UK & World News
Press Reform: Hacked Off 'Pressuring Labour'
Conservative sources have accused Labour of changing its press regulation proposals due to intense pressure from the Hacked Off campaign group.
Hacked Off, which represents many of the victims of phone hacking and is fronted by actor Hugh Grant, is unhappy with David Cameron's proposal for press regulation in the wake of the hacking scandal.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have joined forces to publish a rival plan to the Prime Minister's proposal for a royal charter to establish a new watchdog.
On Thursday Mr Cameron pulled the plug on the cross-party talks after failing to agree with Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.
After the talks broke down, Labour and the Lib Dems signalled they still believed legislation was required to underpin an independent self-regulatory body as recommended by the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.
That leaves them firmly at odds with Mr Cameron, who believes that would threaten press freedom and make the system unworkable as newspapers would refuse to sign up.
While the talks were still ongoing, Labour saw a draft press release prepared by Hacked Off attacking it for doing a deal with the Government.
The draft press release would have been released on Tuesday if Labour sided with the Prime Minister.
It said: "Today Labour and the Liberal Democrats have signed up to this pathetic package, despite their repeated private and public promises to stand by the victims.
"As soon as the going got tough, they reverted to their old habits of taking orders from Fleet Street. Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman and Nick Clegg should be ashamed."
Sky Political Correspondent Sophy Ridge said: "You do get a sense of the kind of pressure Labour would have been under from Hacked Off - a very vocal campaign group."
Labour's motives for its policy have been questioned by the Tories.
Conservative MP Rob Wilson said: "Ed Miliband's Labour party are in the pocket of a powerful pressure group and incapable of coming up with their own policies.
"Their blank sheet of paper is still very empty. Never mind One Nation, this is a case of no notion."
The revelation of the release was dismissed as a dirty tricks campaign by shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman, who insisted Labour's commitment on statutory underpinning had been consistent.
"We make no apology for having the concerns of the victims absolutely at the heart of this - the victims are the reason the Leveson Inquiry was set up," she said.
A Hacked Off spokesman said the release was only drafted as a "worst case scenario".
"This draft press release was written as a worst case scenario and never formally released to the media," the statement said.
"In the event, Labour and Lib Dem support for Leveson has been rock solid and the victims of press abuse are very grateful for it."
MPs will choose between the two approaches in a series of votes on Monday.
Gerry McCann, the father of missing Madeleine McCann, told Sky News he was very disappointed that cross-party talks broke down.
"You'd hope that all of our politicians would be able to get Leveson implemented," he said.
Of the conflicting proposals, Dr McCann said he backed the Labour and Liberal Democrats' plan.
"Leveson was absolutely clear in his report that he felt it was essential that the regulator was underpinned in statute," he said.