By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that a number of Tory MPs who wrote a letter in support of Leveson-style statutory regulation of the press have now brought their positions in line with David Cameron – opposed to such far-reaching state control. The letter, signed last month, had called for Parliament not to "duck the challenge" of changing press regulation laws.
The Sunday Telegraph were able to reach about half of the 42 MPs, and say that several now back the Prime Minister. This might well indicate a less bruising time for Mr Cameron as he attempts to debate and pass legislation on the press in 2013.
The Sunday Telegraph says Chris Skidmore, Neil Parish, Jackie Doyle-Price, Bob Stewart, and George Freeman are amongst the MPs more supportive of the Prime Minister. A comment that seemed to typify the sentiments of those MPs was this:
"Bob Stewart said: “I am not in favour at this stage of statutory regulation but I am not definitively against it. I want a tougher regulator and it is perhaps possible that you can have that without statute.”"
There were, of course, a good number of MPs who maintained their support of press regulation. George Eustice, who initiated the letter said: Lord Justice Leveson had produced a "very good" report which had recommended a "small amount of statutory oversight". Nadhim Zahawi, another prominent supporter of state regulation, said:
"It became clear that the only way you could give an independent regulator any teeth is to have it recognised in statute. My view is that we ought to have a go at creating this."
There are probably many Tory MPs who didn't sign the letter who would be willing to vote for statutory legislation, so the reactions of the MPs the Sunday Telegraph attempted to contact may well not be representative of the parliamentary party as a whole. But if they are, Mr Cameron's reactions to Leveson may not have been as divisive as some predicted. With Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg firmly behind changing the law to create a powerful regulator, Mr Cameron could have faced a Commons defeat if enough pro-regulation Tory MPs had voted with the opposition.