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UPDATE: Government defeated the Leveson2 inquiry by nine votes 304-295 . There were five Tory rebels. The nine DUP MPs supported the government after they were offered a new press watchdog for Northern Ireland. The one independent Northern Ireland MP, Lady Hermon voted with Labour.
Five Tories voted with Labour – they were Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve ( former attorney general), Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Crispin Blunt.
One Labour MP John Grogan voted with the government to block Leveson 2.
Parliament will decide today whether a second Leveson inquiry should go ahead and on new rules that would strengthen the role of press regulator Impress and force compulsory arbitration in libel cases.
Voting in the Commons on both motions is on a knife edge with literally the decision being made on who turns up and whether very active campaigns by mainstream media moguls or Hacked Off can convince wavering MPs.
Theresa May has staked her reputation on protecting Murdoch and Dacre from a second Leveson inquiry into malpractices by the media and scrapping the section which would have forced compulsory arbitration. At the Westminster Correspondents Dinner she promised lobby journalists that ” very good news” was coming to help the media moguls avoid further scrutiny into their practices.
But her failure to control Parliament has put both promises at risk- hence the frenzied campaign in the media to protect press freedom by media bosses who do not want some of the dark practices subject to forensic examination by Lord Leveson.
There are two motions today – one by former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Tory rebel Kenneth Clarke – aims to reinstate Leveson 2 after a Commons committee overturned a Lords resolution to hold the inquiry.
The second by Tom Watson, Labour deputy’s leader and long time campaigner against the Murdoch press, would implement the changes promised to force compulsory arbitration in libel cases – making court cases very expensive for the media even if they won.
The first motion stands the best chance of passing with guaranteed support from a number of Tory rebels, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the sole Green MP, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists. Nobody seems sure how the DUP will vote.
This alliance is however dependent on everybody turning up and solid support among all the groups.
There was signs at the weekend that media moguls had changed tactics and were trying to persuade some Labour MPs not to back Ed Miliband’s motion and the one strengthening Impress-and suggesting this would go down very well in the mainstream media who might look favourably on covering some of the issues these Labour MPs might want to take up. A senior Labour source told me : ” They (the Labour MPs) are trying to curry favour with the mass media”.
Labour whips have been alerted to this but some Labour MPs are playing their cards very close to their chests and trying to hide their proposed support. You can be sure there will be very active work done by Labour this morning to try and root them out.
The other problem that could scupper a defeat for the government will be if not all MPs turn up. Here the SNP with 35 MPs are a key group – but not all of them turn up if they have pressing business in Scotland. A ” no show” by just a few in this group would have a big effect on the vote.
So today’s decision will depend on the capricious nature of MPs in Parliament – and how much priority they put into defeating the government over this issue.