The Leveson Inquiry: We're in this together!
The infamous text sent to David Cameron by Rebekah Brooks proves there was no need of a conspiracy, overt or otherwise, over News International's bid for BSkyB. The key players are friends, neighbours, and share the same world view. But is the judicial inquiry really getting to the bottom of it all?
1. Rooting for Dave
The text messages between Rebekah Brooks and David Cameron
What we know: Brooks sent a text to Cameron on 7 October 2009, the day before his conference speech, saying "we're definitely in this together".
What they say: Cameron told Leveson that the text showed they were friends but also "we were going to be pushing the same political agenda".
What we need to know: What did Cameron say in his message that sparked the text? Brooks tells him "I do understand the issue with The Times" – suggesting he was unhappy with a story in that day's paper claiming that he was going to create an "army of peers". But there were more hostile stories the newspaper had printed, including one a day earlier headlined "Tory leadership struggles to hold the European dividing line", a story about the party leadership and lobbyists and a leaked email about the Tories' defence spending. These three were written by the chief reporter, Tom Baldwin, who is now Ed Miliband's spin-doctor. No 10 says it is unable to publish Cameron's texts because they relate to his time in opposition, and no record was kept. The phone company Cameron used would have a copy of the texts, so why can't a judge-led inquiry force them to be disclosed?
2. The hunting ban
Despite repeated allegations that Jeremy Hunt has misled Parliament over his role in the BSkyB bid, the Prime Minister has cleared his Culture Secretary of wrongdoing, without ordering an investigation.
What we know: Hunt told the Commons on 25 April he made "absolutely no interventions seeking to influence a quasi-judicial decision". Yet it later emerged that he had written a memo to Cameron supporting the bid in November 2010. His special adviser Adam Smith resigned after emails revealed he was giving News Corp an inside track on the bid process. The ministerial code says ministers must take responsibility for their special advisers, and must not mislead Parliament. Cameron has refused to order an investigation by the ministerial watchdog Sir Alex Allan. On 30 April, the PM told the Commons he had seen "no evidence" to suggest Hunt had breached the ministerial code.
What they say: In the Commons last week, Hunt admitted for the first time he may have been "misleading Parliament inadvertently".
What we need to know: If Hunt now admits he may have misled the Commons – albeit by accident – why is the PM not ordering an Allan inquiry? Paragraph 1.2c of the ministerial code says that any "inadvertent error" must be corrected "at the earliest opportunity". Why is the PM using the Leveson inquiry to say there is no need for an Allan inquiry, when Hunt was not asked a single question by Leveson or inquiry QC Robert Jay about misleading the House or the ministerial code?
3. In this together
How the political and the social collided
What we know: Cameron appeared forgetful when asked how much he had seen of Brooks socially. With the help of his wife's diary, Cameron explained that they saw each other "once every six weeks, no, perhaps a little bit more". Then there was the meeting at a chalet in Davos in January 2009 between George Osborne, James and Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, and dozens of dinners and lunches before and after the 2010 general election.
What they say: Cameron said last week: "There was no overt deal for support; there was no covert deal, no nods and winks."
What we need to know: Did Cameron really not expect a question about how often he had seen Brooks? Could not his wife's clarification of "perhaps a little bit more" mean nearly every weekend? There didn't need to be any "grand deal" or "conspiracy" because, as the Brooks text underlined, they were already "in this together".
4. More spinned against than spinning
How was Andy Coulson appointed?
What we know: It has been suggested that it was Rebekah Brooks's idea, first to George Osborne, for Andy Coulson to work alongside David Cameron in 2007.
What they say: Brooks denies having spoken to Cameron about hiring Coulson. Cameron said last week: "He was sure he would have had a conversation with her about it." In his resignation statement, Coulson did not deny knowing about phone hacking, but Cameron said last week that he and his colleagues Ed Llewellyn and Francis Maude all asked Coulson if he had known about the hacking, and last week George Osborne also said that he had asked. Both said Coulson had given the appropriate assurance. Cameron said this took place in his office, whereas Coulson says Cameron asked him a vaguer question over the phone, which prompted a denial from Coulson. Cameron said that he also asked Coulson privately in 2009 to repeat his assurances. Coulson told Leveson he had no memory of that, nor of having been asked by Llewellyn and Maude, although he did issue a public denial to the Commons in 2009.
What we need to know: Was it Rebekah Brooks's idea to hire Coulson? Why has the Tory party been so remarkably unwilling to answer questions, publicly and privately, on this issue?
5 The fog of war
Rupert Murdoch's influence on prime ministers
What we know: Murdoch, on oath, told the Leveson inquiry he "never asked a prime minister for anything". But Sir John Major said he was asked by Murdoch to change the Tory policy on Europe in 1997. Gordon Brown denies Murdoch's claims to Leveson that he "declared war" on his empire after The Sun switched support from Labour to the Tories in October 2009. Yesterday, Alastair Campbell's diaries were published showing that Murdoch called Tony Blair days before the Iraq war in March 2003 "pressing him on timings".
What they say: Murdoch tweeted on Friday: "I stand by every word is aid [sic] at Leveson."
What we need to know: Has Murdoch told the truth to Leveson and will he be recalled to the inquiry? What else did Murdoch ask successive prime ministers for?
6 The stable door
Why did Cameron's office deny that he had been riding with Charlie Brooks a year before eventually admitting it?
What we know: That Rebekah Brooks borrowed Raisa, a former Metropolitan Police horse, in 2008. The Mail on Sunday approached Cameron's office in late 2010 and asked if he had ever ridden a horse with Charlie Brooks. Downing Street denied it but, in March of this year, after four days of prevarication, admitted that he had ridden Raisa, with Charlie Brooks.
What they say: On 1 March, Cameron said: "Since becoming PM, I may have got on a horse once, but not that one." The next day, Cameron apologised for embarrassing his press officers, saying of Charlie Brooks: "He has a number of horses and, yes, one of them was this former police horse Raisa which I did ride."
What we need to know: Why didn't No 10 come clean on this earlier?
7 Forgive and forget
Gordon Brown's evidence
What we know: Brown told Leveson he never gave permission for The Sun to print a story in 2006 about his son Fraser's cystic fibrosis. Yet two years later Sarah Brown threw a "pyjama party" for Brooks and Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng. Brown also told Leveson he didn't know that his spin-doctors were briefing and plotting against Blair and other cabinet ministers.
What they say: Brown said his wife is "one of the most forgiving people" who "finds good in everyone".
What we need to know: If he was so angry, why did Brown continue to have a relationship with Brooks after 2006? Is it really credible that Brown did not know what his aides were up to?
8 Into the sand?
The future of press regulation
What we know: The inquiry has so far cost more than £3m, including nearly £500,000 for QC Robert Jay.
What they say: David Cameron has not ruled out some statutory remit. Ed Miliband has called for some form of state-backed regulation. A "draft criteria" document by the Leveson inquiry suggested regulation independent of Parliament and the industry.
What we need to know: What did the PM mean by this comment to Leveson: "Is there some way of saying, 'If you're not part of this, you're not in the lobby, you don't get any information from government, you don't get this or that', and is there a way of making it that it becomes effectively compulsory?" Doesn't that sound like No 10 wants to limit the freedom of political journalism?
‘I can’t recall…’ was a popular phrase used by David Cameron as he gave his evidence at Leveson last week. But as The IoS has discovered, his memory wasn’t as clouded as some other witnesses. These are the number of times 10 key witnesses used the ‘I can’t recall’ defence as they gave evidence:
James Murdoch 49
Rupert Murdoch 43
Jeremy Hunt 41
Rebekah Brooks 31
Andy Coulson 30
David Cameron 28
Gordon Brown 19
George Osborne 16
Alastair Campbell 15
Tony Blair 10
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