A Conservative MP who questioned Rupert and James Murdoch about the extent of journalistic malpractice on Fleet Street yesterday suggested that she herself may have become a victim of a smear campaign.
Louise Mensch revealed she had received an email from a group called "David Jones Investigative Journalists" alleging she had taken drugs with violinist Nigel Kennedy in the 1990s, written a novel of a sexual nature while she was supposed to be working for the record label EMI and included derogatory references in the book to her line manager at the company.
The email suggested David Jones Investigative Journalists intended to publish the claims (although it did not say where) and asked for her response. That came yesterday – when Ms Mensch replied to the email, copying in Westminster journalists and Conservative chief whip Patrick Mcloughlin.
Her extraordinarily frank reply admitted some of the allegations, built on others and blew away any chance that those who sent the email could have an exclusive story on their hands.
"Although I do not remember the specific incident, this sounds highly probable," she replied. "I thoroughly enjoyed working with Nigel Kennedy. Additionally, since I was in my twenties, I'm sure it was not the only incident of the kind; we all do idiotic things when young.
"Writing the first few chapters of Career Girls on my EMI computer is quite correct. It was also not why I was fired by EMI. 'Leaving work early' and 'missing the odd day at work' along with 'inappropriate dress' were the reasons quoted to me."
She ended her reply: "Most importantly, I have not the slightest intention of being deterred from asking how far the culture of hacking and blagging extended in Fleet Street."
Ms Mensch, who is on holiday in America, said she would release the email address from which she received the questions. At the same time she released a letter apologising to the former Mirror editor Piers Morgan for misquoting him during her questioning of the Murdochs.
In a letter to the chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, John Whittingdale, she said she had "wrongly" stated he had been open about personally hacking phones in a book he wrote.
Mrs Mensch said her questions had been based on a "misreading" of a newspaper report on Mr Morgan's account of how the Mirror obtained its scoop on the affair between former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and Ulrika Jonsson.
The threat – and the reply
On 22 July I received the following email:
Dear Mrs Mensch
We are informing you that we have come into possession of the following information about yourself and would like to ask you for any comments before we publish this information.
1. Whilst working at EMI in the 1990s you took drugs with Nigel Kennedy at Ronnie Scott's in Birmingham, including dancing on a dancefloor whilst drunk with Mr Kennedy in front of journalists. Photos of this exist.
2. Whilst working at EMI in the 1990s you wrote a novel of a sexual nature on your work computer during working hours and that it was this that caused EMI to terminate your employment. Correspondence of this exists.
3. The resultant novel included derogatory references to a driver called Roger, a character you based on Roger Lewis, your then line manager, Managing Director at EMI, who is now Group Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union.
We look forward to hearing from you.
David Jones Investigative Journalists
My response is as follows:
1. Although I do not remember the specific incident, this sounds highly probable. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Nigel Kennedy, whom I remember with affection. Additionally, since I was in my twenties, I'm sure it was not the only incident of the kind; we all do idiotic things when young. I am not a very good dancer and must apologise to any and all journalists who were forced to watch me dance that night at Ronnie Scott's.
2. Writing the first few chapters of Career Girls on my EMI computer is quite correct. However, it was all done after work hours. It was also not why I was fired by EMI. "Leaving work early" and "missing the odd day at work", along with "inappropriate dress", were the reasons quoted to me.
3. Career Girls was my first novel. I used the names of many real people I knew for minor characters such as journalists, chauffeurs, bankers and so forth. Roger Lewis was probably amongst them, as were (off the top of my head) Therese Coffey MP, now my colleague on the Select Committee, Jeremy Quin, Damian Hinds MP, Maurice Oberstein, Rod Clayton, James Robertson and many more. None of them have ever complained about my using their names in this way.
I would also like to note that I am thrilled that Roger is now the Group Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union. So many other co-workers from my music business days in the 90s have not found as exciting second careers.
Most importantly, I have not the slightest intention of being deterred from asking how far the culture of hacking and blagging extended in Fleet Street.