Leveson to train his sights on the big guns of British politics
Martin Hickman anticipates next week's key questions
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Saturday 09 June 2012
New text messages and emails between senior Government ministers and Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate are set to be disclosed at the Leveson Inquiry next week.
David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg will undergo hours of questioning about their dealings with News Corp and its newspapers. Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond will also appear.
In recent weeks, the inquiry has disclosed embarrassing messages between News Corp and the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, his adviser Adam Smith and other senior ministers. Last night a spokesman stressed: "All witnesses have to provide all relevant material." This is the line-up:
Of all the Cabinet ministers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was closest to Rupert Murdoch. According to News International's former chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, he recommended that Mr Cameron appoint Andy Coulson as his press chief in May 2007, months after he resigned from the News of the World.
After Vince Cable was stripped of overseeing News Corp's takeover of BSkyB in December 2010, Mr Osborne texted Mr Hunt "I hope you like our solution", passing the decision to Mr Hunt. Did Mr Osborne apply pressure on the PM to give the deal to a minister who supported Mr Murdoch?
The former PM claims The Sunday Times employed a "blagger" to access his bank account, and also suspects that The Sun used foul play to obtain a story about his son Fraser. According to Mr Murdoch, after The Sun switched allegiance to the Tories in September 2009, Mr Brown told him: "We have no alternative but to declare war on your company." Mr Brown told the Commons last year he had rejected News Corp's attempts to influence government policy on the BBC licence fee and sports rights. What evidence does he have for his claims? Did he really "declare war" on Mr Murdoch?
Sir John Major
The ex-Tory PM was regularly pilloried by The Sun. According to the former Labour MP Chris Mullin, Mr Major wanted to limit Mr Murdoch's power but was reluctant to do so without cross-party support. Mr Major also appears to have refrained from introducing a privacy law. Why?
The Labour leader attacked News International last July after disclosures about the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. In an interview last year, he indicated that the company had warned him about making future attacks. What were the details of this?
The Deputy PM is said to have warned Mr Cameron against taking Mr Coulson into Downing Street after the election. What did he suspect and what does he think of News International's attitude towards the Lib Dems?
The SNP leader enjoys the support of The Sun. Did he cut a deal with Mr Murdoch, and was his mobile hacked by the NOTW?
The Prime Minister is set to be grilled all day. The inquiry will be keen to know what assurances he sought from Mr Coulson before appointing him – and why he ignored advice against taking him into Government. He will also be asked about his relationship with Ms Brooks, to whom he signed off texts "LOL" (which he thought meant "lots of love").
When did Mr Cameron learn that The Sun would swing its support behind him? Did Mr Murdoch or his son James ask for anything in return? Also key will be the PM's decision to pass the BSkyB decision to Mr Hunt, despite having received a memo from him supporting the deal.
Leveson: The line-up:
The Chancellor hosted Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and her husband at his country home, Dorneywood, in 2010. Did they mull over News Corp's £7.8bn takeover of BSkyB – if so, what was said?
The Labour leader is likely to have an easier ride than Mr Cameron, having condemned the News of the World after the Milly Dowler scandal. He later said News International had warned him not to speak out: did it?
Will the former PM reprise his denunciation of News Corp aired in the Commons last July? During that long speech, Mr Brown accused News International of consorting with the "criminal underworld".
That the SNP leader and Rupert Murdoch are friends is certain – but has Mr Murdoch gained anything in return for his support? In particular, did Mr Salmond lobby Westminster over the BSkyB deal?
The PM texted his love to Rebekah Brooks and rode Raisa, the police horse she borrowed from the Met – but the toughest questions he faces revolve around his dealings with the Murdochs and the BSkyB bid.
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