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Labour MP laughs off 'Mussolini style journalist register'

by Chris Bradley. Published Wed 28 Sep 2011 21:10, last updated: 28/09/11
Labour MP Ivan Lewis is under-fire from journalists
Labour MP Ivan Lewis is under-fire from journalists

Labour MP Ivan Lewis has laughed off the controversial “journalist register” comments made in his speech at the annual party conference in Liverpool.

The Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport smiled as he was told of the revolt sparked by his suggestion of having “journalists struck off for gross malpractice”.

But he turned serious in an attempt to clarify the issue that has got the press in a spin.

Mr Lewis said there needs to be a new press regulatory system where “a stronger range of sanctions need to be applied”.

“If it was found that individuals appeared to behave in a way that was gross malpractice it seems to me that the industry should want to do something about that.”

The under-fire MP added: “In those circumstances of ‘striking off’, for some people that may mean they never want that person working in journalism again.

“For other people it might mean a suspension and in other cases it might just be a simple mistake that shouldn’t have happened."

After Mr Lewis’s speech on the second day of the conference, Sky TV news anchor Adam Boulton claimed on Twitter the Labour MP wanted a “journalist register”.

Soon ‘Ivan Lewis’ was a trending topic on the social networking site and users likened the idea of licensing reporters “to Mussolini’s roll of journalists in 1925” fascist Italy.

Many thought he wanted a “Ministry of Journalism” in Britain, drawing parallels to Mr Lewis's suggestion and the dystopia portrayed in George Orwell’s classic novel ‘1984’.

The opposition MP insisted he still advocated a free press and said there would be no “state-oversight” into regulating the press.

He said: “The vast majority of journalists play by the rules and do the right thing.

“But as a consequence of hacking you have to have policies and procedures to deal with people who are not playing by the rules.

“It’s a legitimate question to ask if the industry itself should consider whether in cases of gross malpractice people should be struck off in a new system,” he said.

“The new body needs to have more investigatory powers and be more independent of existing editors.”

Mr Lewis was speaking at Liverpool John Moores University Art & Design Academy where he and Shadow Skills minister Gordon Marsden learned about the North West Skillset Academy.

The institution within the university supports students through their work media and digital enterprises in the hope of creating jobs for them as graduates.

But the issue of journalism practice, phone hacking and politics could not be avoided by the beleaguered MP.

The fresh claims that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne took cocaine regularly with former prostitute Natalie Rowe brought allegations that NOTW editors “watered down” her story.

The relationship between government ministers and the press in a bid to reveal how much they knew is an area Mr Lewis wants addressed.

He said: “Justice Leveson does have that power and he can call politicians and members of the press to testify under oath.

“One of the issues I hope he will raise is the hiring of Andy Coulson who was taken into the heart of Downing Street and also George Osborne’s role in that.”


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"Would MPs also be "struck off" for malpractise? If that was the case I doubt if there would be an MP in the House." Bill, Anfield around 3 years, 10 months ago

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