Hacked Off campaign group blackmailed Miliband to curb press

  • The group threatened to release a statement condemning Miliband
  • They also mention Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman in the letter
  • This comes after the coalition parties published rival plans for reform

By Jason Groves

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Media pressure group Hacked Off made extraordinary threats against Labour in a bid to ‘sabotage’ cross-party talks on Press reform, it emerged last night.

The group threatened to publish a statement in which victims of phone hacking would condemn Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman and Nick Clegg in the strongest terms for agreeing to a ‘dirty deal’.

The statement even suggested that David Cameron’s plans would make the Queen complicit in a ‘stitch-up’.

The Hacked Off campaign attempted to blackmail labour leader Ed Miliband while he was in talks about press regulation

The Hacked Off campaign attempted to blackmail labour leader Ed Miliband while he was in talks about press regulation

The revelations came as the Coalition parties published rival plans for Press reform, which MPs will now vote on in a showdown in the Commons on Monday night.

All three main parties will order their MPs to fall into line on Monday. 

But Labour sources said they were in talks with a group of about 20 Tory rebels who may be persuaded to defy Mr Cameron. 

A small group of Labour MPs could also rebel, but most Westminster observers believe the Parliamentary arithmetic is narrowly against the Prime Minister at this stage. A draft press release was shown to senior Labour figures on Tuesday – just 24 hours after the three party leaders had been on the verge of a deal on bringing in a tough new system of Press regulation by Royal Charter.

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Hugh Grant (left) and J K Rowling (right) are both involved in the Hacked Off campaign

Sources close to the talks said Mr Miliband then tabled 20 new demands the following day, making a deal ‘unworkable’.

A Tory source said: ‘It sabotaged the talks – it became impossible, because Labour were taking dictation from Hacked Off. Miliband came back with 20 further demands which were not there and which scuppered the whole thing. They have no principled position on this.’ 

Hacked Off’s draft press release included a statement signed by the parents of Milly Dowler, the parents of Madeleine McCann, Hugh Grant and a number of other phone hacking victims, in which they accused the Labour and Lib Dem  leadership of doing a ‘dirty deal’.

Hacked Off initially denied threatening Labour with a draft press release when it was put to them by the Daily Mail on Thursday night.

Robert and Sally Dowler, the parents of missing school girl Milly who had her mobile phone hacked

Robert and Sally Dowler, the parents of missing school girl Milly who had her mobile phone hacked

Murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, 13, with her mother Sally. When she went missing journalists hacked into Milly's phone

Murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, 13, with her mother Sally. When she went missing journalists hacked into Milly's phone

But yesterday a spokesman acknowledged the existence of the statement and did not deny using it to pile pressure on Labour. A spokesman said: ‘This draft press release was written as a worst case scenario and was never formally sent to the media. We had to be prepared for every eventuality.’ 

Labour insisted it had not changed its position as a result of the intense lobbying by Hacked Off. A source said the fresh demands tabled by Mr Miliband had already been raised ‘many times’ with officials.

Monday’s vote will be a critical moment in the history of Press freedom – with critics warning Britain’s tradition of free speech is at risk. Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis told BBC Question Time: ‘The last thing we want is for politicians to be able to control the Press. We need to have a free Press.’ 

The Conservatives released proposals for a Press regulator governed by Royal Charter which would impose what the Prime Minister described as ‘the toughest regulation of the Press that this country has ever seen’.

Kate McCann and Gerry McCann, giving evidence to Lord Justice Leveson's media ethics inquiry, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Kate McCann and Gerry McCann, giving evidence to Lord Justice Leveson's media ethics inquiry, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

An hour later, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg published their own plans, which would also use a Royal Charter to establish a regulator but would be underpinned by legislation – seen by critics as the thin end of the wedge in allowing politicians to interfere with the Press.

They would also remove control from editors of the newspaper code of practice. Industry sources last night said the issue was a ‘red line’ which would see newspapers refuse to sign up to the deal.

In other respects the proposals represent a climbdown by Mr Miliband, who initially backed Lord Justice Leveson’s call for media regulator Ofcom to oversee a new Press regulator whose role would be ‘set out in statute’. The retreat will fuel suspicions that the Labour leader has been playing to the gallery by calling for the full implementation of Lord Justice Leveson’s plans in public, while privately conceding they were unworkable.

A Tory source last night said the Prime Minister’s decision to pull the plug on cross party talks had ‘flushed out’ Mr Miliband. Mr Clegg said he was still hopeful a last-minute deal could be reached.

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The comments below have been moderated in advance.

He's not called "Milibandwagon" for noting as he ISN'T his own man & does what he is told by his spin doctors & their focus groups, steals others ideas & is lead by the likes of Rowling who is one of his parties main donors.

Click to rate     Rating   427

Is this not an example of politicians listening and connecting to the voters? Moiliband caught with his trousers down more like!

Click to rate     Rating   313

Clearly phone hacking should not be used to obtain stories and, in the case of the Dowlers and the McCanns was cruel. However, there are certain others who seem to want strict press regulation because they were caught doing things that they would not want reported i.e. using a prostitute, misappropriating public funds as in the MPs expenses scanda etcl. We should continue with a free press as the alternative is too bad to contemplate. Imagine what we would not be told about, hospital scandals, bank scandals, MPs who break the law, police who break the law, the list is endless.

Click to rate     Rating   381

No surprise there then!

Click to rate     Rating   211

Another sad day for democracy and whilst we waste our time with this rubbish the country slips further down the pan

Click to rate     Rating   383

The Lab/Dem coalition do not want a free press.Follow the Tory line and fine them out of existence if the step out of line.

Click to rate     Rating   227

All the papers need to remember is the victims of crime and abuse. They can dig up the dirt on the guilty but victims need support not pulled apart by todays modern vampires.All memebers parliment involved in this Levinson affair are collecting payment for stretching it out and makeing it more than it needs to be, we have free speech in Brittain today we must not stop that for the future. Celebrities leave them selves open to press pressure so taking this in mind would it not be best to carry out whatever behind closed doors and leave nothing to the imagination of the few.

Click to rate     Rating   85

I don't care what the rags publish about politicians and so-called celebrities,they bring it on themselves.I do,however care that the gutter press tear apart the lives of ordinary people.Protect these people,I don't care what happens to the people who actively court publicity then don't like it when our tabloid scum turn on them.

Click to rate     Rating   188

Hacked off are the most manipulative group of people you are likely to meet. These people have been well compensated for any intrusion into their lives. Did any of them turn down the money on principle??? This is about their ego's and thinking they should direct the agenda. The press should stay free and take the consequences if they make a mistake. We do not need some narcissistic individuals determining who or what can be published. Never ever forget the adage" publish and be damned"

Click to rate     Rating   440

The acting profession is in thrall to the anti-British Benefits and Scroungers party.

Click to rate     Rating   227

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