10 May 2012

Leveson Inquiry - Module 3 - Day 2 - Coulson and Rothermere

The Relationship Between the Press and Politicians

Module 3 - Key Questions to be addressed in this Module

Useful Links:
Leveson Inquiry Witness Statements HERE 
Leveson Inquiry Witness Lists HERE 
Video Recordings of each day's proceedings HERE
Live Feed From Leveson Inquiry Site HERE
BBC Democracy Live Feed HERE 
Guardian Live Blog HERE
Telegraph Live Blog HERE 
Links to articles, comment and information relevant to the Inquiry:
#AndyCoulson at #Leveson today - oh to be in Mr Jay's shoes, I have a few questions of my own...
Leveson complains about SIndy Coulson article. Judge is demanding that SIndy editor will have to give evidence to explain sourcing. Today.

 Thursday May 10th 2012
( Link to Day 1 hearing HERE )
Today's Witnesses:
Andy Coulson
Viscount Rothermere

John Mullin ( Independent on Sunday ) - Following publishing of what allegedly is a leak from Coulson's Witness Statement

For minute-by-minute coverage of Lord Justice Leveson's comments and Mr. Jay's Opening Statement ( In Full HERE ) for Module 3, please follow Guardian Live Blog.

John Mullin

Story in Question HERE

Guardian Live Blog HERE
Telegraph Live Blog HERE 
Mr. Barr questions John Mullin
From Guardian Live Blog:
John Mullin, editor of the Independent on Sunday, has taken the stand.
David Barr, counsel to the inquiry, is questioning Mullin, who confirms he was personally involved in the decision to publish this story.
John Mullin
From Guardian Live Blog:
Lord Justice Leveson says he is anxious to ensure that evidence is prepared in an orderly fashion, not to censor or keep it secret.
"The risk is by doing what you've done is you've created a dialogue … with people having to respond, before we've even heard it," Leveson says.
Mullin maintains that this was an issue of "massive public importance" and that the inquiry should not stand in the way of "good, honest journalism".
Ian Katz, deputy editor of the Guardian, tweets:
Barr says there was "no public interest" in revealing something that was going to be revealed in a witness statement four days later.
Mullin says the key issue regarding Andy Coulson is who knew what and when.
"My job as editor is to put in the public domain the key question that has to be answered. I think putting that in the public mind before Andy Coulson gives evidence is perfectly defensible journalism," he adds.
Barr contends that it was not in public interest to publish four days before due to come out in public inquiry.
"I didn't know how you were going to deal with the shareholding issue," says Mullin.
Lord Justice Leveson ends this particular session by saying he's going to think very carefully about what John Mullin has said.

Andy Coulson  Witness Statement in Full

Andy Coulson leaves No 10 for the last time


George Osborne, Natalie Rowe, Andy Coulson

Guardian Live Blog HERE
Telegraph Live Blog HERE 

Andy Coulson sworn in by clerk
Questioning begins....
Mr Jay asking about Andy Coulson's career, and political stance of Rebekah Brooks
Coulson: I think through the course of her work she was close to politicians, yes

Coulson tells #Leveson he didn't keep a diary but did keep notebooks
Murdoch would usually call on a Saturday night but might not call for a couple of months
Coulson met Cameron at Tory conference in 2005. At that stage he was not C's preferred choice as Tory leader

#Coulson at #Leveson: Rupert Murdich asked about sports pages, discussed production impact of new presses
#Coulson at #Leveson: generally speaking a successful paper is one in tune with its readership
#Coulson at #Leveson: were discussions about him editing Mirror, chose not to
#Coulson at #Leveson: points out 'hug a hoodie' headline wasn't that helpful for Cameron
#Coulson at #Leveson: Gordon Brown told AC he was to be editor of Sun; AC took with pinch of salt, didn't believe it

Coulson says his job was to reflect the political views of his readers rather than lead them 
Hmmmmm. Coulson says he had no conversations with Rupert Murdoch about his decision for Coulson: "Had we not had a DVD promotion that day this story would have been twice the size" (On Osborne and prostitute story)NoW to back Labour

Coulson says Murdoch was warm & supportive to him as NOTW editor
Coulson says politicians never asked him if they could expect NOTW endorsement
Coulson: agenda for me was to work out in course of convo whether politician/party would best serve NoW readers
Coulson says leader "Tories' fate is in your hands" laid out the facts so readers could make up their minds
Coulson: if you're looking for an example of the NoW being helpful to the Con party, this is, with respect, a pretty poor example

'I think the idea we some how went easy on him [Osborne] is ridiculous'. Coulson is inhabiting another universe.
Coulson #Leveson: Jay pushes point that, despite the Osborne story, the News of the World went easy on him.

Coulson #Leveson: LJL wants to know what Coulson thought he was bringing to the party in taking the Tory job. AC offers little explanation
Coulson #Leveson: personal (News Int) connections 'wouldn't hurt' but never said they would guarantee help

From Guardian Live Blog:
Jay asks Coulson about a News of the World story about Osborne in October 2005. The story also ran in the Sunday Mirror, but the News of the World version was more favourable to Osborne.
Coulson says the News of the World story did not go easy on Osborne, but concedes that the Sunday Mirror's accompanying leader was slightly more strongly-worded than the News of the World's "as you'd expect".
Coulson says his newspaper's front-page splash, "Top Tory coke and the hooker", can "in any way be described as career-enhancing for George Osborne. The idea we went easy on him is ridiculous."
Jay points out the leader in the paper, which said Osborne was a "young man when he found himself caught up in this murky world".
#Coulson at #Leveson: possible Francis Maude & Ed Llewellyn asked about Goodman but can't remember

#leveson: by time you were going to meet Cameron you knew exactly what was happening. Coulson: Yes. (On C talking to Osb and Cam about job)

Osborne offered Coulson job 15 months after this NotW front page (w a friendly editorial) #Leveson
Jay "Did you have any unsupervised access to information designated top secret or above? A. I may have done, yes
Q. After Guardian hacking piece in July '09, were any further assurances sought by Cameron? A. Not that I recall
From Guardian Live Blog:
In Coulson's witness statement he says David Cameron asked him about Clive Goodman case.
Coulson says: "I said to him what I said publicly. I knew nothing in terms of what they did."
He adds that he told Rebekah Brooks about the Tory communications director offer and she was pleased for him. He does not believe she had any influence over his appointment.
Lord Justice Leveson presses Coulson on why he believed he was right for the Tory spin doctor job.
"I'm sure in the conversation I would have tried to impress on them I could do a good job," says Coulson. "Without looking like an appalling big head."
"My broad experience went across from 1998 when I stopped working as a showbusiness reporter I was involved across the paper both the Sun and the News of the World and had launched whole series of websites on the internet."
Coulson told Cameron and Osborne that his News International background "could not be seen as a factor" in guaranteeing the support of those newspapers, he says.
He says "I think that is fair to say" that politicians were keen to get close to the Sun. 
Coulson #Leveson: asked about Cameron saying, post-hacking, that we got too close to News Int. AC doesn't recall him saying that previously!

After Break:

Coulson says he received stock in News Corp worth £40k after taking Tory comms job but overlooked them at time

#Coulson at #Leveson: didn't tell anyone in govt about them inc civil servants
#Coulson at #Leveson: no one asked any more qs after Gdn hacking article
#Coulson at #Leveson: despite lacking top security clearance had access to top secret docs & attended security council

Coulson being asked about his security clearance at Downing St, wasn't fully cleared but still on occasions saw Top Secret info
 Coulson says tried secure NoW endorsement through his relationship with the political editor
Coulson tells Jay: you seem to have a disparaging view of ex-showbiz reporters

No one - except Coulson - could describe the Sun's coverage of Labour & Tory confs 2009 as anything other than pro-Tory & Anti-lab.
Bizarrely Coulson says he'd have preferred the Sun not to have spoiled the Labour 2009 Conference & waited a week. N pursued

BBC News - Leveson Inquiry: Andy Coulson 'Not Hired For NI Links'

Coulson had coffee at the City Inn with Fred Michel in November 2009
Coulson: I think it was the first time I met him. So I think it was literally a hello.

[Surely significance of Aznar lunch from point of view is that Aznar is and was on the News Corp board?]
[Coulson "I don't believe..." "I don't recall..." "I think I ..." or "I don't think I" are such oft-repeated phrases.]

Now the issue of whether Coulson's salary was topped up by News Corp/Murdoch after he entered Downing St. Coulson says it wasn't.

Judge #Leveson in answer to Murdoch going through front or back door 'There seems to be a list of front & back door people' !
'I have to keep myself entertained Mr Coulson' says Judge #Leveson.. re front & back door jibes !!

Coulson says he regrets he wasn't asked to give evidence on Matt Driscoll's bullying case at employment tribunal

Has the relationship between the press and the politicians become too close?
'I hope further barriers aren't put up'
Back to #leveson .. Coulson: perfectly clear that relationships with the media got in the way of the message
But Coulson tells #Leveson he doesn't want to see more barriers between pols and press

Guardian Live Blog:
Jay has finished his questions and asks if Coulson would like to make any closing remarks.
Coulson says he would like to make a small point on "the theory that there was some kind of deal between News Corp or News International and the Conservative party over BSkyB".
He says:
If there was a deal and there was a conspiracy … why was Vince Cable given the job? It is in the prime minister's gift to decide who held which brief in his cabinet. So if there was this conspiracy running that David Cameron was going to gift [the BSkyB deal to News Corp] then why would he give it to – and I will choose my words very carefully – a combative member of the cabinet?"
Coulson says he does not disagree with the prime minister that relationships between some in government and the media were "too cosy".
He says:
The prime minister has said it got too cosy and I'm not minded to disagree with him. It's perfectly clear that relationships with the media have got in the way of the message. What you do about it – I would hate to think that any barriers, more barriers, would be erected between politics, politicians and the press.
He adds: "Personal relationships have got in the way of the message, that is abundantly clear".
Coulson warns the inquiry not to "erect more barriers" around the political process of communicating with the press.
"You have only got to look at the turnout at last week's local elections, people are disengaging with politics. If you make it more difficult ... that is going to make it an awful lot worse."
Coulson says one issue that has troubled him about the Leveson inquiry so far is the suggestion that "friendship is always based on some ulterior motive".
Leveson says that is not fair, adding he has said many times that politicians and journalists are entitled to be friends with people. The key is to be clear between social relationships and any form of business.
Andy Coulson's evidence complete.

Viscount Rothermere  Witness Statement in Full

Guardian Live Blog HERE
Telegraph Live Blog HERE  
Viscount Rothermere begins his testimony

@rosschawkins: Lord Rothermere: v important for me not to be partisan politically... don't want to influence editors through inference
@IndexLeveson: Rothermere: if someone comes to me and says your paper has printed an untruth, I'll tell Paul (Dacre) and ask him to look into it
From Guardian Live Blog:
Jay asks if Rothermere is apolitical.
Rothermere has been a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords. He says it is important for him not to show political preference and, therefore, lean on his editors through inference.
I think it's very important in my role not to exhibit partisan political [viewers] ... puts undue pressure on my editors to support a view they think i might have. I don't want to influence them by inference.
He adds: "At times inevitably the paper will do things that makes one feel uncomfortable. At that point it stretches the notion of what I have just said."
Rothermere says he tries to keep his feelings to himself, even if he believes people are being treated unfairly in his newspapers.
@IndexLeveson: Rothermere on reputation: clearly we wouldn't be having this Inquiry if reputation of the press wasn't under serious concern
Rothermere: I feel confident our newspaper has acted ethically

From Guardian Live Blog:
Lord Justice Leveson asks whether politicians know they can meet Rothermere if they believe they are being treated unfairly by the Daily Mail.
Rothermere says by and large he will refer politicians' complaints to Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail. On occasion, Rothermere will ask Dacre to look into a specific complaint and make contact with the politician in question.
He says:
Largely I refer them back to Paul Dacre. If there's an instance I feel justify merit I may bring that up with Paul and suggest he talk to the politician. I won't get involved on a level of opinion but if someone comes to me and says 'your newspaper has printed an untruth' I will say to Paul 'This person has written a letter – would you look into it?' They will either talk to the politician directly or write back to me and say there is no truth in it. Sometimes people have a different opinion of truth ... I don't want to get in a position of constantly having to deal with this issue.
Rothermere: our business is about journalism more than about newspapers
Rothermere adds he'd be concerned if Dacre "went off on a wing" and supported political party readership didn't believe in

@Josh Halliday:
Paul Dacre felt Peter Wright should step down as Mail on Sunday editor, says Viscount Rothermere
Mr Jay beginning his questions about Viscount Rothermere's links to politicians
Rothermere: politicians would like to talk about general issues and what they'd like to achieve. V interesting to listen to them
Rothermere: when it comes to personal engagement...they try to impress you with their vision for the country

Lord R met Gordon Brown six times in 2002-2005, Blair just a couple of times. Brown 6 more times 05-08, Blair just once
@DrEvan Harris:
Curious that Rothermere said he knew Clegg as MEP & he helped on a EU policy issue in the late 1990s. Clegg was MEP 1999-2004
L Rothermere: thought it was amusing and teased Paul about his relationship with Gordon Brown

From Guardian Live Blog:
Rothermere says he has sent two text messages to politicians: one to Nick Clegg and one to David Cameron, following the public debates before the 2010 general election saying "congratulations on a job well done".
Jay asks what Rothermere made of Dacre's friendship with Gordon Brown.
"I thought it was amusing and I used to tease him about it," says Rothermere. He adds that he liked Brown and was not opposed to the unlikely friendship.
"Paul has an economic view of the world which is quite different to Gordon but they shared an affinity with one another which is surprising."
Rothermere: Regulation of press only really became a big issue recently. Until then govt largely happy with how PCC was run
L Rothermere discussed weekend at Chequers with PM, Jeremy Hunt & others; discussed local TV with Hunt but not BSkyB
L Rothermere: Chequers was friendly weekend, didn't want to bring up business, would have been rude
L Rothermere: four dinners with Michael & Sarah Gove, three with Osborne

Rothermere says he can't recall having discussed BSkyB bid with any politician
Rothermere: it's not my job to go around lobbying politicians on things like this
Right, I'm here. Viscount Rothermere just said he didn't think he'd ever spoken to Vince Cable in his life.
Rothermere, like Rupert Murdoch, stressing need for better educational standards
Rothermere giving fascinating insight into press barons' rivalry when own privacy invaded

Rothermere says Dacre felt strongly that Desmond shouldn't own Express newspapers
Rothermere adds that Desmond responded strongly, lied about his father. Rothermere says he took it in his stride
Rothermere: Dacre thought it was not in public interest for Desmond to own Express
Rothermere: I'm very mindful of the power our newspaper has, respect our readers and their right to know the truth
Rothermere: as a parent, you'd have to be inhuman not to feel deeply about what McCanns went through
Rothermere: the McCanns encouraged publicity, for very good reasons. Our journos unfamiliar with way PT police & media operated
Viscount Rothermere is questioned about the McCann articles in the Mail
Rothermere: there were stories we published about the McCanns which we regret and which we rectified
LJ Leveson asks Viscount Rothermere about press 'dynasties'

#Leveson: we are talking about six families, a couple of companies and a Trust
Rothermere says his family believes good journalism is ethical journalism, most journos are good people and want to find truth
Rothermere: if you create a box-ticking mentality then you devolve authority/responsibility from those who should have it
Rothermere: my duty to make sure Dacre upholds responsibility. We set parameters of ethical org over what we believe to be right. #Leveson: doesn’t very often happen that press hold each other to account
Rothermere says it can be hard for newspapers to ferret out info due to data protection. disagrees
Rothermere: means that when things are exposed you have to have a degree of aloofness/professionalism.

Rothermere: hard to imagine a free commercial press that is not run by commercial interests
  Rothermere: the Guardian certainly surfaced most of what's now become public knowledge (on phone hacking)
Rothermere says it can be hard for newspapers to ferret out info due to data protection. disagrees
Rothermere: certainly I believe newspapers have the right to publish what they think is in the public interest
Rothermere: I'm the sort of person who likes to do business, and then there's pleasure, and I don't really mike mixing the two

#Leveson: The Guardian pursued hacking story 'pretty vigorously"over years. wonders why others, barring NYT, didn't >>
Rothermere says Guardian hard work on hacking had his admiration : "This is not about publicity for Guardian" (!)

Guardian Live Blog:
Leveson asks about Rothermere's links with politicians.
Is he able to privately meet politicians while remaining transparent about "what is an opportunity for lobbying", asks Leveson.
Rothermere says he takes that responsibility very seriously and believes it is important for him to be "an outsider".
He adds:
In order to be an effective newspaper publisher you have to be an outsider. Ultimately when things are exposed you have to have degree of aloofness and professionalism. Means it's sometimes hard to make friends and keep them. That is the cost of doing the job properly.
Leveson says it is legitimate for the coal industry to lobby for coal and greens to lobby against. "The way our democracy works we elect politicians to make decisions and allow commentators to criticise the decisions whichever way it goes," he says.
The question then becomes, at the level of the press, where there is not a deal – I'm not for a moment suggesting there is a deal - where there can be a recognition that these things are of interest to the press and what we believe to be important, no one's saying 'if you do this we'll support you, we'll go down your route,' but creating the common understanding has with it danger unless it's open or transparent.
Completes Viscount Rothermere's testimony.