In 1910 a fierce constitutional battle raged between elected MPs versus a powerful unelected body. The Liberals and the Labour Party lined up against the Conservatives, who were supported by the unelected power. On Monday a fierce battle will set the terms of engagement in British politics for decades to come, with the Liberal Democrats and Labour again siding against the Conservatives.
In 1910 the unelected power was the House of Lords, which had blocked Lloyd George’s People’s budget. The House of Lords survived, but its power was curtailed and the House of Commons has reigned supreme ever since.
This time the issue is the power of the press. On Monday will the House of Commons resolve to assert itself over the press?
Back in 1991, when the Calcutt Committee (Leveson’s predecessor) was set up, Conservative cabinet minister David Mellor told the popular press that they were drinking in the last-chance saloon. Will the Leveson proposals be implemented in full as proposed by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, or will the press be allowed to drink in the last-plus-one-chance saloon?
In 1910 the battle was characterised as Peers v People. In 2013 it is amusing to note that one of the former newspaper editors is Piers and one of the newspapers is the People.