own minds about their dealings, and in return we may be more able to trust them.