Theresa May & Michael Gove at Leveson as-it-happened
09:57 – Morning, it's the start of the ministers. We've got statuesque home secretary Theresa May and weird-faced education secretary Michael Gove at Leveson today. I'm not entirely sure why May is appearing, frankly. She hasn't really come up – and she's definitely come up less that George Osborne, who has yet to be called. Gove, on the other hand has been a leader writer for the Times and is close friends with Rupert Murdoch. Kickoff is… well anytime now really.
10:03 – Theresa May enters, wearing a black jacket and a colourful, almost hippy-ish scarf. She is confident and composed, as you would expect of a minister. Jay runs through her career and starts asking about her management of policing.
10:05 – Jay is asking about the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), basically the coppers' equivalent of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) as you probably already guessed. The IPCC suffers from many of the PR difficulties of its journalist equivalent, in that it is staffed by the police themselves. It has shown considerably more teeth than the PCC though. May suggests the decision to spark an IPCC investigation is based on public outcry or general concern.
10:09 – Leveson asks how that "gels" with the Mayor's responsibilities. The Met general constitute the battleground where the mayor and the home secretary grab for power. May explains in overly-technical arguments which muddy the central reality of her perpetual battle with Boris. Guardian reporter Amelia Hill has been spared any legal action for her coverage of Operation Weeting and police failures. She's also been cleared of Data Protection Act breach by working in public interest. The Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) also cleared the police officer who handed her information, saying there was no evidence he was paid for the leaks and that the information did not compromise investigation.
10:13 – Here's the full CPS ruling: "Statement from Alison Levitt QC, Principal Legal Advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions: On the 2 April 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service received a file of evidence from the Metropolitan Police Service requesting charging advice in relation to two suspects. The first is a serving Metropolitan Police Officer in the Operation Weeting team whose name is not in the public domain. He is currently suspended. The second suspect is Amelia Hill, a journalist who writes for The Guardian newspaper. The allegation is that the police officer passed confidential information about phone hacking cases to the journalist. All the evidence has now carefully been considered and I have decided that neither the police officer nor the journalist should face a prosecution. The following paragraphs explain the reasons for my decision. It is important to bear in mind that the question I have addressed is whether there is enough evidence resulting from the investigation to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and whether a prosecution is required in the public interest. Those are the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. It is not my function to make findings of fact and I have not done so. Both the police officer and Ms. Hill are entitled to be presumed innocent and that is the basis upon which I have approached this case. In reaching my decision, I have applied the Interim Guidelines on assessing the public interest in cases affecting the media, which were recently published by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The suspects have been considered separately, as different considerations arise in relation to each of them. Between 4 April 2011 and 18 August 2011, Ms. Hill wrote ten articles which were published in The Guardian. I am satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to establish that these articles contained confidential information derived from Operation Weeting, including the names of those who had been arrested. I am also satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to establish that the police officer disclosed that information to Ms Hill. I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence against either suspect to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for the common law offence of misconduct in a public office or conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. In this case, there is no evidence that the police officer was paid any money for the information he provided. Moreover, the information disclosed by the police officer, although confidential, was not highly sensitive. It did not expose anyone to a risk of injury or death. It did not compromise the investigation. And the information in question would probably have made it into the public domain by some other means, albeit at some later stage. In those circumstances, I have concluded that there is no realistic prospect of a conviction in the police officer's case because his alleged conduct is not capable of reaching the high threshold necessary to make out the criminal offence of misconduct in public office. It follows that there is equally no realistic prospect of a conviction against Ms. Hill for aiding and abetting the police officer's conduct. However, the information disclosed was personal data within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998 and I am satisfied that there is arguably sufficient evidence to charge both the police officer and Ms. Hill with offences under section 55 of that Act, even when the available defences are taken into account. I have therefore gone on to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest. There are finely balanced arguments tending both in favour of and against prosecution. Journalists and those who interact with them have no special status under the law and thus the public interest factors have to be considered on a case by case basis in the same way as any other. However, in cases affecting the media, the DPP's Interim Guidelines require prosecutors to consider whether the public interest served by the conduct in question outweighs the overall criminality alleged. So far as Ms Hill is concerned, the public interest served by her alleged conduct was that she was working with other journalists on a series of articles which, taken together, were capable of disclosing the commission of criminal offences, were intended to hold others to account, including the Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service, and were capable of raising and contributing to an important matter of public debate, namely the nature and extent of the influence of the media. The alleged overall criminality is the breach of the Data Protection Act, but, as already noted, any damage caused by Ms. Hill's alleged disclosure was minimal. In the circumstances, I have decided that in her case, the public interest outweighs the overall criminality alleged. Different considerations apply to the police officer. As a serving police officer, any claim that there is a public interest in his alleged conduct carries considerably less weight than that of Ms Hill. However, there are other important factors tending against prosecution, including as already noted, the fact that no payment was sought or received, and that the disclosure did not compromise the investigation. Moreover, disclosing the identity of those who are arrested is not, of itself, a criminal offence. It is only unlawful in this case because the disclosure also breached the Data Protection Act. In the circumstances, I have decided that a criminal prosecution is not needed against either Ms. Hill or the police officer. However, in light of my conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of convicting the police officer for an offence under the Data Protection Act, I have written to the Metropolitan Police Service and to the IPCC recommending that they consider bringing disciplinary proceedings against him."
10:15 – Jay is asking about the rules around freebies to the police, specifically the Acpo guidance on gifsts and hospitality. Sir Paul Stephenson, Met commissioner, enjoyed a five-week stay at a luxurious health centre for free via former deputy News of the World editor Neil Wallis. he eventually resigned over it.
10:20 – Acpo is doing more work on its guidance in a bid to find more "consistency", she says. There is a general understanding not to take gifts or hospitalities except of a "more trivial nature". Jay says this is about avoiding the perception of a cosy relationship. May: "The police officer should not put themselves in a position where people might feel they were being influenced." It's always perception, isn't it? The great get out clause of resignations. Adam Smith, Jeremy Hunt's special adviser, was it last week, saying he quit because it looked bad, not because he did anything wrong. Sir Paul did much the same.
10:22 – May says meetings with journalists should be noted down. Leveson says it's important that "appropriate contact" should not be prevented. Worryingly his examples of this highlight only positive police stories – neighbourhood policing, "good news stories".
10:25 – May says the new framework should not have a chilling effect and will hopefully allow "commons sense" in the relationship. Not much meat there, it could mean anything. Jay goes back to May's statement. He says she occupied office in May 2010. The New York Times piece came out September that year – the first time it came across her radar. She answered a question from Tom Watson in the Commons. She was aided by a speaking note which is in the inquiry bundle. The note is put together by officials to aide the minister. Jay asks if she read the piece. She said she saw reports of it, but didn't read it. "Did you think it appropriate to ask for the whole document? She says she though t it was appropriate to look into it. Jay says it was very detailed and well researched, so why didn't she look into it. May says it was for the police to decide whether to re-open the investigation.
10:31 – The article suggested more evidence was available so the Met looked into it and asked for any more information behind it. The New York Times, by the way, just like the Guardian, told the police the evidence was already in their possession – they just had to look at it. At this stage there was no question of the IPCC being brought in. Jay presses her, suggesting the strength of public and parliamentary feeling was enough. She says it was enough for the police to be investigating. "I think it's important for the police to do their investigation," she relies.
10:34 – During the debate Tom Watson said there was new evidence. "Wasn't the position already being reached there was a cogent body of evidence this issue was worthy of further consideration," Jay says. May insists this was about the police deciding whether there was new evidence. "It's for them, not the home secretary to decide," she says. Jay quotes Watson again. May is getting more uncomfortable. He mentioned 2007 phone-hacks and how many people had been informed. "Wasn't that an issue of sufficient moment?" Jay presses. May repeats her response. Jay: "It's clear reading the debate the issue had become highly politicised." Labour wanted more consideration, Tories backed her. "The objective merits get lost in the political debate," he says. May: "Debates in the Commons will always have political aspects to them. The job I have is to look at the facts and make a decision based on that." She is increasingly defensive, hugging the dossier she is reading from like a drowning man.
10:40 – the next document in the list was to prepare her for an appearance at a select committee. The director of public prosecutions thought there were no charges to bring (but then the evidence hadn't been handed over – he was relying on "further evidence" too). Leveson tells May everyone interviewed in the New York Times piece was interviewed under caution and therefore most of them didn't talk much. May answers simple: "I was aware no further information came from those interviews." Jay reads from a document suggesting she had been reassured the phone hacking issue "had been under control". He highlights the discrepancy between the DPP and the Met on what hacking was – whether you needed to access the messages before the recipient, or whether that didn't matter. Jay makes clear she didn't mislead parliament because she only knew what she had been told. "But did it not affect your thinking?" he asks. May says nothing really, she just goes over the story again, saying the definition of phone-hacking had changed, but by then a new investigation had been opened.
10:46 – We're on an urgent briefing note. Lord Fowler had asked a question. The document reveals that broader ideas about legislation might now have been crystallising in the Home Office. Godwin and Yates at Scotland Yard were not starting to come into the firing line. "Was there not a potential for a national security issue here?" Jay asks. At least one Cabinet minister had been hacked into. This was May's responsibility. May says no, because they were not secure mobile phones so there shouldn't have been national security information on them. Jay suggests there could be and May again says there shouldn't be.
10:52 – We're now on demands for an independent inquiry, made in March. A Home Office official said no further action was required as a number of investigations were ongoing. "Was that a conclusion you saw at the time?" More questions to parliament are read out in court, this time in relation to John Prescott when he was deputy prime minister. May sticks religiously to the book. Each answer just repeats what has been read from the documents before her. "This issue is effectively being parked isn't it Ms May," Jay says. May describes it in operational terms ("further investigations were ongoing by the police" etc). Jay persists: "The issue is being parked, isn't it?" May says the response says there's an investigation. They're just repeating themselves. Jay asks how this was related to Andy Coulson's resignation. "Not at all as far as I'm concerned," May says.
10:58 – Damingly, Jay reads from an internal document saying the PCC was an "effective regulator". He glances at Leveson. May defends "a free press", which is not controversial. She then says there has been concern "for some time" about the role of the PCC. Leveson says he has been asked to solve the problem so it's odd to ask her her own views, but he says it would be valuable if she has them. Frankly, it would be remarkable if she had anything to say at all. She is deploying as many evasive political skills as possible – answering truisms she hasn't been asked, sticking to process. Her record is not good – she failed to see the size of the scandal and was part of the government machinery which failed to address it. In that she is not different to pretty much all of her colleagues.
11:04 – Another document says the phone-hacking issue is raising more and more public and parliamentary interest. We're now on June 23rd. This is on advice from Watson to Sue Akers, the police officer who took over the investigation. There is a reference to destruction of evidence. The document asked her to note advice and not respond to Watson. Jay says the reason for noting and not responding was that the letter explicitly refers to allegations, not hard evidence.
11:12 – Between the 5th and 11th of July the landscape was shifting in relation to the PCC as views hardened. "There had been growing concern for some time in relation to the PCC," she says. We're now on July 14th. There is anger over Met links with Chamy Media, Wallis' PR company, which forced Dick Fedorcio to resign. At this stage the contract was sent to Leveson to be addressed. Four days later, May makes an announcement on investigating corruption in the police. Why was she exercising the power now precisely. "I had seen taking place a growing number of examples raising questions of police integrity. What I saw unfolding… we were reaching the point where some action needed to be taken to address the integrity issue."
11:18 – Jay reads from a document suggesting Stephenson might argue he couldn't tell the PM about his relationship with Wallis because it would have embarrassed David Cameron due to his relationship with Coulson. May says she's in no position to say "what Sir Paul might or might not have felt. It was wrong if he felt he couldn't talk to me about these matters. I had made clear the police must be able to investigate without fear or favour and follow the investigation where it leads." She says she can't recall a conversation with Sir Paul where he said he couldn't tell the PM because of Coulson. May says the document was about a potential question, not an actual one, as is common when preparing for a Commons appearance. Leveson says he knows of no evidence Sir Paul said that. Jay agrees. Not much movement here.
11:24 – Leveson takes a break, so will I. Back in five.
11:35 – We're back.
11:36 – May was then reassured by Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) Denis O'Connor that most police were not accepting bribes for information etc. "Deliberate malpractice infrequent and not widespread" she was told. The full report came was published in December last year, but May says she would have seen it in draft beforehand. May suggests an April 2012 timetable for changes to Acpo. Jay asks if she wants to add anything to the HMIC report. She says it was fine, the need was for greater consistency and Acpo should take the lead. Now Jay moves on to the IPCC.
11:42 – The report in question was published May 24th and has just been added to the Leveson inquiry documents. "In the flurry which constituted last night I haven't read it. We'll have to look at it together Mrs May," he says.
11:44 – It's fairly dry. The report calls for greater consistency between forces on reporting allegations of corruption. The experience of watching Jay and May read the report together is not an entirely satisfying one. Jay asks if this is really just about the Met. May says it's a general issue, even if the trigger was at the Met. That's why Acpo issued its new guidance. May says Acpo admit they may revisit their report based on the outcome of the inquiry. The police, just like everyone else, are waiting for Leveson's judgement before they know the new status quo.
11:51 – May has a good reputation in parliament, mostly because she has survived two years as home secretary – a feat previously thought impossible. She has shown how she survives this morning: by being extremely tedious. There is nothing of note in her testimony. She would never be the type of minister far-sighted enough to have reacted pro-actively to the phone-hacking scandal, but once it broke she did the standard things and got the standard response in the reports. She relies on process and parliamentary language, she makes statements such as "I believe in a free press" as if they were worthy of note and she maintains a base-level competency throughout. It's been remarkably tiresome, I must say. Maybe Gove will lighten things up.
12:05 – I'm afraid my internet messed up for a moment and I lost an update on May's feelings about Sir Paul's resignation. She praised his work at Scotland Yard and said she was surprised by his resignation. However, she couldn't do anything about it because the letter was already on its way to the Queen.
12:06 – Looking at the police relationship with the media from the government point of view, a "proper framework" is needed. People had assumed integrity, but that may have been over-optimistic. May says the aim of creating elected police commissioners is to introduce “democratic accountability at local police level".
12:11 – "Politicians listen to the public through a variety of forms, the media is one of those forms," she says. Jay suggests that sees the media equally powerful to any other lobby group, but they are more powerful than that. "I see that's an argument some have put forward," May says. She repeats her previous point, which is ultimately the simplistic one that the media is just an intermediary between public and power. Jay suggests proprietor and editor power complicates her vision. May says the owners do have a view but they pick up public views through emails. "Which comes first is a question I cannot answer."
12:28 – May says she worries about the law of unintended consequences with regulation of the press. How long until the body regulates content. Section 3-1 of the constitutional reform act which secures independent judges, could have a free expression section added to it. "I can see it would be possible to put such a backing in place," May says. Leveson says: "Regulation that is voluntary and not seen as effective is not really regulation of any sort."
12:34 – May turns down the offer of expressing her views more fully, saying it would be inappropriate. Jay presses her on unintended consequences. She's already said such an act could be amended by a future government to trample on free speech. Are there any other unintended consequences? "Any solution found for individuals or groups to have greater confidence to question or raise complaints in the press about them must be balanced to make sure in doing that it doesn't get in the way of the freedom of the press," she says. You see what I mean? She says very little of consequence.
12:43 – And with that, we break for lunch. Back at 2pm, where, let us pray, Michael Gove offers us something more heartening.
14:00 – We're back. Leveson goes back to the intrusion yesterday. The inquiry is already complete. Appropriate measures t prevent any risk of repetition have been adopted. He has referred it to the director of public prosecutions. Gove comes in and swears on the Bible, although possibly not the one he wants sent to every school.
14:06 – Gove has a posher, deeper voice than he does in the Commons. Those mics are doing him a bunch of favours. He is also more relaxed and breezy than May. He says the relationship between journalists and politicians is "nuanced and multilayered". It's not purely transactional, sometime politicos understand journalists' pressures and visa-versa. The relationship is not poisonous and we're not even close to that yet. He does admit there are "elements that can be a little rough edged". Some politicos and hacks develop a close relationship which isn't "altogether in the public interest".
14:09 – Gove says some journalists will "respect confidences, others will play fast and loose with them". He questions Mandelson's testimony, saying comment and news have been intertwined since before the 1930s. Leveson: "What does that make of" the press code? Gove says editorials and comment pieces are obvious. But other colourful features, even of a cultural event, will obviously be framed by the journalist's experience. You rely on the intelligence of the reader. Leveson suggests that means the code must be altered. "It relies on discriminating readers… who can tell the difference between newspapers they trust over time". Leveson asks his question again. Gove: "I think it's an ideal."
14:13 – Gove: "Spin is a term that's been interpreted in many different ways" – it could be an interpretation or it could be playing fast and loose. "We've been spin doctors since the Roman Republic."
14:15 – The techniques change, but the principle of propagandists is a historical continuity since politics emerged, Gove says. Jay: "I think it's clear from your evidence already that you're asking us to tone down characterisation of toxic relationship."
14:17 – For about a decade Gove was leader writer of the Times. Jay asks if there was any editorial influence on his leaders. "None," Gove says. The influence came from the editor. He would convene a leader conference after the editorial conference. They decided what the most important stories were and what the Times' view should be.
14:20 – Gove suggests these leader views only came to these individuals "after a great deal of thought" and it was all their own. Seems unbelievable, frankly. Leveson asks if Gove was surprised when Murdoch said you would know his view by the editorial of the Sun. Gove says no, the Sun always reflected Murdoch's worldview, the Times is a different beast. Someone has just suggested he is like Niles Cranes from Fraser and that is absolutely 100% what he sounds like. "The Socialist Worker and the Morning Star are available on the news stands, they have sporting and literary coverage, but they sell rather less than the Sun or the Mail."
14:25 – Christ, Gove suddenly goes overboard. He says Murdoch "is one of the most impressive figures of the last 50 years". He says the Wapping move changed the media landscape and he has created thousands of jobs. "It's often the case successful people invite criticism. There are other who are only too happy to criticise and they are only too happy to do so. Gove also calls him a "force of nature" and a "great man".
14:28 – The education secretary is proving a much more engaging witness than May. he says he didn't actually talk to colleagues about BSkyB but they could "legitimately infer what my view would be". Ja starts listing his social engagements – the Rothermere clan and all that. You know, just like your friends. he also had lunch with the Guardian clan. He seems to have met people from every newspaper, including Richard Desmond and Lebedev, the owner of the Standard and the Indie.
14:31 – Just weeks after the coalition was formed Gove went to Murdoch's flat in ST James, where Rebekah Brooks was, and then they all chatted about politics. The discussion touched on education. Later that year, there was another social occasion. Six of them – he, his wife, Brooks and partners, and another couple. They chatted mutual acquaintances, some politics. Jay: "It's clear you have a fairly sound recollection of these events." Gove says his private office helped.
14:34 – We discuss a board discussion/political debate again. He was there for a tiny part of the occasion. "It was a staged interview" with Daniel Finklestine of the Times. He is asked when he learned of the bid. He can't remember. "I did not give it any particular attention," he says. Jay: "Do you believe you were told of the bid before it was formally launched." Gove: "I don't believe I did, no."
14:38 – We rattle through a few more events – lectures, concerts at the O2, etc. "It wasn't the kind of atmosphere or discussion that was conducive to a business discussion." He won't be moved on the BSkyB stuff.
14:40 – He does remember chatting with her about Coulson. He was a mutual friend. "We had degree of human sympathy that he had had to resign twice". He really does have the most ridiculous face. Gove rattles through a few more meetings.
14:42 – Leveson interjects. "As a former journalist who is married to a journalist it is not in the least bit surprising a large number of your friends are journalists. Have you found it necessary to erect a Chinese wall" between normal human interaction and the business side of what h now does for a living. He says he used his judgement. "I have to be very careful natural human interaction, friendship and regard does not put me in the position that would embarrass the government." Leveson asks if those common sense rules are always shared by others. Gove says he won't "sit in judgement on others". Leveson says he doesn't want names. Gove says his common sense rules should be applied by any politicians.
14:47 – Why are journalists and politicians so hated? Leveson asks. "T'was ever thus," Gove says. "Journalism has always been a rough old trade which attracted non-conformists and rebels." Gove starts talking Latin – no joke.
14:49 – Jay tells Gove he has a rather "jaundiced" view of human nature. Paul Dacre is one "of the most impressive editors of our age" Gove says.
14:50 – Successful journalism is about intellectual consistency, Gove says. Jay suggests that argument is about the market. "Surely it doesn't work quite as simply as that," he adds. He comes back to the style point – it's the style and consistency. It's not the market – some of the most influential writers to politicians are writing for small publications.
14:54 – Gove praises Horatio Bottomley, founder of the FT. Then we're back to Stanley Baldwin and the campaign for empire free trade. It's not unlike a Boris performance. it really is very entertaining stuff. Leveson asks about disproportionate media influence on politicians. "If a wealthy individual has a newspaper that might be another reason to be polite," Gove says. "There are politicians who spend to much time worrying about newspapers," he admits.
14:58 – I can barely quotes what he's saying. He literally just used the word "insouciance". Jay allows him to bang on about academy status/ free schools for a while.
15:01 – Jay asks about News International funding one of his free schools. Gove had a meeting with James Murdoch, Brooks, Will Lewis, James Harding, Mayor and others in November 2010. The Newham plans never got beyond the preliminary discussions. Jay asks if he saw it in his role to facilitate the provision of funding. He says he did everything possible so "the children of the east end could benefit" but he couldn't lean on anyone. By early 2011 the project fell through. Around the same time the chancellor of the New York city of education came to give a speech at a conference designed to encourage people to fund free schools. But the chancellor then suddenly joined the board of News Corp. Gove says it's unsurprising he was in demand, he was very knowledgeable on education.
15:07 – Jay asks if this really was philanthropy. It was thought the school would only thrive if there was profit at some time in the future. Gove says "a number of people" think that. He thinks these schools can survive without profit. I would suggest he clearly feels the same way but it's impossible politically to say that. He also suggests some people in the coalition (lib Dems presumably) are suspicious of profit. His only test is if it improves education. Jay asks if they wanted to introduce profits in the second term of a Tory government. Gove says "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it".
15:10 – I'm not entirely sure, but I think that was an accidental admission by Gove. I don't think he's ever said free schools could make a profit in the second term.
15:12 – OK Leveson takes a break and so will I. Back in five.
15:23 – And we're back.
15:24 – Gove is talking about a recent press gallery lunch, when he gave the speech. He ended up being rather supportive of Murdoch and news of the World and against the Leveson inquiry. He may suffer for that now. Jay asks what his analysis of the problem is. Just that the problem is of a lower order of magnitude? How serious is it? Gove: "the revelations [of phone-hacking] are disturbing. There is evidence the practise went beyond those already convicted and that raises undeniable concerns. The question is 'are existing laws sufficient'?"
15:28 – Is it potentially serious, Jay asks. Gove says yes but his point was: "Might the cure be worse than the disease." Jay asks if he's against all regulation. Gove says we should use the existing laws of the land. Leveson tries to interrupt. "The case for regulation needs to be used very firmly before we curtail liberty," Gove says. Leveson interjects on this point. He always does by the way – a sure sign he is unconvinced by the idea that all that needs to happen is that current laws are applied. he says we can't rely on policy having time. You need to do what you do with other laws – make them so public follow without policing.
15:34 – Leveson getting into it with Gove. It's not about prior restraint, it's about paying attention to standards. Gove objects. "If it's the case they should obey the law but the burden of proof is on those who regulate."
15:35 – "Mr Gove I don; t need to be told about the importance of free speech – I really don't," Leveson says. he is concerned that Gove is taking the view that behaviour "everyone in this inquiry so far has said is unacceptable" has to be accepted because of free speech.
15:37 – Gove says social humiliation etc can be used as punishment. Leveson says the behaviour discussed is more than just "some people being offended". Gove says the question remains how to top deplorable behaviour. People reach for regulation to deal with failure of morality, but "the case for liberty needs to be supported as well." This is getting very tense. "Leveson: "I have made my point about liberty and I'm not going to repeat myself." He says these concerns about the press have been raised for 50 years. And here we are again.
15:39 – Would Gove really discard that concern? Gove says no, but one must ask if the regulation is proportionate. "I'm unashamedly on the side of those who think we must think carefully. The cry 'something must be done' isn't always wise." Leveson: "Believe me, I am thinking very carefully."
15:41 – Gove admits the current situation "is not ideal… there have been abuses". Often we have met crisis with an inquiry, then the recommendations, subsequent regulation, and gold plated legislation – a cure worse than the disease. Leveson eases up a bit. He says he wants to make sure the view was "openly discussed by the inquiry". He says bureaucracy is unsatisfactory and laws don't always solve problems. But if a regime is in place there has to be a structure – not directed at content – that allows those who complain their liberties are interfered with to obtain redress.
15:45 – Jay says that's as far as we can take this. "You're expressing a cautionary view and that's that." Leveson wants more fight. "I think we can take it a little bit further."
15:50 – Leveson starts discussing redress. Gove says it's fair but devil is in the detail. Wouldn't all titles have to be signed up for it. Gove says they should hold themselves publicly to a high standard – hard to tell what he means by that. Leveson says the statutory regulations would permit enforceable decisions to be made in a non-court setting. Gove says he can see the merit but raises objections. We're into the less heated, more typical Leveson interjections now.
15:56 – Gove says 'buccaneers' like the Private Eye would not want to be part of Leveson's cheap redress system. "It's undeniable that those who take a libertarian view would be sceptical," he said. Gove suggests the law would punish those who chose not to enter the voluntary system of regulation. Leveson: "Those who chose not to take advantage of the [cheap redress system]" would have to pay the consequences. Gove: "Sensible to whom? It's an interesting idea but I can see some dangers and those would be the creation of a club of which you have to be a member if you are not to face more serious punishment in the courts." Leveson: "More serious costs, obviously." Gove says this comes down to our libel law. People can't afford to bring actions and at the same time the wealthy can shut people up.
16:01 – Leveson suddenly gets bored. "Well, we'll have to see." Gove finishes by saying he is not arguing about end-states. He just feels case for liberty must be debated as well. It irritates Leveson "That's precisely why I was keen you had the chance to develop your thoughts in the same forum as everyone else." Gove, like ice: "I'm very grateful for the invitation."
16:03 – And with that the session ends. Gove did partly make up for the tediousness of May, I must say. The Tory bloggers are going nuts online right now, proclaiming him the next great leader of the party. OK, I'll see you tomorrow when it's Ken Clarke and……. drum roll…. Vince Cable. Let's see just how smug a man can get.