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January 14, 2013

Blackhurst: Politicians would use statute to ‘wreak their revenge’ on journalists

By PA Mediapoint

A national newspaper editor has warned that any legislation on press regulation introduced as a result of the Leveson Inquiry would be used by MPs and peers as an opportunity to "wreak their revenge" on journalists.
Chris Blackhurst, editor of The Independent, also claimed that Liberal Democrats were wavering in their support of a Leveson Act.
He claimed that politicians would seek to change any legislation in an attempt to punish the press for revelations about expenses and "all sorts of shenanigans down the years" which have been exposed by journalists.
Cross-party talks at Westminster have so far failed to reach agreement on a new system of regulation, following Lord Justice Leveson's recommendation of an independent system underpinned by a new law.
Mr Blackhurst told Sky News' Murnaghan programme he was at a meeting last week with Deputy Labour leader and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman, Culture Secretary Maria Miller, Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wallace of Tankerness.
"It is clear that there isn't agreement between them," he said. "You've got Labour who want statute, the Tories who don't, you've got the Lib Dems who say they want statute but I'm not quite sure, they might waver a bit.
"They're not agreed and somehow we have got to get through it. It's like wading through treacle."
Blackhurst said Lord Justice Leveson had been "extremely objective" in his approach but added: "There are people at Westminster who just can't wait for a Bill on the press to land on their desk and then get up in the House,
whether it's the Commons or the Lords, and wreak their revenge.
"Once a draft Bill goes into the Commons and the Lords and once they get their teeth into it they can add all sorts of amendments.
"That's where the revenge will happen. That's one reason why some of us are very keen that there should not be statute.
"It's not just expenses, let's not forget there are a lot of MPs, all sorts of shenanigans down the years, many of which we all know about and have been highlighted, and they can't wait. They are sort of 'bring it on'."

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