November 9, 2012 8:02 pm

Tory MPs push PM on press

Conservative MPs and peers tried to strengthen David Cameron’s resolve in taking on the newspaper industry on Friday, amid claims that the prime minister was in “fear” of press barons.

A letter signed by 42 mainstream Tories urged Mr Cameron not to back a press regulation proposal put forward by leading newspapers, claiming it lacked independence and risked being “an unstable model destined to fail”.

The letter to The Guardian was deliberately timed to stiffen Mr Cameron’s backbone when it comes to his handling of Lord Leveson’s recommendations on press regulation.

One Tory backbencher, who is not usually critical of the prime minister, said: “The one reason why Number 10 is showing hesitancy is that they fear press barons and what they can do. That’s not a healthy position.”

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, one of the letter’s signatories, told the Financial Times that the media should accept some form of “light touch” regulation.

“I am saying that for the media as for other professions, lawyers, doctors, the financial services, self-regulation is not the answer,” the former foreign secretary said.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to assume that the press can avoid that.”

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