An initial statement by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency on the Leveson report
29 Nov 2012
Lord Leveson was never going to uncover a ‘deal’ between the government and News International over the BSkyB bid. That is not how lobbying works.
What The Leveson Report does show however, in forensic detail, is the discrete and sustained lobbying campaign undertaken by NI through a deliberate network of personal relationships, what the report describes as the “serious hidden problem” of NI’s lobbying, “where the informal, ‘off-record’ and ‘personal’ is seen as an obvious and effective means of conducting lobbying”.
Leveson clearly states: “There is of course no evidence at all of explicit, covert deals between senior politicians and newspaper proprietors or editors; no-one should seriously have expected that there would be. These very powerful relationships are more subtle than that…. But there can be no doubt that within these relationships… there have been exchanges of influence on matters of public policy which have given rise to legitimate questions about the confidence the public can have that they have been conducted scrupulously in the public interest.
“The pattern which emerges is one in which senior press / political relationships have been too close to give sufficient grounds for confidence that fear or favour have not been operative factors in the determination and implementation of policy.”
David Cameron’s claim that Leveson “rejects the allegation emphatically” that his party struck a deal with News International is a highly selective reading of the report, and one that was immediately spun by the government.
The Prime Minister must acknowledge these very clear and legitimate concerns expressed in the report: that powerful relationships between politicians and the private interests of the press can trump the public interest.
Two and a half years have passed since his government promised to bring some transparency to lobbying, through a simple register of lobbyists. Let’s hope that Leveson doesn’t have to wait quite so long to see some reform of the press.