History shows us that this is a repetitive problem. In their pursuit of sensational stories, in order to sell more copies, editors and journalists eventually go too far, their behaviour sinks so low that there is a scandal, and action is taken to restore the rule of law and acceptable standards. The system works but at a terrible price including many individuals whose lives are ruined.
The challenge issued by Leveson is to improve the system, to introduce an innovation that retains the integrity of the press and yet provides the protection of the law to individuals.
His recommendations are clear, there should be no restrictions on the freedom of the press. It must be up to editors on a daily basis to decide what can be justified within the law. Editors should be guided in their judgement by their own voluntary code of self-regulation which should also in the first instance consider any complaints by members of the public.
The issue is: what is to be done when that is not enough ,because manifest injustice is being done? Some means of protection and redress must be afforded those who have their rights horrendously and mistakenly abused.
This is the legal ‘under-pinning’ to which Leveson refers. David Cameron’s response is clearly one of naked self-interest as he tries to retain favour with the press. It needs the Liberal Democrats to show that a legal framework is possible.
I believe we need to look at the twin issues of law enforcement and redress for the ordinary citizen. These are the problems, access to justice and enforcement of existing law. If we focus on the victims rather than attacking the media then we will be on firm ground. Neither we, nor Leveson, are attacking the freedom of the press. We merely wish to hold them to account too if they wantonly disregard the law in their pursuit of profit.
Nick Clegg’s response to the report was excellent. This is a key issue on which we can show the difference in values and concerns between ourselves and the Tories.
I hope that the party is actively working with Labour and Hacked Off to produce an alternative draft of legislation to be enacted. If the Prime Minister will not bring it before the house then let us have this as an election issue.
* Mike Biden is an Executive ordinary member in Winchester. A lifelong supporter of the Liberals, he has become an activist since his retirement. His career saw him in senior corporate positions in Sales & Marketing and as a Chief Executive.