Mandelson: Daily Mirror had me followed by a private eye while Piers Morgan was editor


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The Independent Online

Lord Mandelson yesterday told the Leveson Inquiry that he believed the Daily Mirror had commissioned a private investigator to obtain his bank details and place his elderly mother under surveillance.

In an afternoon of wide-ranging and at times grandiloquent testimony to the press standards inquiry, the former Business Secretary levelled his sights on a roll call of high- and low-profile media figures.

Southern Investigations

Lord Mandelson sourced some of his most incendiary evidence from documents which he said had been shown to him by police last year suggesting that a south London detective agency, Southern Investigations (SI), and its boss, Jonathan Rees, had been asked to try to access his bank account and target members of his family.

The peer said officers had told him the searches were ordered by the Daily Mirror while it was being edited by Piers Morgan. The newspaper group has previously said that some of its journalists did use SI, but this had ceased in 1999.

No 'Faustian pact'with Murdoch titles

In his role as the Mephistopheles of New Labour, Lord Mandelson was well-qualified to offer evidence on whether the party sought a pact with Mr Murdoch's media empire ahead of the 1997 general election. He insisted that although Mr Blair had sought to "reassure" The Sun over issues like Europe, there had been no deal between any senior Labour figure and any proprietor that they could expect commercial favours in return for political support.

Blair and Brown were 'too close to Rupert'

Lord Mandelson said the "personal relationships" between the two former prime ministers and Mr Murdoch had become "closer than was wise". Not one to miss an opportunity to have a dig at the opposition, he added he was "sure" that the same could be said for David Cameron and his predecessors as Conservative leader.

Matthew Freud's 'reasonable parties'

The Labour grandee's talent for a smooth put-down emerged when his cross-examination turned to his relationship with Elisabeth Murdoch and her PR supremo husband Matthew Freud. Describing Mr Freud as a "foul-weather friend" who acted as a "connector" rather than a "conduit", he said Mr Freud also threw "reasonable parties".

John Yates's 'act of chutzpah'

Mr Mandelson revealed he had considered suing former Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates when the officer wrote to him accusing him of leaking information to the press at the time of the cash-for-peerages investigation. Lord Mandelson said he considered the letter to be "bullying" and an act of "chutzpah" because he had been told by journalists that Mr Yates was himself briefing reporters. Neil Garnham, counsel for the Metropolitan Police, said the Labour peer had "no evidence" for the claim.

Rebekah's 'charm and persistence'

When asked for his opinion about the former News International chief executive, Lord Mandelson said she was known for her "persistence, charm and manipulative skills". He added: "Although some people might say that's rich coming from me."