Sandra Laville, the Guardian’s crime correspondent, has just tweeted:
Police send two more files to CPS re weeting elvedon etc relating to two police officers and misconduct in a public office
— Sandra Laville (@sandralaville) May 11, 2012
Here is a summary of Brooks’s evidence this afternoon:
• An email from News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel to Rebekah Brooks claimed culture secretary Jeremy Hunt wanted advice ‘to guide his and No 10′s positioning’
• Brooks defended ‘Sarah’s law’ campaign to name sex offenders but said she has some regrets
• She denied she asked then secretary of state Ed Balls to sack social worker Sharon Shoesmith over the Baby P case
• Brooks rejected claims she made threats to MPs Chris Bryand and Tom Watson
Leveson says he will allow Sherborne to respond on the issue of the Operation Motorman data.
The inquiry has now finished for the day.
Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s political editor, has just tweeted:
Hunt’s office has denied that culture secretary raised any issue of phone hacking privately with News International.
— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) May 11, 2012
Sky News has just tweeted:
Sky Sources: Jeremy Hunt believes his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry will show he acted with integrity throughout BSkyB bid
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) May 11, 2012
White turns to the request by David Sherborne, counsel to victims of press intrusion, that core participants should answer two questions in relation to Operation Motorman data.
He asks that Leveson dismiss Sherborne’s application, saying that the data is now “historical” and it will require “disproportionate effort” to assess what happened to what is “low grade” information.
Counsel for Associated Newspapers adds that Sherborne’s application comes “far, far too late in the day”.
Trinity Mirror’s counsel also opposes Sherborne’s request.
Sandra Laville, the Guardian’s crime correspondent, has just tweeted:
Attorney general to take no action over complaint of contempt re sue akers evidence to #Leveson
— Sandra Laville (@sandralaville) May 11, 2012
Antony White, QC for News Corporation, asks if he can make an opening for the third module on Monday, in order to reply to Jay’s opening speech.
Leveson says he is reluctant as this may encourage others to make statements, but grants his request.
Brooks has now completed her evidence.
Brooks says that it is “ordinary people’s views that make newspapers powerful”.
She refers to Piers Morgan’s Daily Mirror “very good” campaign against the Iraq war titled “Not in my name”. The Sun was supportive of the Iraq war and ran an article headed “Why Mirror readers are wrong”, Brooks says.
“The Sun being pro-military always stayed very supportive. The circulation of the Mirror plummeted. He continued to drive an editorial line in the paper which was against the readership and they reacted pretty swiftly.”
So, Leveson asks, is it responsiveness or leadership? “It is a bit of both,” says Brooks.
Brooks says “much has been made” of informal contact between journalists and politicians.
“I believe if journalists meet politicians it’s going to be incredibly hard for the journalist to be transparent or forced to be transparent about that,” she says, adding that that is how journalists get information.
“I have never compromised my position as a journalist by having a friendly relationship with a politician and never known a politician comprise their position.”
Brooks says it would be the “height of hypocrisy” for her to complain about “trivial” questions put to her by Robert Jay QC.
However, she questions why Jay asked her about swimming with Murdoch and the suit he was wrongly reported to have bought her.
“I wasn’t asking you to complain,” says Leveson.
Jay says it is ironic that Brooks has repeatedly complained about the sourcing of various claims put to her today.
Brooks describes them as “gossipy items” and says they are a “systematic issue that I think is gender-based”. She says if she was a “grumpy old man” no one would write about her relationship with Rupert Murdoch.
You have put to me quite a few gossipy items, for want of a better word: my personal alchemy; did Rupert Murdoch and I swim; where did I get the horse from; did Mr Murdoch buy me a suit; the list is endless. I do feel that is merely a systematic issue that I think a lot of it is gender-based – if I was a grumpy old man of Fleet Street no one would write a first thing about it.
Former News of the World journalist Tom Latchem has just tweeted:
The fact Brooks did not anticipate there would be hate mobs shows her glaring lack of judgement. #Leveson
— Tom Latchem (@theboylatch) May 11, 2012
And the fact this paedo campaign was seen as her moment of glory, which carried her through the company, is frankly embarrassing. #Leveson
— Tom Latchem (@theboylatch) May 11, 2012
Brooks admits she does have some regrets about the News of the World’s naming of sex offenders.
I do have some regrets about the campaign. Particularly the list of convicted paedophiles that we put into the paper. I felt we made some mistakes by just going on an appearance in the Sex Offenders Act, which wasn’t necessarily the right criteria. However, I still feel the mechanics that we used was the right thing to do.
Jay says that in general terms it would have been “plain as a pikestaff” to Brooks that some people could suffer reprisals as a result of this campaign.
“No I won’t agree,” says Brooks. “I did not predict there was going to be a riot in Paulsgrove or that a member of the public would mistake a paedophile for a paediatrician.”
It was not just bold but designed to inflame, says Jay.
“It is not my opinion and I’m not going to agree with you,” says Brooks.
Brooks says she did not predict reprisals as a result of the News of the World’s campaign.
Two people suffered vigilante attacks, including a paediatrician, as the Guardian reported at the time.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted the paediatrician situation. I didn’t predict the outcome,” she says.
Jay turns to the News of the World’s campaign for a “Sarah’s law” that would name sex offenders. What does she say to a chief constable’s accusation that it was “grossly irresponsible”?
“I disagreed with [the comment] at the time,” she says.
But why did the News of the World need to name and picture known sex offenders?
Because it was the point of the information … it was news to me that convicted paedophiles of that nature were allowed to live unchecked in the community and parents didn’t have any information.
She adds that in 2000, during the campaign, it was “a way of highlighting the central issue of the campaign, the huge gap between what the readers thought was the situation and really was the situation”.
Jay asks whether the public good means exposing the private weaknesses of public figures.
“When it would not be in the public interest?” answers Brooks. “If there had been no trust broken between them and their constituents.”
“Each editor’s judgment is their own,” she adds.
Jay turns to general points to conclude Brooks’s evidence.
Do editors have sole discretion of what constitutes the public good? “No,” says Brooks. “There’s a huge team at newspapers who all contribute,” she says, adding that readers make up their own minds on issues put to them by newspapers.
“Ultimately, everything that is published in the newspapers is the editor’s responsibility, yes.”
The inquiry has resumed and Brooks is continuing her evidence.
Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s political editor, has just tweeted:
Cameron and Hunt will have to go 100% to show Fred Michel and Adam Smith are a couple of Walter Mittys at helm of an £8bn bid.
— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) May 11, 2012
The inquiry is now taking a short break.
Brooks is asked about the Sun’s campaign against the Haringey social workers, including Sharon Shoesmith, involved in the Baby P case in 2007. Shoesmith was sacked by Ed Balls, then a secretary of state, in 2008.
The Sun launched an e-petition calling for people to be sacked.
Jay asks whether Brooks telephoned Balls calling for Shoesmith to be sacked in November 2008 “or we will turn this thing on him”.
“No,” says Brooks. She adds that she did have conversations with Balls and that he was aware of the Sun’s e-petition. She confirms that the pair did discuss the issue in a telephone call.
Did you indicate that you wanted Balls to sack Shoesmith?
“Mr Jay, I didn’t tell Ed Balls to fire Sharon Shoesmith. Yes I had conversations with Mr Balls; I also spoke to the shadow minister, who I think was Michael Gove.”
Brooks and Jay dispute the meaning of this conversation.
Brooks: “The premise of your questioning is, did I tell Ed Balls to sack Sharon Shoesmith? In fact in the newspaper it was very clear that was the Sun’s editorial line. Mr Balls was under no illusion that was the point of our campaign.”
Jay asks if this was the point of Brooks’s phone call. She says it was in part petition “and we ourselves at the Sun were very surprised by the level – 1.5 million is a huge reaction and it will have been to feed back that.”
Brooks maintains that Sarah and Gordon Brown remained friendly after the original Sun story was published in 2006.
You have to remember this is 2006, it is only five years later that Mr Brown was in any way concerned about my behaviour, the Sun, how we handled it. After 2006 I continued to see them both regularly. They held a 40th birthday party for me, they attended my wedding, Sarah and I were good friends.
Brooks says if the Browns had asked her not to run the story she would not have done.
She says the only reason they ran it was because they felt they had the permission of the Browns.
Did she get consent from Sarah or Gordon Brown?
“I spoke to the Browns, I will have spoken to people around them, I probably discussed it with Sarah more as she was my friend,” she says.
Jay asks whether Brooks told Sarah Brown they were determined to publish the story but in a responsible way.
“Absolutely not,” says Brooks. “I was very friendly with Mrs Brown she had been through a hell of a lot. First thing I would have said would have been much more considerate and caring. I was very sad for them.”
Jay again presses Brooks on the source of the story about Gordon Brown’s son.
Brooks refuses to go into more detail, but Jay perseveres. Brooks says the man did not gain the information via subterfuge or via the Browns.
Jay asks if it was from a third party. “I suppose you could describe it as that,” says Brooks.
Was that third party an employee of the NHS? “No.”
Did they have a duty of confidence? “I don’t think so.”
Brooks says the Sun “entirely” had the permission of the Browns to publish this story in November 2006.
Here is the full text of the Fred Michel emails, as seen by our reporters at the Leveson inquiry:
Fred Michel to Rebekah Brooks:
27 June 2011 16:29
Hunt will be making references to phone hacking in his statement on Rubicon this week.
He will be repeating the same narrative as the one he gave in Parliament few weeks ago.
This is based on his belief that the police is pursing things thoroughly and phone hacking has nothing to do with the media plurality issues.
It’s extremely helpful.
On the issue of the privacy committee he supports a widening of its remit to the future of the press and evidence from all newspaper groups on the regulatory regime.
He wants to prevent a public inquiry. For this the committee will need to come up a strong report in the autumn and put enough pressure on the PCC to strength itself and take recommendations forward.
JH is now starting to looking to phone hacking/practices more thoroughly and has asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No 10′s positioning…
Brooks to Michel:
Jun 27 2011 17:30
When is the Rubicon statement?
Michel to Brooks:
Lord Justice Leveson says that Brown was concerned that the Sun had obtained the story through illegitimate means.
“It’s not unreasonable to believe if private details of your child’s condition are being put into the public domain they can only have come from medical records,” he says.
Brooks: “It wasn’t something that he felt at the time … he came to the wrong assumption in 2011.”
Leveson points out that the tone of the 2011 Sun article was to go on the attack, rather than simply state that Brown was mistaken.
Brooks replies that Brown has twice attacked the Sun in parliament and “the Sun felt that it was a smear and that he was doing it five years later for a particular reason”.
Brooks is asked about the Sun story on Gordon Brown’s son, Fraser, having cystic fibrosis in 2006.
The Sun published a story on 13 July 2011 apparently debunking allegations by Gordon Brown that the story was obtained via illicit newsgathering methods.
Brooks says she had no involvement in the 2011 story. She says the Sun has a written affadavit from a man whose son also has cystic fibrosis.
Jay presses Brooks on where this man got information about Brown’s son.
“He’d got the information because his own son had cystic fibrosis and through a very small charity … he got it slightly by involvement through that,” she says, before refusing to say any more for fear of identifying the man.
Jay turns to Brooks’s meetings with senior police officers.
Did she discuss phone hacking with John Yates?
Brooks says she is not sure but that she may have discussed it with him at the Police Bravery Awards in July 2009. She says she did not have a detailed conversation about hacking with Yates as far she can remember.
Brooks is asked about hospitality. Did she view hospitality towards police officers in the same way as to politicians?
Police officers wanted to go to a “neutral venue” like a restaurant, whereas politicians would meet at a convenient venue, such as Wapping, she says.
Brooks says there was “absolutely not” any trade between the retired police horse Raiza and the work experience at News International given to the son of Dick Fedorcio, Scotland Yard’s ex-head of public affairs.
Brooks says she may have been “naive” to believe the Sky bid would be dealt with properly by ministers.
Jay turns to an email disclosed to the inquiry by Brooks.
He asks why only one email was disclosed.
Brooks says: “Between June and 17 July, when my BlackBerry was imaged there was some emails and some text messages, legal team went through all those … this was the only email I had in that period that was relevant to the BSkyB questions I had been asked.”
Jay says the email shows that Michel had been told what Hunt planned to say to parliament about the BSkyB bid in the coming week.
The email text, as read by Jay, says:
Hunt will be making reference to phone hacking in his statement on Rubicon this week. He will be the same narrative as the one he gave in parliament a few weeks ago. This is based on his belief that the police are pursuing things thoroughly and phone hacking has nothing to do with its media plurality issue.
She says: “I think it was news to me and therefore could be surprising.”
Jay reads the next paragraph of the email from Michel to Brooks:
JH is now starting to look into phone hacking/practices more thoroughly and has asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No 10′s positioning.
The Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, has just tweeted:
This exchange over Osborne-Brooks BSkyB conversation demonstrates exactly why its ludicrous Osborne not appearing before #Leveson
— ian katz (@iankatz1000) May 11, 2012
Brooks says she had conversations with James and Rupert Murdoch about “the latest moves” of the anti-Sky bid alliance.
Brooks says she cannot remember who brought the BSkyB deal up over dinner with Osborne, but she reluctantly accepts it may have been her.
Jay asks if this was appropriate.
“For one three-minute conversation at the beginning of dinner I got the opportunity to give our view. I don’t think that is inappropriate,” Brooks says.
Brooks had met George Osborne the previous night and “part of the dinner I would have discussed our frustration at what was going on. Not at any great length”. She told Michel that Osborne’s response to Ofcom’s issues letter was “total bafflement”.
Jay asks whether Brooks was aware of the role of News Corp’s Fred Michel in the BSkyB bid. Michel is the News Corp lobbyist at the heart of the row over Jeremy Hunt’s conduct in the controversial bid.
Brooks says she was not aware of the emails until recently. “I often felt Mr Michel over-egged his position,” she says, adding that his “level of access that seemed to come out was pretty good really”.
Jay returns to News Corp’s bid for BSkyB.
Brooks says she has defended the bid. “I think the anti-Sky bid alliance had so many members … and that they I knew were seeing politicians, I think Dr Cable had a dinner with them early on in 2010, if I met people and I had the chance to put our side of the story I would.”
Didn’t she raise it with David Cameron and George Osborne?
She says her remarks to Cameron “are not to be dwelled on” because it was in passing, but she did have a conversation with Osborne in 2010.
“The BSkyB bid was mentioned at the dinner at our home in December, but I don’t remember having a particularly forceful discussion with Mr Cameron on it,” she says. “Mr Cameron always made it very clear that he turned it into, or it was a quasi-judicial decision and it wasn’t up to him … He was always very even-handed of it.”
Jay: Was Cameron particularly supportive of the BSkyB bid?
Jay: Was Osborne particularly supportive of the BSkyB bid?
Brooks: “He never explicity said so. He was interested in our arguments, I think that’s probably at its best.”
Jay asks if Brooks forced Sun journalists to write stories critical or untrue about Tom Watson MP.
“No,” says Brooks. She says that she might have said “What are we going to do about Mr Watson?” in a conversation with Nick Robinson, the political editor of the BBC.
Brooks denies using the Sun to criticise politicians who she personally does not like.
Robert Jay QC turns to Labour MPs.
He raises critical comments by Labour MP Chris Bryant in 2004. Bryant claimed that Brooks told him he should be “out on Clapham Common” after the MP made comments critical of Rupert Murdoch.
Brooks says she does not recall making those comments.
The inquiry has resumed and Rebekah Brooks is continuing her evidence.
a handy guide to text speak for David Cameron:The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman has compiled
David Cameron has been revealed by Rebekah Brooks to sign off some of his texts LOL, in the belief the acronym means “Lots Of Love”. She told the Leveson Inquiry she has explained to him it actually means “Laughing Out Loud”. In fact, they’re both right and they’re both wrong, as it means both. Here, to help both of them, is a list of other popular acronyms and what they absolutely don’t mean, tempting though it might be for them to believe otherwise if Cameron happened to use them:
ROFL: Rebekah, On For Lunch?
FFS: Freud Fixed Shenanigans
FFS: Fuck! Farewell Sky
WTF: Was Tony Funnier?
OMG: Oh, Murdoch’s Gorgeous
IMHO: Is My Horse OK?
Here is a lunchtime summary of Rebekah Brooks’s evidence so far:
• Brooks met David Cameron on at least three occasions over Christmas 2010
• Some of Cameron’s texts to Brooks were signed off “LOL” until she told him it did not mean “lots of love”
• Cameron phoned Brooks in October 2010 to ask about phone-hacking allagations
• Brooks knew about News Corp’s BSkyB bid two months before publicly announced
• Brooks: Gordon Brown was “very aggressive” after Sun criticised his letter to bereaved mother of army soldier
• Sun planned to switch support to Tories in June 2009
The inquiry has now broken for lunch and will resume at 2pm with more evidence from Brooks.
Jay asks about Dominic Grieve, the former shadow home secretary.
Over dinner, Brooks once spoke to him about the Human Rights Act (HRA). He was in favour of it and she was not, Jay says.
Brooks says Grieve believed the Tory pledge to replace the HRA with a British bill of rights “should not be so easily promised”.
The dinner conversation was “quite heated” as he did not toe the party line on the future of the act, she says.
“I did not tell Mr Cameron to move him,” Brooks says, pressed by Jay. “They [Grieve's shadow cabinet colleagues] were concerned that his view was not to be taken seriously.”
Brooks maintains she did not give Cameron any advice on Grieve. Cameron and Osborne were “at pains” to tell Brooks that Grieve was mistaken and that he did not share that view, she adds.
Jay suggests the government yielded to Brooks’s pressure to reopen the McCann investigation. “It only took about a day,” he notes, drily.
Brooks insists that this was a worthwhile campaign.
Lord Justice Leveson intervenes. He asks whether Brooks was involved in a strategy to threaten No 10 in order to obtain a review of the Madeleine investigation.
“I was certainly part of a strategy to launch a campaign in order to get a review for the McCanns,” Brooks says, disputing that it was a “threat”.
Leveson: “Give me another word for it, would you?”
Leveson appears unconvinced.
Brooks says she did not take the McCann issue up with Downing Street.
Editor Dominic Mohan or Tom Newton-Dunn, the Sun’s political editor, will have spoken to No 10 or the Home Office about reopening the Madeleine investigation after the Sun’s campaign, she says.
Was there an ultimatum or threat to the home secretary?
“I’m pretty sure there will not have been a threat, but you will have to ask Dominic Mohan,” she says.
Jay says he has been told that Brooks intervened personally with the prime minister and said the Sun would put Theresa May on the front page every day until the paper’s demands were met.
Brooks says that is not true. “I did not say to the prime minister we would put Theresa May on the front page every day. If I’d had any conversations with No 10 directly they would not have been particularly about that,” she adds.
Brooks is asked about the serialisation in the Sunday Times and the Sun of a book by Kate McCann, the mother of Madeleine.
Gerry McCann told the inquiry that they were initially “horrified” about the serialisation, but were later convinced after News International pledged to back their campaign if they agreed to the serialisation.
Brooks can’t remember how much News International paid for the book serialisation.
“Hundreds of thousands. It wasn’t £1m. Half a million maybe?”
She adds: “I had always got on very well with Gerry and Kate McCann. I think if asked they would be very positive about the Sun. In this case I thought Dominic Mohan’s idea to run the campaign, this review of Madeleine’s case by the home secretary, was the right thing to do … I don’t think I spoke to Theresa May directly. Dominic [Mohan] may have done.”
Jay asks if it was important for Brooks to build friendships with senior politicians.
Brooks says that “some friendships were made” but politicians never forgot she was a journalist and she never forgot they were a politician.
Did she feel you had personal power over politicians?
“I just didn’t see it like that. I saw my role as editor of the Sun as a very responsible one.”
Jay suggests that she was aware of her ability to be empathetic with people.
“I hope to be empathetic, yes,” she says, after Jay reassures her that he is not suggesting anything sinister.
Jays asks whether Brooks believes that British politicians thought she had influence over Murdoch.
“No. Politicians did want to get access to the editor of the Sun and his or her team as much as possible. But I don’t think people thought to get to Mr Murdoch they had to get through me,” she says.
“I always examined the ulterior motives of politicians. I thought it was pretty obvious – I don’t know a politician who would turn down a meeting with a senior journalist from any broadcaster or newspaper … it’s been the same case for decades.”
Politicians were keen to put their case to Sun executives because of the large readership of the paper, she says.
Politicians would occasionally complain about coverage of them in the Sun, Brooks says.
She adds that Blair would “often” complain about the Sun’s attitude to Europe.
Brooks agrees that she was close to Rupert Murdoch. In order to get close to Murdoch they had to get close to you?
“No … not true,” she says.
Jay turns to more general conversations between Brooks and politicians.
She says she “never really” had a conversation with a politician about the BBC and “not enough” about self-regulation of the press.
Cherie Blair discussed the Daily Mail’s hostile coverage of Tony with Brooks, she says.
“Cherie Blair was concerned that she felt a lot of her coverage was quite sexist. But she’s not the first high-profile female to think that about the UK media,” she says. “She sometimes felt it was quite cruel about her weight.”
Brooks is asked about Blair‘s description of the media as “feral beasts” in June 2007.
“I was quite surprised when he said that,” she says, adding that Blair did not communicate those concerns to her.
Ian Katz, deputy editor of the Guardian, has just tweeted:
Breaking Brooks Xmas devs: this is first time anyone hs admitted Boxing Day meeting between PM and Brooks at Brooks’s sister-in-law party
— ian katz (@iankatz1000) May 11, 2012
Brooks says it was “disappointing” when it emerged that Vince Cable had “some personal prejudice” over the deal.
How well did she know Jeremy Hunt? “Not as well as others, no. Not particularly.”
Was she putting out feelers to find out if Hunt would be on side? “I think he had posted something on his website saying he was quite favourable, before the decision went to him. But not from a direct conversation with Mr Hunt.”
What about the Boxing Day 2010 meeting with Cameron?
“Mr Cameron attended a Boxing Day mulled wine mince pie party at my sister-in-law’s. I popped in on my way to another dinner. I don’t have any memory – I don’t think I did speak to him or Samantha. I would have seen them but not even to have a proper conversation.”
Brooks is asked when she was first made aware of “Rubicon”, the News Corp codename for the BSkyB bid.
“Around the same time, maybe a couple of months before,” she says.
Do you know who chose that codename? “I think it might have been James Murdoch,” she says, but adds she doesn’t know.
Did anyone in government know the codename, such as George Osborne or Jeremy Hunt? “I never heard them acknowledge that name.”
Jay asks if Brooks raised the takeover with Cameron, for example discussed at dinner with him in December 2010.
“It was mentioned but not widely discussed. It was mentioned because it was in the news because Dr [Vince] Cable had resigned from that role.”
Brooks says she probably did get involved in lobbying politicians for News Corp over the BSkyB deal.
I did have an informal role as you suggest, mainly after the formation of the anti-Sky bid alliance because that brought News International into what was a News Corp transaction because the anti Sky alliance was … well, everyone else. They were using their own news outlets to promote their view and lobby politicians, I probably did get involved.
Brooks adds that she would “waste no time” putting News Corp’s case for the deal as “a counter-voice in a very large opposition”.
Jay moves on to Elisabeth Murdoch and her husband, Matthew Freud.
He asks: how often have you been to the Freuds’ home, your home, or the Camerons’ home, in the company of other politicians?
Never at Cameron’s home, Brooks says. “Once George Osborne at a dinner at my own. The only time at Elisabeth Murdoch’s house, her 40th, a couple of years ago.”
Jay turns to Murdoch’s 40th, at the Burford Priory which he says “I detect may be in Oxfordshire”. “Well done,” says Leveson, drily.
When were you made aware the News Corp bid would be made for the rest of BSkyB? “Before the public announcement, shortly before.”
Before the general election or after? “I think it was before.”
She adds: “I played no formal role in the BSkyB transaction. I was made aware that it was on the cards before the public announcement. Maybe six weeks, a couple of months beforehand.”
Brooks is asked if she discussed the phone-hacking allegations with Cameron between the July 2009 Guardian story and 2011?
“Yes I did,” she answers.
“On occasion … not very often, once or twice, because of the phone-hacking story was a constant, it kept coming up, so we would bring it up, maybe in 2010 we had a more specific conversation with it,” she says. “It was one I remember rather than the story being around.”
She adds that Cameron was “interested in the latest developments … it was about the amount of civil cases coming in around the end of 2010″.
Was he concerned that phone hacking went beyond Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire?
“Probably yes. It was a general conversation about the increase in the civil cases.”
Jay presses Brooks on this conversation. Brooks says she “explained the story behind the news … just a general update.”
Jay says he is interested in what Cameron said to her, not the other way round.
Cameron asked her about a civil case that came out, she says.
Was it, asks Jay, related to his hiring of Coulson? “Not on that instance, no.” On any other instance? “No.” Is she sure about that? “Yes.”
Brooks is asked about a meeting with Cameron at a point-to-point horse race. She says she did not meet Cameron, although he may have seen her husband, and did not text the PM beforehand.
What comments did Brooks make about the politicians’ TV debates in the 2010 election? “I felt the first one wasn’t very good,” she says.
Did she text the other two party leaders? “I didn’t text Gordon Brown no.” Nick Clegg? “No.”
“How were these texts signed off? Everyone wants to know,” says Jay. Leveson asks: “Do I?”
“He would sign them off ‘DC’ in the main,” says Brooks.
Anything else? “Occasionally he would sign them off LOL, ‘lots of love’, until I told him it meant ‘laugh out loud’ and he didn’t sign them that anymore. In the main DC I’d have thought.”
Leveson says: “Right, done that. Move on.”
Jay turns back to David Cameron.
There is an absence of text messages that might have existed, isn’t there?
“Yes, that is correct,” she says.
Brooks says it is “preposterous” and not true that Cameron text her a dozen times a day. “I would text Mr Cameron, and vice versa, on occasion,” she says. “Between January 2010, during election campaign … on average, once a week.”
Sometimes she would text him twice a week.
What were these text messages about?
“Some if not the majority were to do with organisation, meeting up or arranging to speak, some were about a social occasion and occasionally would be my own personal comment about a TV debate, something like that.”
Jay asks how often Brooks met Cameron in the first five months of 2010, in runup to the general election.
“Three or four times,” says Brooks.
Brooks says that there was a negative reaction from Sun readers to its front-page criticism of Brown’s letter to the bereaved mother. “And I think that was probably fair,” she says.
Murdoch told Brooks that Brown had declared war on News Corp, she says. “Mr Brown was very angry, I’m not sure there was anything particularly relevant to this inquiry. Mr Murdoch told me the same story that he told you,” says Brooks.
Brown had made “similar comments made about the Sun and abandoning Labour after 12 years, hostile comments,” she adds. “When Mr Murdoch told me his conversation it didn’t surprise me. He told me exactly what he told the inquiry.”
Brooks received insinuations from others “close to Brown” about threats to News Corp, she says, repeating that the then-prime minister was “incredibly aggressive and angry” towards her.
Jay asks: were you fearful if he did win the election he had it in his power to harm News International?
Brooks: “I didn’t think that. At not any point in the conversation with Mr Brown if he wins he will go against the commercial interests of the company. He was just incredibly aggressive and angry.”
Here are Brooks’s meetings with opposition leaders from 1997 to 2011, according to notes taken by the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh at the inquiry.
27 March 1997 – Tony Blair meeting
20 July 1998 – William Hague meeting
21 June 2000 – William Hague meeting
10 August 2000 – William Hague restaurant
16 June 2003 – Iain Duncan Smith
7 October 2003 – Iain Duncan Smith
3 March 2004 – Michael Howard dinner restaurant
14 July 2004 – Michael Howard meeting
15 July 2004 – Michael Howard restaurant
21 October 2004 – Michael Howard
21 February 2005 – Michael Howard
18 January 2005 – David Cameron lunch
15 June 2006 – David Cameron lunch hotel
2 October 2006 – David Cameron Highcliffe
16 January 2007 – David Cameron lunch News International
24 March 2007 – David Cameron dinner
22 January 2008 – David Cameron breakfast
22 April 2008 – Nick Clegg
3 May 2009 – David Cameron lunch home of James and Kathryn Murdoch
1 September 2009 – David Cameron meeting
21 September 2009 – David Cameron dinner home of James and Kathryn Murdoch
24 October 2009 – David Cameron dinner home of David and Sam Cameron
2 November 2009 – David Cameron breakfast
19 December 2009 – David Cameron dinner Brookses’ home
21 January 2010 – David Cameron dinner home of James and Kathryn Murdoch
15 March 2010 – Nick Clegg lunch News International
17 August 2010 – Nick Clegg hotel
15 September 2010 – Ed Miliband lunch
22 February 2011 – Nick Clegg lunch News International
Jay asks if politicians fear personal attacks by the Sun.
Brooks says: “Neil Kinnock might think that [but] I’m not sure the paper has been like that for a while. Occasionally, obviously, depending on the story that would happen in the main the Sun concentrated on the issues rather than just attacking for the sake of personal attacks.”
Jay suggests prying intrusively and personal attacks has been part of the metier of the Sun.
Brooks says: “Holding politicians to account has occasionally been found to be intrusive but these are not the policy. When a newspaper oversteps the line I have heard criticism of papers that I have edited, that privacy is a hugely debated topic in every newsroom, your premise was ‘this was the culture’, I was disputing that.”
Jay says politicians fear if they depart from what the paper wants there may be a personal attack.
Brooks: “It’s not fair to say politicians live in fear of newspapers … MPs don’t scare easily.”
Brown telephoned Brooks in October after the Sun attacked the then prime minister of an apparently illegible letter he sent to the bereaved mother of a dead soldier.
Brooks, who was then News International chief executive, says Brown was “very aggressive” but she understood his concern over what she admits was an overly personal attack.
She spoke to Sun editor Dominic Mohan on the morning of the headline and said it should not happen again.
“The tone of it was very aggressive and quite rightly he was hurt by the projection and headline that had been put on the story. He suspected or thought that this may be a way in which the Sun was going to behave. I assured him it wasn’t, that it was a mistake, and that this wasn’t how the Sun was going to behave.”
Doesn’t the Sun quite often indulge in a personal attack?
“No. The fact it resulted in such an extraordinarily aggressive conversation between me and Mr Brown suggests it doesn’t happen, I don’t accept that.”
Brooks says she tried to contact Gordon Brown, Sarah Brown and Peter Mandelson to speak to her before the Sun published its front-page switch in support.
She says that Mandelson “seemed quite angry, but not surprised”.
Brooks eventually spoke to Brown in October 2009, a few weeks after the Sun announcement, she says.
Why did she not speak to Brooks sooner?
“It was clear that there was nothing more to say at that point. I don’t think he wanted to talk to me.”
by the looks of these pictures, the weather wasn’t much of a scorcher.Brooks told the inquiry that the Sun had a very close relationship with its readers. How close? Brooks and all her staff, including big name columnists, would make an annual trip to what she described as a “£9.50 holiday camp” where they would meet the readers and take part in all sorts of fun and games including, back in 2007, “Strictly Sun dancing”. Page 3 girls, writers Ally Ross and Jane Moore and royal snapper Arthur Edwards were also at the 2007 weekend shindig at a former Butlin’s holiday camp (Brooks, we hasten to add, didn’t go into this much detail at Leveson). A thinktank comparing the paper’s royal coverage with its rivals was codenamed “Windsor” (what else?). But
Brooks accepts she knew the Sun’s switch in allegiance would anger Labour figures.
Was this a show of strength from the Sun?
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen it in those terms,” she says. “My main responsibility was to a readership.”
Brooks maintains that no one outside of Wapping knew the exact timing of when the Sun would switch its support to the Tories.
She describes herself as “instrumental” in the decision on the timing: the Sun pronounced its support for the Tories after Gordon Brown’s speech at the Labour party conference in 2009.
Brooks says she felt it “unfair to cloud a party conference” by announcing the switch before the Labour conference, rather than after.
“The reason for that night is because Mr Brown’s speech … the key was that he spent less than two minutes on Afghanistan. We felt that was the right timing in order to distance ourselves,” she explains.
Jay turns to the Sun’s support for the Tories, which James Murdoch told David Cameron about at an informal meeting on 9 September 2009 at the George in London.
In June 2009, Brooks, Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh and the Murdochs “did start to have discussions”, she says.
Brooks says that by that time the Sun had “lost things to support Gordon Brown on” so began to consider a change in political allegiance.
Was the decision based on who was likely to win the election?
Brooks says it was about the Sun’s readership: “There were lots of issues that our readers were concerned about.”
She adds that that summer the Sun had not written one editorial in support of Labour.
Jay asks again if any part of this decision was based on who was likely to win the election.
“In general terms it would have been, but only a part of it because I can’t remember the polls at the time. The Tories were in the lead back then, but polls are polls.”
She says the floating voter is important for the Sun. The “overwhelming feedback” from readers was that they were unhappy with Labour, she adds.
Brooks met Cameron in Greece while she was there for Elisabeth Murdoch’s birthday. He was only there for an afternoon and an evening, she says.
Jay asks whether Brooks was pleased with this occasion.
“Well, it was very cordial, it went well,” she says.
Cameron also attended a New Year’s Eve party at the home of a Brooks family member, Jay says.
The inquiry has resumed and Jay asks about the Tory leadership election.
Brooks says: “I don’t remember having a particular line in the paper about the leadership.”
Did you have any involvement in Andy Coulson’s appointment as director of communications for the Conservative party?
Brooks replies, “No.” She adds that she heard about it from Andy Coulson.
What was her reaction? “I probably said ‘well done’ … he had had to resign from the News of the World and he had found a good job; as a friend I was pleased for him.”
Was she surprised that the Tory party wanted to appoint Coulson?
Not really: journalists are good communicators. Alastair Campbell went to the Mirror, Amanda Platell worked for William Hague. There is a long history of journalists going into politics, didn’t occur to me as anything different.
Here is a brief summary of Brooks’s evidence so far:
• Brooks received direct or indirect messages of support from politicians including Cameron, Osborne and former prime minister Tony Blair when left she left News International in July 2011
• Tony Blair and his aides described by Brooks as “constant presence in my life for years”
• Witness statement reveals Brooks discussed News Corp bid for BSkyB with David Cameron and George Osborne in December 2010 “but no inappropriate conversations”
Here are Brooks’s meetings with prime ministers from 2005 to 2010, according to notes taken by the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh at the inquiry.
21 April 2005 – Tony Blair meeting No 10
4 August 2005 – Blair meeting
1 September 2005 – Blair dinner
6 April 2006 – Blair dinner restaurant
12 June 2006 – Blair dinner home of Matthew Freud + Elisabeth Murodch
24 July 2006 – Blair dinner
20 Sep 2006 – Blair dinner
1 December 2006 – Blair meeting Chequers
21 January 2007 – Blair drinks No 10
25 April 2007 Blair dinner restaurant
15 May 2007 – Blair dinner restaurant
8 May 2007 – Blair meeting Woodstock
1 August 2007 – Gordon Brown meeting No 10
9 September 2007 – Brown lunch
10 December 2007 – Brown drinks
10 March 2008 – Brown dinner
15 January 2009 – Brown dinner, home of Gordon and Sarah
30 March 089 – Brown phone call
13 June 2010 – David Cameron Chequers
13 August 2010 – Cameron Chequers
4 October 2010 – Cameron Conservative party
9 October 2010 – Cameron Chequers
23 December 2010 – Cameron Brooks’s home
The inquiry is now taking a short break.
Brooks is asked about her social circle.
Is it true there was a circle of friends including her, Wendi Murdoch, Elisabeth Murdoch and, at one stage, Sarah Brown?
“We all knew each other, we didn’t meet as a group like that very often, probably only once,” she says.
Jay asks Brooks about the deteriorating relationship with Brown.
He says that by March 2009 the Sun was moving inexorably towards supporting the Conservative party. “Not quite the way I would describe it,” Brooks replies.
She says it was around March 2009, maybe a bit later, when Brown announced the referendum on the European constitution, they were going to renege on that. The Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Sun called for a snap election in the autumn of 2009.
Brooks says that the Sun was considered a “very pro-armed forces” newspaper so received a lot of feedback from readers about the government’s Afghanistan campaign.
Jay asks if Brooks had much less contact with Brown as PM than Blair.
“He wasn’t prime minister for very long, in 2009 the Sun came out for the Tories and contact was very limited after that,” says Brooks.
Jay says it has been suggested Brooks passed on material gained from Gordon Brown to Tony Blair – is that true?
“No it isn’t. And I think your source might be John Prescott. It’s not true.”
Jay turns to a particular Sun article, from 2005, which said there had been a crushing blow to Brown’s hopes as PM. It said Blair had told close allies intends to lead Labour for five more years.
Where did that come from, asks Jay. Was it Blair, did he plant it? “I can’t tell you that at all.”
Was the support of your paper at election time the subject of prior discussion with Mr Blair or his advisors?
Brooks: “Not in 2001 that I can remember. In 2005 it was a very difficult time for the Labour party. I’m pretty sure it was Michael Howard who was leader of the opposition. The Sun under my editorship we were very even handed during that election process.”
Was the fact of the Sun’s support discussed with Blair or his advisers?
Brooks: “Not that I can remember. It wouldn’t be that way. I think in 2005 the Sun, we left it right to the day. We erected in a Vatican-style chimney on the roof of Wapping, whatever coloured smoke – sorry, it was funny at the time, clearly lost in translation – whatever smoke came up. We had red smoke and blue smoke … I’m not sure we could find any yellow smoke at the time. I remember being on the roof of Wapping and looking down and seeing all the press guys. I didn’t see Mr Blair with them waiting.”
Jay asks again. Brooks: “No, I don’t remember having a prior discussion with them about it. In 2005 we didn’t tell anyone until we got to the roof of Wapping.”
How often was Blair at home of Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch when he was prime minister? “Very few.” A handful? “Maximum, yes.”
Jay asks whether Brooks’s dinners with Blair between 2003 and 2007 were always one to one or if someone else was present.
“From memory I had about three dinners with Mr Blair on my own,” she says.
have now been published on the Leveson inquiry website.Rebekah Brooks’s two witness statements
Brooks is asked about her relationship with Blair and Brown.
She says that hostilities between Brown and Blair became “increasingly worse” in the latter years of Blair’s premiership.
But whose side was she on? “Neither. On the side of the readers. It was our job to judge and analyse.”
You’ve told us you were friends with Mr Blair. Friends with Brown?
“I was friends with Sarah Brown, an amazing lady. So probably not.”
She concedes taking Blair’s side over the famous “curry house coup” in which the then prime minister and Brown struck a deal over who would be his successor.
“In the end, particularly, we were on the side of Mr Blair,” she says.
It wasn’t a playground spat, we were a newspaper looking after the real serious concerns of our readers. It wasn’t that I would stand in one corner of the playground and Alan Rusbridger would stand in the other. It wouldn’t work like that.
Brooks says that New Labour had “a very big story to tell” and Alastair Campbell “put a huge store on certain newspapers”.
She adds that Blair and his aides “were a constant presence in my life for many years”.
Jay asks what steps Brooks took to counter spin by the New Labour government.
She replies: “Gordon Brown and Charlie Whelan were masters of spin, more than Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair.”
If a politician or a PM ever put a friendship with a media executive or company in front of his or her abilities to do their professional duties properly, that is their failing. If a journalist ever compromised their readership or role through a friendship, that is their failing.
She does not believe any journalist would report verbatim a line or story given to them by a politician.
Jay turns to Brooks’s relationship with Tony Blair.
She says Blair did not have a mobile phone or a computer when he was prime minister.
On her meetings with Tony Blair, Brooks says:
“I think it became more frequent when I became editor of the Sun but that would probably go for most politicians. As you heard from Mr Murdoch, Mr Blair flew out to News Corp conference in around 1995 I probably met him shortly after that and they were in power for 10 years. It’s over a very long period of time.”
Did her meetings with politicians increase after you became editor of the Sun? “Yes.”
Brooks is asked whether she was embarrassed when Rupert Murdoch said in July last year that he was her top priority, when asked by reporters in the street.
“I took that to mean this issue … so I wasn’t embarrassed at the time,” she says.
Jay turns to Brooks’s appointment as News International chief executive in 2009.
Brooks discussed this with James and Rupert Murdoch. She says the decision to appoint her was “both of their ideas”.
I had been editing the Sun for seven years by then. I was very interested in looking at the future economic models of journalism, how you continue financially to keep high quality journalism going.
Jay asks if Dominic Mohan was her choice as editor of the Sun.
“Yes, he had been my deputy for several years,” she replies. She says she liked the paper he produced in her absence: “I thought he was doing a very good job.”
Brooks confirms Murdoch hosted a party for her 40th birthday at which politicians including Tony Blair were present.
Murdoch’s contact with the News of the World was “much more limited” than with the Sun or other newspapers, Brooks says.
She says Murdoch was “instrumental” in her appointment as editor of the Sun in 2003. Jay asks how often Brooks spoke to him as editor of the Sun.
“Very frequently. It wasn’t a regular pattern. Sometimes every day … very frequently. Mainly when he wasn’t in the country.”
Brooks denies the rumour that she used to swim with Murdoch when he was in London. She also knocks down a rumour that Murdoch sent her a dress to the police station after she was arrested from an alleged assault on former husband Ross Kemp.
Where is this from, asks Brooks. “Various sources,” says Jay, to laughter. “You need better sources,” says Brooks.
Brooks agrees that editors can “present issues to the readership”, but does not agree with the suggestion that they enjoy a unique power.
Jay: “You can present issues with a certain attitude?”
Jay asks why Brooks believes the Sun reflects the mood of the nation.
If you accept the Sun has for many years been the biggest selling paper in the country. The Saturday Sun overtook the News of the World, five years ago maybe longer, in circulation terms, you have this huge readership … 8 million … paper next to that is the Daily Mail with 6 million … such a large percentage of the population would come in contact with the Sun at one time or another.
Jay describes newspaper proprietors as “unelected forces”. Brooks contests that.
He asks what she views them as. “Journalists,” she replies.
Your power is your readership. It’s not an individual power. It’s a readership power, and I think that’s really important … At the Sun, the readers are the most powerful. It’s their voice we try and reflect … Every day, the readers can unelect us as newspapers.
Jay asks if the Sun’s editorial line reflected Murdoch’s thinking.
Brooks says “the readers’ views were always reflected” in the Sun’s stance on politics. She adds that she does not believe Murdoch was speaking literally when he told the inquiry politicians should read the leaders in the Sun if they wanted to know what he thought on an issue.
Jay suggests Murdoch was talking about the big issues.
“I accept that,” says Brooks.
Brooks is asked about being appointed editor of the News of the World in 2000.
She believes the appointment was down to Les Hinton’s “strong recommendation” but she did not speak to Rupert Murdoch until after she took the job.
Jay turns to Rupert Murdoch.
Brooks says that Murdoch is more interested in the Sun over political issues. “Less so,” when she was editor of the News of the World, she adds.
“We disagreed about quite a few things. More in the margins of it than the principle … so the environment, the DNA database … the amount of celebrity in the paper rather than serious issues,” Brooks says. “But in the main, on the big issues, we had similarities.”
She says Murdoch wanted more serious issues in the Sun whereas Brooks wanted more celebrity content “although he liked The X Factor”.
Brooks is asked about messages from David Cameron.
She confirms she received a message from Cameron apologising for his lack of support. “Very indirectly,” she says, confirming that the message was along those lines.
Jay asks if Cameron and George Osborne sent her these messages.
“And also people who worked in those offices,” says Brooks. “Very few Labour politicians.”
Mr Blair? “Yes.”
Probably not Mr Brown? “No. He was probably getting the bunting out.”
Did Mr Cameron indirectly say keep your head up? “Along those lines, I don’t think they were the exact words.”
Is the gist right? “Yes. It was indirect. It wasn’t a direct text message.”
Jay then asks about the “keep your head up” message, reported to have come from Cameron.
“It was similar but not direct,” says Brooks.
Broadly speaking, that message was delivered to you? “Yes.”
How do these messages come into the public domain? “Journalists doing their job,” says Brooks.
Brooks says she had a number of indirect messages of support from “some politicians, some Tories … very few Labour MPs”.
When pressed, she says she received messages of support from “No 10, No 11, Home Office, Foreign Office”.
Former prime minister Tony Blair sent her a message of support, she says.
Brooks’s BlackBerry was held by Scotland Yard for about three weeks in July 2011, she says.
Her BlackBerry was imaged by her legal team, and contained about six weeks of emails and about a month of texts. “We had to image them … had some problems with that,” she adds.
It contained emails and texts from the beginning of June 2011 to 17 July 2011, she confirms. One email was from David Cameron.
“One from Mr Cameron that was compressed in June, but there’s no content in it,” she says.
Brooks says she has not been able to get “the complete picture” about her various meetings, but has given “a flavour” based on the documents she has been able to retrieve.
Jay mentions a diary kept by Brooks’s former PA.
“Definitely not an Alastair Campbell-style diary,” says Brooks.
Brooks joined the Sunday magazine on the News of the World in 1989; she was appointed deputy editor of the News of the World in 1996; and was made deputy editor of the Sun in 1998.
In May 2000 she became editor of the News of the World aged 31. She became editor of the Sun in January 2003 and chief executive of News International from 2 September 2009.
The inquiry has begun and Rebekah Brooks has taken the witness stand.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, is doing the questioning.
She was greeted by this pantomime horse, a reference to the “Horsegate” saga after it emerged earlier this year that David Cameron rode a retired police horse that had been lent to Brooks by Scotland Yard.
Rich Peppiatt, the ex-Daily Star reporter turned tabloid mischief maker, is one of the people underneath the pantomime horse.
Good morning and welcome to the Leveson inquiry live blog.
Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, will give evidence in a full-day hearing.
It will be the first time Brooks has made any public statement since 19 July 2011, when she gave evidence to the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on phone hacking.
Brooks, the ex-editor of both the Sun and the News of the World, will face a series of questions about her relationship with former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but the inquiry is likely to place extra scrutiny on her dealings with David Cameron. The prime minister was reported to have offered his personal support to Brooks after she resigned from News International at the height of the phone-hacking scandal in July last year.
Brooks is unlikely to be asked about the ongoing police investigations into phone hacking or payments to police officers. She is currently on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages and of corruption on 17 July last year, and separately held on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on 13 March this year.
A close confidante of Rupert Murdoch, Brooks declined four times to give evidence to MPs on phone hacking between July 2009 and May 2011, according to the select committee report published last week.
The 43-year-old, who edited the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, was criticised by the Commons cross-party select committee earlier in May for overseeing a culture at the Sunday tabloid in which reporters acted unethically in their dogged coverage of the Milly Dowler murder investigation.
“The attempts by the News of the World to get a scoop on Milly Dowler led to a considerable amount of valuable police resource being redirected to the pursuit of false leads,” the committee said in its phone-hacking report.
“For those actions, and the culture which permitted them, the editor should accept responsibility.”
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