WATCH: Christine Jardine’s speech supporting Leveson 2

Sadly, MPs narrowly rejected the chance to hold the media to account by completing the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry. Christine Jardine made a very powerful speech supporting the amendment for which she was attacked in The Sun, something we’re sure she’ll wear as a badge of honour. As a former journalist, she obviously enthusiastically supports a free press.

There is quite an amusing moment where she praises Ed Miliband and the camera cuts to him.

The text of the speech is below.

I rise to speak in support of new clause 18, which my friend the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) has so eloquently described. I would like to bring three words to the House’s attention: fairness, justice and honour. I say this not as a politician—although I hope that we would all hold those things in high regard—but because they were the things that originally attracted me to a career in journalism. That career involved challenging the establishment, questioning power and holding politicians, big business and powerful vested interests in the media to account. Standing here today, I do not believe that any good ethical journalist or publication in this country has anything to fear from revisiting the Leveson 2 inquiry. Indeed, I feel that they have much to gain.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster North talked about going with David Cameron and Nick Clegg to speak to the victims of hacking, and about the promise that was made to them. I respect the fact that this Parliament should not be held by promises made by another Parliament, but it would say a lot about this House if we were to hold to that promise. It would disappoint the public who are watching us today, hoping that we will live up to those standards of fairness, justice and honour, if we did not do so. That promise was about redressing the balance of power between the vested interests of the press and the ordinary public in this country. The ordinary public deserve the right of redress, and they deserve to have the confidence that everything has been done to safeguard their rights.

We have heard from the Secretary of State that time has moved on and that we live in a different culture, but the fact that we have moved on should not prevent us from learning the lessons of the past. If history teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that if we do not learn the lessons of the past, we will repeat our mistakes in the future. Today, we have an opportunity to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes that led to the hacking of phones, to the intrusion into the lives of innocent members of the public and to the hounding of people who were already suffering, such as the family of Madeleine McCann.

More than that, this is an opportunity to reassure members of the public who, as we have heard time and again over the past few years, feel detached from politics. They feel that we have somehow let them down and that we are not listening to them, but this is an opportunity to tell them that we are listening and that we hear their outrage at the way in which members of the public have been treated by the press—not all the press, but certain elements of it. I also understand the pressures on the press, as a former journalist and the wife of a journalist. I lived through my late husband’s employer announcing redundancies five years in a row, every year at Christmas. That is the reality of life in the modern media, but that is an economic pressure. It is not a pressure brought about by any ethical standard. It is the modern reality of the changes in technology that the industry is learning to deal with.

The Secretary of State said that we had moved on and that the culture had changed, but I would like to remind him of the Kerslake inquiry, and of the behaviour in Manchester that we have heard about. Unfortunately, the truth is that there are unethical individuals in every walk of life and in every profession. However, every other profession in this country—dentistry, medicine, ​the law—has a regulatory body that is underpinned by statute and that holds its members to a standard. Why should newspapers be exempt? I say that not as somebody who wants any restriction on freedom of the press; I believe that the fourth estate is a fundamental pillar of a free and democratic society. But it also has to be answerable, because freedom of the press should not mean freedom to intrude, to harass or to manufacture stories about individuals; it should mean freedom to be responsible and to be held to account, by the law and by the politicians who make the law.

Friends, the victims of the hacking scandal will be watching today to see whether we live up to the promise that was made to them by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North, by David Cameron and by Nick Clegg. I appeal to Members, please do not be found wanting.

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  • She will be the next Lib Dem leader.

  • Mick Taylor 12th May '18 - 8:43pm

    As excellent speech, Christine. Keep up the pressure.

  • Peter Hirst 18th May '18 - 9:32am

    Balancing the interests of public privacy and media freedom is always going to be challenging. The public interest cannot be interpreted as meaning intrusion into the lives of private individuals. Those who have opted for a public image should have rewards that reflect that their private lives are of public interest.

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