Nick Clegg spent 3 hours giving evidence at the Leveson this morning, an event covered, as ever, by the Guardian’s Live Blog.
I watched a fair amount of it. I know that as a Liberal Democrat blogger I’m more likely to be aware of my own party leader’s movements, but there was a moment of amusement as Labour MP Luciana Berger asked on Twitter why he wasn’t in his place at PMQs. Some might think she was making a cheap jibe about the Hunt vote. Anyway, when she was told where he was, rather than admit the mistake, she deleted her tweet. Never mind, though, I had already retweeted it.
— Caron Lindsay (@caronmlindsay) June 13, 2012
But back to Nick. I could never hope to get 3 hours into one little blog post, but here are my highlights:
“Good Governments aren’t swayed by vested interests”
He spoke about how it was the rightful role of the media in a free society to influence politics but that pressure was one thing, intimidation another. He said that politicians and the media should maintain a healthy scepticism of each other.
The point of good government is that you don’t allow yourself to be swayed by one vested interest or another
In terms of regulation, Speaking about regulation of the press, Nick was clear that there should be no legislation around separating fact and comment. He said that the Press Complaints Commission was a bit of a toothless tiger and that the phone hacking scandal had unveiled a failure of corporate governance on a quite significant scale. He was, however, clear that regulation should involve all newspapers and media, unlike the current system which Express newspapers are not part of. He also said there should be more statutory underpinning of the new press regulator.
The upstarts of the 2010 election
Nick’s view of the way his poll ratings soared in the 2010 election is interesting. He said that the widely watched television debates had a significant effect as people saw that he was new and saying different things from Labour and Tory. He felt that the press,who had ignored or derided us up until then now took notice at the upstarts and responded ferociously. He added that the Sun’s prediction, “Vote Clegg get Brown” was the worst political prediction ever, although he would defend the right of the press to be partial and political.
Tied up in nots
The funniest bit of Clegg’s evidence was almost solely of interest to Liberal Democrat members. He talked about how he was immensely proud of our open and deliberative policy making process. The only thing is that’s what he meant, and that’s what he’d written in his statement, but Robert Jay had to ask him to clarify his evidence because it sounded as if he had said he was “not” proud of it. It’s good to know thaNickt Nick has such respect for the democratic and sovereign will of Conference. I’m sure his words will be quoted back at him.
“Where the children sit”
Nick spoke about a dinner he’d had with Murdoch about 2 years after he became leader where he sat at the end of the table “where the children sit” but that he had had much less contact with editors and proprietors since he had been in Government. He has only ever once met the editor of the Daily Mail.
B Sky B
Nick said that he had an open mind about the bit but had the instinctive liberal concern about too much power in the hands of one company. He added that he would have an open mind about a trigger that would give an automatic referral to the Competition Commission.
He said that it was important to him that there was always some level of democratic accountability – taking powers away from politicians meant that representative democracy didn’t get the accountability required for difficult decisions.
He said that Norman Lamb had told him that he’d been threatened that the Liberal Democrats would get unfavourable treatment if they weren’t open to the bid. Nick’s reply was that he hadn’t been aware of us getting favourable treatment.
He denied reining in Chris Huhne - and apparently his former leadership rival has no recollection of that either.
He talked about the day the Vince Cable’s comments about Murdoch were revealed and, while he didn’t think Vince had committed a hanging offence, said that he didn’t think Ed Davey was the right person to pass the authority to. He questioned Jeremy Hunt’s objectivity but does not seem to have dug too deeply on is prior comments, taking Gus O’Donnell’s word that it was fine.
For the future, Nick said he thought it was wrong that a media company could grow and increase its market share but no action was taken by the Competition Commission. He said that thought should be given to an automatic trigger.
That’s the end of my brief summary, but if you are thirsting for more, you can read Nick Clegg’s full statement to the enquiry here.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings