The following is a guest post by the Rev Dr Peter Mullen, Hon. Chaplain of The Freedom Association.
As all socialists do, the Labour party was aiming to curtail the freedom of the press in yesterday’s debate about what has become known as “Leveson Mark II.” Under new proposals, newspapers would have been legally obliged to pay the costs of mischievous litigants – even when the court had found against them. Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, was the man all set formally to propose these new strictures on the press. Can you imagine the results if members of The House of Commons had passed this iniquitous Bill? Rogues, scoundrels, anyone with a vested interest or crudely on the make or to settle personal scores would have been able to make all manner of false claims – that is to lie to the court – and yet still have his costs paid after the court had judged he was telling lies
Yesterday’s vote was a damn close run thing which the government won with a majority of only nine.
If the government had lost, the law of the land would have institutionalised perjury and financially rewarded the telling of lies.
Of course, we would have expected the Labour party to vote for this iniquitous motion nonetheless. But it was disappointing, if not entirely surprising, to note that five Conservative rebels voted with Labour: Crispin Blunt, Peter Bone, Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Philip Hollobone.
I shall remember those names.
The DUP voted with the government and saved the day
So what was Ed Miliband’s tantrum all about? He told ministers that their decision to axe Leveson had been "contemptible" and it was a "matter of honour about the promises we made" to the victims of phone hacking, saying the then Prime Minister David Cameron had pledged in 2012 to launch the second part of the inquiry, Leveson Mark II. That was when Mr Rees-Mogg applied the poultice and quietly reminded the feverish Red Ed that today’s ministers are not bound by the policies and intentions of their predecessors. If they were so bound, any political change involving statutory process would have been rendered impossible: in other words, the abolition of practical politics
There were pleasing reactions outside the House. It’s always a delight to see the sanctimonious self-regarding luvvies in Hacked Off – John Cleese and Hugh Grant for instance – being sent away with a flea in their ear. Hacked Off actually backed the new draconian legislation which was being proposed. They claim that the vote "was not the end" and the "fight goes on in Parliament and the courts."
Oh here you are, John and Hugh – you can borrow my hankie!
Meanwhile, the News Media Association, which represents local and national newspapers, said the freedom of the press had won the day in the face of "dangerous anti-media" proposals. Had the proposals become law, local newspapers would have been wiped out by their having to pay the costs of thousands of lying litigants.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said the proposed new legislation would have made it "near impossible" to uncover stories of abuse, and he highlighted the work of The Times' chief investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk, who uncovered the Rotherham child abuse scandal.
Yesterday’s vote was a victory for truth. We should never forget this. For it is the truth that makes us free.
All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.