A government attempt to influence coverage of a Cabinet minister’s expenses claims has today sparked a fresh backlash against moves to subject the press to statutory regulation.
Earlier this week the Daily Telegraph revealed that culture secretary Maria Miller’s parents were living in her taxpayer-funded second home.
Now the paper has disclosed that Ms Miller’s special adviser, Joanna Hindley, warned the paper to consider the minister’s role in implementing the Leveson report on press regulation before running the story.
Several regional press editors have today taken to Twitter to argue that the episode demonstrates why politicians should have no role in regulating newspapers.
According to the Telegraph, Ms Hindley told its reporter: “Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about.”
She also suggested that the reporter should discuss the issue with “people a little higher up your organisation”.
Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill tweeted a link to the Telegraph story accompanied by the words: “Why politicians should not be allowed near press regulation.”
The episode comes as cross-party discussions continue on how to implement Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals for future regulation of the industry and whether this will require “statutory underpinning.”
In its story today, The Telegraph said it had “decided to disclose details of the private conversations amid widespread concern about the potential dangers of politicians being given a role in overseeing the regulation of the press.”
As secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Ms Miller would have the job of piloting any legislation introduced in the wake of the Leveson report through the Commons.