John McLellan: Lib Dem MP is illiberal about threat to free Press

Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine
Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine
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I’m the first to admit that the current battle in Westminster over amendments to the Data Protection Bill or Section 40 of the Crime & Courts Act is unlikely to be the talk of cafes and bars around Edinburgh.

But I’ll wager if anyone was told a new law would mean that if you were sued in court you would have to pay the entire cost of the case and the other side’s legal bills even if they won there would be outrage.

Yet that is exactly what both those pieces of legislation promise to do to this newspaper, and any other publication which refuses to sign up to a government-backed regulator – in effect handing control of the free Press to politicians.

Fortunately, both those measures are now opposed by the UK Government, which wants to throw out the Data Protection amendments and repeal Section 40. And the SNP is on the record as saying press regulation has gone far enough.

READ MORE: Bernard Ingham: Press freedom attack could turn UK into a totalitarian state

Its media spokesman Brendan O’Hara said last week that “the Scottish government has absolutely no plans to introduce statutory incentives to the press in Scotland to sign up to a state-approved regulator”.

But Edinburgh West’s Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine thinks it’s just fine, telling the Commons that repealing Section 40 was “closing the door on our opportunity to hold the powerful voices of the press to account”.

It is a sad irony, to borrow her phrase, that on this subject the Lib Dems are anything but liberal.

READ MORE: Ashley Highfield: Public must defeat Lords’ plan to muzzle the media