I was asked today by a journalist for a quote on UK Justice Minister Jack Straw's proposal for a libel "working group".
I gave this quote:
"One must be concerned that this working group is just a political manoeuvre for Straw to buy time without commitment. Libel reform requires not a working group, but government time and civil service buy-in. The Straw approach, by itself, is likely to be a libel reform fail."
Was that too cynical?
It is in the nature of politicians to attempt to satisfy political demands with as little as possible.
And I cannot see the point of a "working group": it always seems a low-cost gesture to try and close or delay any potential issue.
The announced working group, just like manifesto commitments or Early Day Motion signatures, is simply not enough: these are shallow and initial responses to a deep problem.
In my opinion, a working group, a manifesto commitment, or the signing of an EDM, should be applauded only if it really brings libel reform nearer.
Indeed, such apparent "achievements" can even make any reform more difficult, for politicians may think that such responses are sufficient to quench the thirst for reform.
In fact, reform of English libel law requires substantial Parliamentary intervention; such intervention in turn requires valuable Parliamentary time and equally valuable civil service resources.
That is the desired final result from which we need to work backwards.
Therefore, a libel reform "campaign" is not an end in itself: it is only a good campaign if it ultimately secures libel reform, not in the mere promises of politicians.
The libel reform campaign must thereby reach beyond the next General Election; it must ensure that the next government actually provides time and resource for there to be effective legislative reform.
And that is what we in the UK should be demanding of our politicans as we approach the next General Election.