Leveson frustrated over his press recommendations
Leveson frustrated over his press recommendations

Frustration piled upon frustration with an added layer of frustration. If there is one word that sums up everybody's view of what is happening to the much-delayed so-called Leveson reforms of the British press, it is, you guessed it, frustration.

We heard the word over and over again as the Commons' media committee attempted, and entirely failed, to get some answers from Sir Brian Leveson over what he thought had gone wrong in the wake of his report and offer some thoughts on a way forward.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said, in the politest possible way, that he and his committee were frustrated that Sir Brian's response to their inquiry was: "Read my report, it's all in there."

"It would be enormously helpful if we could at least hear your view. It is extremely frustrating for us," he said.

Sir Brian could only sympathise saying, in effect, that was the problem with having chosen a judicial inquiry into the press. You don't see judges laying down their decisions in court then asking "are there any questions?" he said, to some exasperated laughter.

Needless to say, the campaigners on both sides of the issue, who were well represented in the committee room, were clearly frustrated that, after a 15-month-inquiry and a year since Leveson reported and made his recommendations, the whole issue appears to be disappearing over the horizon. Again.

Sir Brian himself was not immune from this outbreak, declaring: "I am extremely frustrated that people talk about statutory regulation of the press" . His report had absolutely not recommended any such thing, he said.

He also hinted at frustration with David Cameron, who had originally insisted he would implement Leveson's recommendations unless they were "bonkers."

In the closest he came to offering an opinion, let alone a conclusion, Sir Brian told one of his questioners: "The response and answer is in my report which, I hope, is not bonkers."

And the media, also well represented in the room and with more watching remotely, were frustrated there was no story here - and no way of getting out of the room to get on with some real work.

As for the general public, frustration is probably too feeble a word to describe what their reaction to this farce is. Betrayal is the word bandied about the most.

Much of the frustration must be laid at the door of the press and politicians who have entirely failed to come to any agreement on how to deal with the fallout from the phone hacking scandal.

Sir Brian had signalled the way this latest inquiry was about to go when, in answer to a question only moments into the hearing he declared: "You have hit a red line there."

Many hours later - actually it was a few minutes but seemed longer - he gave the most illuminating answer when asked to clarify one of his responses.

Ears pricked, pencil leads were licked and notebooks rustled in anticipation of some clarity.

"With the greatest of respect," he said: "I am not saying anything."

And that is exactly what he went on to do for the next seven or eight hours. OK two hours but you get the point.