The vote on Leveson 2 was lost, not because of the merits of the argument, not because of the howling press campaign, indeed not because of anything said publicly by anyone, anywhere – but because the government bought the support of the DUP.
Nothing else made any difference, except perhaps the ferocity of the Conservative whipping.
What was the deal? The Democratic Unionist Party, or at least some MPs in the party, apparently wanted to have Leveson 2. So the government gave it to them (or something vaguely like it), but in Northern Ireland alone – and in return, it seems, they helped vote down Leveson 2 for the rest of us.
That, at least, is the part of the deal that we know about, and it is obviously devoid of moral justification. No rational argument could be advanced to suggest that Northern Ireland has a need of such a ‘review’ – greeted explicitly by the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr as ‘Leveson for Northern Ireland’ – that the rest of the country does not.
Nine DUP votes were secured in this way, and the government won overall by nine votes. Every other party solidly supported the holding of a UK-wide Leveson 2.
So that was how a government that is shamelessly close to the corporate press succeeded in cancelling a public inquiry into criminality perpetrated by the same corporate press. It did this even though the chair of that inquiry said, with compelling arguments, that it was the wrong thing to do, and it did it even though that inquiry had been properly established by Parliament and the basis of agreement with parties that oppose cancellation.