Joan Smith: Why are we paying for the PM's lawyers?

Many of the questions Cameron faces are about a personal relationship

Share
Related Topics

Last summer, as a storm over phone hacking raged around Rebekah Brooks, a friend texted her with consoling advice. Not long afterwards, she resigned from her job as the chief executive of News International and was almost immediately arrested and bailed by detectives investigating allegations of phone hacking. The friend who texted, according to a new biography by James Hanning and Francis Elliott, was David Cameron. The authors say that Brooks's husband Charlie told friends about the message, which urged her to "keep her head up and she'd get through her difficulties". That doesn't say much for Cameron's judgement, but it's an insight into the close relationship with Brooks.

Their friendship will come under the spotlight tomorrow when Brooks appears before the Leveson Inquiry. In an eventful week, the inquiry heard yesterday that the News of the World did hack Milly Dowler's phone, but the truth about voicemail deletions might never be known; and Cameron's former communications chief, Andy Coulson, is due to give evidence today.

Last week, Cameron was one of eight Cabinet ministers who made a late application to become "core participants" in the inquiry, allowing them to see key witness statements in advance. After Jeremy Hunt's mauling last month, when the Culture Secretary had no notice of emails handed to the inquiry by James Murdoch, I can see why they were keen to acquire this status. But there's an important question about which parts of their involvement can be funded at public expense.

Last week's application was made by James Eadie QC; as First Treasury Counsel, he has appeared for ministers on government business such as the proposed extradition of Abu Hamza. Yet many of the questions that Cameron faces are about a personal friendship which pre-dates his period in government. And other ministers are likely to be asked about events, such as Hunt's visit to News Corp in 2009, which took place while in Opposition.

I am also a core participant, along with other victims of phone hacking, and we've had to find private sources of funding for legal representation. Yesterday, a Cabinet Office spokesperson told me that "Government is providing legal support for ministers for the parts of their evidence that relate to government business". I'm not sure the distinction is clear, but the Cabinet Office confirmed that it is up to ministers to arrange their own legal representation for evidence relating to the period when they were in Opposition.

Shortly after last summer's text message, Cameron cooled towards Brooks. She didn't want to embarrass him, according to Hanning and Elliott, and he wanted to be able to say they hadn't been in touch. Embarrassment now seems inevitable, along with the intriguing prospect of Cabinet ministers having to urgently consult lawyers about what is and isn't "government business".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£100 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education are curren...

Web Developer (Infrastructure, JavaScript, jQuery, jQuery UI)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Web Developer (Infrastructure, JavaScript, jQuer...

DT Technician

£65 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: DT Technician required to start...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: One of SThree's most successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv  

Why do we stand by and watch Putin?

Ian Birrell
 

Daily catch-up: Underground, Overground, over the Irish Sea and clever pigs

John Rentoul
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor