Labour’s spokesperson on culture has said that the death of English television presenter Caroline Flack “should be a wake-up call” for the government led by Boris Johnson.
Commenting ahead of a tribute to Flack being shown on ITV2’s Love Island programme tonight, Labour frontbencher Tracy Brabin highlighted the importance of Leveson Inquiry part two.
“Caroline Flack was relentlessly trolled online, but this trolling was amplified and legitimised by the mainstream press and they should not be allowed to dodge their share of the blame,” Brabin said.
“We urgently need new laws to curb abuse and ensure vulnerable people are safe online – and we need to hold the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry to protect victims of press abuse and intrusion.
Brain concluded: “The current system simply isn’t working. This tragic death should be a wake-up call for a government that has failed victims by refusing to act.”
40-year-old Flack was found dead in her London flat on Saturday. A lawyer for her family confirmed that her death, which followed allegations of assault against her boyfriend, was a suicide.
Although the Leveson inquiry into press standards was meant to take place in two phases, the government dropped the second stage in 2018 as it described the exercise as “costly” and “time-consuming”.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson condemned the decision at the time as “a disappointment, a breach of trust and a bitter blow”, though added that was “not in any way a surprise”.
The Conservative Party under Johnson’s leadership stuck by this policy, stating in its 2019 manifesto: “We will not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry.”
Labour’s manifesto ahead of the 2019 general election said: “We will address misconduct and the unresolved failures of corporate governance raised by the second stage of the abandoned Leveson Inquiry.”
It was revealed last week that the government is considering the appointment of telecoms and broadcasting regulator Ofcom to a new role that would also involve addressing online harms.
Labour raised concerns about the proposal, saying: “The government’s own consultation suggests that the majority of organisations and individuals responding wanted to see a new regulator introduced.”
Labour leadership candidates were asked about the death of Flack at hustings over the weekend. Keir Starmer said: “It wasn’t just social media, it was the media amplifying what social media was doing. It was both strands.”
Rebecca Long-Bailey added: “Harry and Meghan have moved out of the country because of the way they have been treated by the media. It is not acceptable.”
Lisa Nandy advocated further regulation of social media companies, saying: “In no other area of life would we allow private companies to police themselves.”