The least worst option for Labour could be to stand up for the victims and resist David Cameron's suffocating embrace - even if that means going back to the drawing board and starting over together with the Lib Dems.
Nigel Warner is an associate Fellow of the IPPR and author of Life after Leveson: The Challenge to Strengthen Britain’s Diverse and Vibrant Media
Ever since Labour decided to step away from a purist position on implementing the Leveson Report in order to engage in cross party negotiations, it has been playing a dangerous game.
Not that the Labour leadership had much choice. The Leveson Report itself came out somewhat undercooked, and when the promise of a workable compromise on better press regulation is on the table, after years of inaction, who would want to be the party to wreck it?
But now David Cameron has brought the issue to a head – seemingly for political reasons, as the issues of substance between the parties appeared to narrowing.
Labour must now decide whether to continue to argue for a consensus around a set of proposals involving a Royal Charter (with a bit of statute to protect it from ministerial meddling), or risk a long war of attrition with the press, as well as the possibility that nothing will come at the end of it.
Does Labour really want to go into the next election talking about press reform? Media regulation is an important issue, as I argued in a recent IPPR report, but it is unlikely to be at the top of most voters’ priorities. It doesn’t take too much imagination either to see how the antipathy of the major media owners to Labour’s position on Leveson could well affect editorial attitudes to the party overall.
However, should Labour take the deal David Cameron is offering, with the airwaves filled with the unhappy, and well-known cast of the Hacked Off campaign, then the political class will once again look to the outside world as if it is putting its own interests before the general good.
The mood of ‘a plague on all your houses’ that overshadowed the Eastleigh by election – to UKIP’s benefit – will only grow more pervasive.Who loses most in that atmosphere? Labour of course, as the party that believes more than any other that government and politics can be a force for good, helping the economy to grow and building a better and fairer society.
An anti-politics mood is generally bad for Labour.
The least worst option for Labour (and let’s face it no current option is great) could well be to stand up for the victims and resist David Cameron’s suffocating embrace – even if that means going back to the drawing board and starting over together with the Lib Dems (assuming Nick Clegg doesn’t cave in to his coalition partner over the weekend).
The two parties can then bring forward a set of proposals consistent with the Leveson recommendations, and throw back the challenge to David Cameron and the Conservatives to reject them.
Arguably this is what Labour should have been doing all along. But politics, and especially opposition politics, it’s rarely that straightforward.
Left Foot Forward will have more on Leveson later today