So who was telling the truth? Leveson's unfinished business
As the inquiry draws to a close, Martin Hickman looks back at the contradictions that remain
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.
Tuesday 24 July 2012
Contradiction No 1: Rupert Murdoch vs John Major
Issue: Did Rupert Murdoch demand favours from politicians?
What Murdoch said: Asked whether he demanded special treatment from Margaret Thatcher's government during his purchase of The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981, Mr Murdoch said on 25 April: "I hope not. I've never asked a Prime Minister for anything."
What Major said: On 12 June, the former Prime Minister recalled a dinner in 1997: "… it became apparent in discussion that Mr Murdoch said that he really didn't like our European policies… and he wished me to change our European policies. If we couldn't change our European policies, his papers could not and would not support the Conservative government."
Other evidence: Tony Blair said he "didn't lobby me on media stuff", but admitted that was "not to say we weren't aware of the positions their companies had". Alastair Campbell, his communications director, recorded in his diaries that in one telephone call on 11 March 2003, before the Iraq invasion, Mr Murdoch "was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc".
Contradiction No 2: Piers Morgan vs Jeremy Paxman
Issue: Did Piers Morgan know about phone hacking?
What Piers Morgan said: On 20 December, the former Mirror editor said he was not aware of any phone hacking at the paper during his editorship (1995-2004). "I have no reason... to believe it was going on," he said. Asked: "Have you listened to recordings of what you knew to be illegally obtained voicemail messages?" he replied: "I do not believe so, no."
What Jeremy Paxman said: The BBC presenter said that at a lunch in 2002 Morgan had teased Ulrika Jonsson "that he knew what had happened in conversations between her and Sven-Goran Eriksson." He added: "He then explained that the way to get access to people's messages was to go to the factory default setting and press either 0000 or 1234, and that if you didn't put on your own code – his words – 'You're a fool'."
Other evidence: Writing in the Daily Mail in 2006, Morgan remembered being played a tape of a message Paul McCartney had left for Heather Mills on her mobile phone. James Hipwell, a Mirror reporter, later convicted of insider trading, said: "Hacking was considered a bog-standard journalistic tool for gathering information."
Contradiction No 3: David Cameron vs Andy Coulson
Issue: How many times did David Cameron seek assurances from Andy Coulson about his past?
What Cameron said: The Prime Minister said he asked the former News of the World editor for assurances about his past before he hired him at a meeting in his office in March 2007. Following reports in July 2009 of widespread phone hacking at the News of the World, "I asked Andy Coulson to repeat the assurances."
What Andy Coulson said: Asked whether Mr Cameron sought further assurances from him in 2009, Mr Coulson replied: "Not that I recall."
Other evidence: In July 2011, Mr Cameron said he had appointed Mr Coulson as his communications director "on the basis of assurances he gave me that he did not know about the phone-hacking and he was not involved in criminality".
Contradiction No 4: Murdoch vs Myler and Crone
Issue: Did James Murdoch know phone hacking was rife at News of the World?
What Tom Crone said: On 14 December, the News of the World's former lawyer insisted he had discussed with James Murdoch the "For Neville" email – which indicated phone hacking at the paper went beyond just the "rogue reporter" Clive Goodman. He even held up the email at a meeting with Mr Murdoch on 10 June 2008, he said, adding: "What was certainly discussed was the email."
What Colin Myler said: The NOTW's final editor who was in the same meeting in 2008, backed Mr Crone's account.
What James Murdoch said: Asked whether he saw the email, Mr Murdoch replied: "No." Robert Jay QC pressed: "So you don't have any recollection of Mr Crone at the very least showing you the first page of the email?"
"No, I don't have any recollection of that," he replied.
Other evidence: In all their public statements since last July, Mr Crone and Mr Myler have insisted that Mr Murdoch was aware of the "For Neville" email and its significance. It led to James Murdoch agreeing the biggest privacy settlement in UK legal history – £700,000 to the union leader Gordon Taylor. Mr Murdoch maintains he agreed the payment on the advice of Messrs Crone and Myler.
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