Tories round on Leveson after Gove revelations

Prominent Conservative MPs began to express public criticism of Lord Justice Leveson over the weekend after reports emerged of an attempt to gag Michael Gove for his criticism of the inquiry.

Lord Justice Leveson is said to have complained to Downing Street in February after the education secretary said the inquiry into media standards was having a "chilling effect" on freedom of speech.

"Lord Leveson says that he understands free speech yet he immediately objects as soon as someone exercises it," Tory MP and media committee member Philip Davies said.

"If this is his attitude to free speech then it doesn't bode well for his recommendations.

"If he is really this sensitive about criticism then he ought to move aside for someone else."

Fellow Tory MP Douglas Carswell commented: "An inquiry that was supposed to be a look at the free press instead seems to be telling us quite a lot about an arrogant judiciary.

"We seem to have put in charge a man who says he believes in free speech but doesn’t really seem to like the consequences of it."

The comments show an increasing willingness on the Tory right to criticise the Leveson inquiry in a manner which echoes attacks from sections of the right-wing press.

Mr Gove, who previously worked as a journalist and counts Rupert Murdoch as a personal friend, is arguably the most eloquent critic of the inquiry within the Conservative party.

Reports over the weekend suggested that Lord Justice Leveson called Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to complain about Mr Gove's February quote, although it is unclear whether he demanded the education secretary be gagged.

Shortly after the comment, Labour leader Ed Miliband demanded the prime minister distance himself from Mr Gove's statement, but David Cameron insisted his minister had made "an important point".