Andy McSmith: All right, she got a few texts from Cameron. But influential? Well connected? Don't make her LOL


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The Independent Online

For some reason the lyrics of a song from a very old film kept running through my brain. It was Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell singing "We're just two little girls from Little Rock" – being the story of a couple of women who do amazingly well, from unpromising beginnings, by looking so much more innocent than they really are.

At no point has Rebekah Brooks ever have an "inappropriate" conversation with a politician, she was able to assure the Leveson Inquiry during her five hours of evidence.

And certainly not when News Corporation was bidding to take 100 per cent control of BSkyB. Why, it would not even have crossed her innocent mind that she needed to, such is her faith in the way British politicians carry out their public duties.

"Maybe it was naive of me to believe that the procedure would be dealt with properly," she said. "I had no reason not to believe that."

But her eyes were opened when she read the hostile comments that Vince Cable had made about the Murdoch bid, as a result of which he had to hand over responsibility for determining whether the bid should be allowed the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Two days later, who should turn up as a dinner guest at the Brooks' Chipping Norton home but the Chancellor, George Osborne, and somehow the BSkyB bid found its way into the conversation.

When Robert Jay suggested it must have been Ms Brooks who broached the subject, she could not recall whether she did or she didn't, but helpfully she said: "OK, let's say I did." "No, we don't want you to guess," Lord Justice Leveson interjected. "I'm being forced to guess!" the innocent Mrs Brooks exclaimed.

All morning, Mr Jay struggled in vain to wring an admission from her that, while she was editor of a mass-circulation tabloid, or chief executive of News International, she was a powerful woman, feared and courted by politicians, who had the ear of Rupert Murdoch and used "personal alchemy" to create a formidable network of contacts.

This was not how Ms Brooks saw the world. Yes, she once went round to her sister-in-law's house for mulled wine, and heard David Cameron was there, but she didn't speak to him. And yes, she received text messages from Cameron, but not a dozen a day, as has been suggested. One or two a week. And yes, he signed off "lol" – thinking it was short for "lots of love", until she explained it means "laugh out loud". But powerful? "We just didn't see it in those terms." Influential? "I don't think people ever thought that to get to Mr Murdoch they had to come through me."

Well-connected? "Some friendships did occur... but I don't think I ever forgot I was a journalist."

The only time she looked truly uncomfortable under Robert Jay's questioning was when he persisted in asking how The Sun had obtained the confidential information that Gordon and Sarah Brown's baby son, Fraser, had cystic fibrosis.

The Sun has always maintained that the information came from a reader who found out because his child had the same condition. The Browns accepted this story until the phone-hacking scandal broke, after which Gordon Brown told the House of Commons that he suspected that his son's medical record had been hacked. "That was a terrible accusation for a former Prime Minister to make about a newspaper," said Mrs Brooks.

But she recovered well from that bad patch and was soon getting her own back on Mr Jay. It would be the "height of hypocrisy" she admitted, to complain that his line of questioning was sexist, but some of the questions he had asked, such as whether she went swimming with Rupert Murdoch, or whether he had given her clothes, would not have been asked "if I was a grumpy old man of Fleet Street".

But if she had been a grumpy old man of Fleet Street, rather than one of the most adroit charmers of our time, Mr Jay's task yesterday would have been a great deal easier.

Cotswolds: Text talk

Rebekah Brooks revealed at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday that she had to tell David Cameron that "LOL" meant "laughing out loud" and not "lots of love" in text messages. What other examples of text-speak might have cropped up in their exchanges?

OMG – On Murdoch's guidance

BRB – Bullingdon Rules, boy!

LMAO – Lend me an 'orse

FFS – Freud family squabble

ROFL – Rebekah's over for lunch

ROFLMAO – Running over for lovely meeting at Osborne's

IMHO – Is my horse outside?

BFF – Brooks' favoured filly

Charlie Cooper