11 June 2012

Leveson Inquiry - Module 3 - Day 17 - Gordon Brown

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

Links to articles, information and comment: 

Somewhat grim mood among hacks this morning. Compound of the weather, a hard week ahead and general inquiryschmertz.
#leveson‬ wants to avoid interparty politics. Asks for crossparty support. Looking for patterns of behaviour by pols and press over decades.

Leveson calls for "cross party support" for his inquiry - call I think for Tory support - says sky bid is "small but significant" element.
#Leveson‬: BSkyB bid is a small but significant part of the story…is most recent example of interplay between politicians and the press.
Leveson wants to hear more from people with ideas for PCC reform in Module 4, incl from chmn Lord Hunt. PCC not out of woods.
Leveson - my inquiry is not about "the politics of personality" even if it may be reported as such...


Gordon Brown  Witness Statement and Exhibits
Press/TV coverage:
The Sun
Mail Online
Mirror Online
New York Times 
BBC News
Channel 4 News

    Guardian Live Blog HERE
    Gordon Brown being sworn in..
    'Perhaps I've had time to reflect ...'
    Leveson: Gordon Brown has been enjoying " a period of enforced reflection courtesy of the British people"
    Leveson: Gordon Brown poses the question "who will defend the defenceless".

    Brown: The freedom that the press has has to be exercised with responsibility - conflation of fact and opinion is a problem.

    #Brown‬ says key things are tendency of press to editorialise outside editorial columns and treatment of eg the Dowlers in moments of grief.
    #Brown‬: press regulation has never worked. It's not just rooting out bad press, but incentivising the good press too.

    Brown: I don't think we do enough to encourage the good (in the press)
    (lots of tweeting about Brown getting lots of time & qs to muse generally on the press, doesn't mean Jay won't get to specifics)
    Brown suggests BBC licence fee should be available for online and other news orgs  

    Brown suggests licence fee [which does not belong to the BBC @bbcnickrobinson ] could be shared to uphold journalism standards.
    Denies he fell asleep at Festival of Rememberance. Was praying. Misprints in his letter to mother of Afghanistan dead soldier were mistakes.

    (we've heard before view that papers don't just criticise pols actions, but suggest their failures are due to ill intent)
    Brown: It's too easy - following citizen journalism online - to sensationalise in the print media.
    Jay asks about Blair's "feral beast" speech. Brown: I think Tony was saying exactly what I am saying today.

    Brown's testimony to Leveson a bit like a therapy session but very moving and powerful. Shows up all his complexities and sensitivities.
    Brown: The Conservative Party supported every one of the recommendations that were made by the Murdoch group.
    Brown claim Cons went along with everything James Murdoch wanted; Jay suggesting this strays away from ambit of the question
    Gordon Brown speaking about the Sun's publicising of the medical condition of his son.
    Brown has had apology fm Fife health board. "highly likely" tt member of NHS staff leaked info re son to Sun via middle man
    #Brown‬ [very upset apparently] asks if any parent would give explicit permission given to run the story. We did not do so, he says.
    Brown: there was no question of explicit permission
    (Brooks was asked if she had "express agreement" of Browns and replied "Asbolutely"
    (Brooks also pointed out Sarah Brown held 40th birthday celebration for her after this event, said there were "many letters and kind notes")
    Jay: do you deny consent was given? Brown: Absolutely

    Jay: Do you deny that consent was given? Brown: Absolutely. My wife has issued a statement to that effect.
    Brown: We wanted editors to agree that our children would not be covered while they were at nursery school and primary school.
    Brown: We didn't want our children to grow up as minor celebrities, and there were only two incidents where this was breached.
    Brown on wife's friendship with Rebekah Brooks: Sarah is one of the most forgiving people and I think she finds good in everyone.  

    Brown on why he had 13 meetings with Brooks after: I wd have been failing in duty if I had not tried to build consensus on Afghanistan
    Brown: you can serve up dinner but you do not need to serve up BSkyB as part of the dinner

    Brown: We would never allow the public interest to be subjugated to the commercial or vested interests of any one company.
    Brown: Under James Murdoch's influence (2009-10) News International moved to having an aggressive public agenda [on media policy].
    Brown: Politicians should expect scrutiny but question is whether you can justify fishing expeditions.

    Brown: passed to police tape of S Times insight reporters discussing underhand tactics
    Brown: Politicians should expect scrutiny but question is whether you can justify fishing expeditions.
    Brown: During the time that I was chancellor, there was either a break-in or breach of my confidential records in every area.
    Brown: Passed police a tape of Sunday Times reporters discussing accessing my info using illegal tactics.

    Brown attacks Sun Times ed Witherow, after Insight report into his flat purchase. Says he was sent a tape of SunTimes hacks discussing him.
    Brown says Sun Times insisted London flat purchase was in a cheap "under the counter" deal but flat was advertised in Sun Times itself.

    Jay calls records of Brown's media meetings "a full range". Inc. Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Les Hinton, Lebedevs.
    Brown: Had dinner with Murdoch after pre-recording interview with Andrew Marr (2007). Very careful to do it before any meetings.
    Brown disagrees with Mandelson, who said relations with Murdoch were "closer than was wise".
    Brown: The idea that I was influenced in what I did by Mr Rupert Murdoch’s views is frankly ridiculous. 
    #Brown‬ says it is "nonsense" to suggest that I was following views of Rupert who "wd have had us out of Europe, at war with France&Germany"
    Brown: I don’t detract from the respect Murdoch deserves for having built up a very strong media empire.
    Brown doesn't think Blair's govt was too close to Murdoch, but doesn't know
    Record shows eight meetings between Brown and Rupert Murdoch 2007-9, along with dinner with President Bush (2008).
    Brown didn't get too close to Rupert, but admits should have tried for "openness of culture" with media, which "still eludes us"
    Brown: I think the Sun had moved away from us from the time I became PM. They had severe reservations expressed in campaigns. 

    #Brown‬ "I never complained when anyone withdrew support" Rejects Mandelson idea that he was "stung" by Sun u-turn.
    #Brown‬ denies he was influenced by papers. "I was so obsessed that I barely read them" he tells ‪#leveson 
    Jay asks if he received news of Sun u-turn with equanimity. [Brown smiles broadly and begins a long discursion]

    Brown: Spoke to editor of Sun two hours before paper withdrew support. I just left it after that.
    Record shows 2007-9 calls with Rupert Murdoch - 11 in total.
    We are onto a phone call between Brown and Rupert. [This was a bone of contention about who said what. Rupert says GB "declared war" on NI]
    #Brown‬ says he wdnt make a call like that without "someone on the call" making a record of what was said. I wd never have done otherwise.

    Brown: I didn't engage in emailing with Rupert Murdoch, didn't have his number on my mobile phone.
    Jay on 10 Nov 2009 call at 12.33pm. Brown: It was a call I placed because of what was happening in Afghanistan. Email followed.  
    Paraphrased: There was no declaration of war phone-call to Mr Murdoch..
    #Brown‬ says "Such a conversation never took place" says he is "shocked and surprised" that Murdoch shd claim that it did.
    "This did not happen. There is no evidence that it happened.But it didn't happen.I had no reason to call him & I would not have called him."

    Jay trying to get to whether Brown said something like that in call in November
    Brown: I had concluded Sun were damaging our effort in Afghanistan; wanted to talk to R Murdoch about it
    Brown: there was no reference to threats or Conservative parties or anything  

    Brown: Murdoch asked me (Nov) to phone Mrs Brooks and hinted she would want to apologise for what had happened.
    Brown: I agreed I would talk to her, and then sent letter to Murdoch about Afghanistan

    Brown wanted to check with Rupert that he still supported the war.Brown says NI were trying to make it all look like this was about politics
    ...rather than about phone hacking.It's important this is cleared up,Brown says. There is no evidence of a call,a threat or anything like it
    Brooks told ‪#Brown‬ that Sun had got tape of this phone call.Very unusual for a tape of a call from Downing St to appear in paper.
    Brooks wanted to say they had got the tape lawfully and appropriately, but she was not about to apologise. Said he was not angry as RB said.

    #leveson‬ sympathises, suggests Brown has a better temper than he would have in circumstances
    Brown wrote to Rupert: I wd rather have been an honest one-term PM than a dishoneset two-term PM. Murdoch did not reply.
    Brown: None of these letters refer to Murdoch's political views, or the Sun, NoW or the Sunday Times.
    Jay moves on to questions on Paul Dacre. Brown says he didn't see Mail editor-in-chief that much.
    Brown: Dacre was very kind when we had difficulties with our first child, I have not forgotten that, but had no support from Mail.  
    Record shows Brown had nine meetings with Dacre 2007-10.
    Brown: I could understand Dacre's strength of feeling on DPA, my own instinct was should be public interest defence.
    Brown: I had already made up my mind before I went into the meeting [with Hinton, MacLennan and Dacre, Sep 2007].  
    Brown: I was conscious that there was a set of public interest issues raised in the Editor's Code and it seemed to me reasonable.
    Brown: I distinctly remember conversation and I said, I am persuaded that we need this public interest defence.
    Brown says he was aware there was a public interest defence in s55 of the DPA.  
    Brown: The issue was whether we would trigger two year sentence at a later stage, while leaving it in the legislation

    From Guardian Live Blog:
    Dan Sabbagh has just sent us this list of Brown's meetings with Rupert Murdoch, while he was prime minister, as disclosed to the Leveson inquiry.
    05/10 - Meeting 13:05-13:10
    29/10 - Lunch 13:30-15:00

    22/01 - 12:35-14:00 Lunch
    06/06 - 19:10 Dinner with Mrs Murdoch
    16/06 - 21:50 Dinner

    13/01 - 07:00-08:30 Breakfast
    26/06 - 19:00-21:30 Dinner
    14/12 - 08:30-10:00 Breakfast
    Brown: Didn't need persuading by Mr Dacre about this. I felt strongly about it myself.
    Jay moves on to SpAds. Campbell suggested problem with appointment of Whelan.
    Jay: Were Whelan and McBride systematic perpetrators of anonymous, selective briefings? Brown: No not at all
    Brown: The people that worked for me were under specific guidance about what they had to do.
    Brown: McBride was pushed back from the front line but in this he made a very bad mistake and had to go. 
    Brown: I don't remember any specific documentation or letters from O'Donnell/Hayward warning me about McBride.
    Brown denies asking Whelan to brief against Darling [when Chancellor].
    Brown: A Darling was friend of mine as well as colleague. Nobody in my position would instruct briefing against senior minister.  
    Jay asks whether a mythology has built up around SpAds or whether they acted without Brown's authorisation.
    Brown: I actually had tougher rules than was the general rule that was applied to political advisers.
    Brown: I would have preferred open briefings given by ministers to the press everyday. Inherited a system based on exclusivity. 

    Brown says the lobby system shd be abandoned in favour of public briefing in front of cameras. Include bloggers [already does, doesn't it?] 
    Brown: There was an animosity between Watson and NI. I was well aware the NI wanted to get rid of him.
    Brown: Watson came to deliver a present for one of my children [denies any political discussions]. Calls it entirely social.

    The Tom Watson visit was purely a social call, if GB had known he was planning a Blair must go letter wd have told him to desist
    Brown: I don't think in the present system, the dealing with complaints is satisfactory.

    From Guardian Live Blog:
    The Guardian's Lisa O'Carroll has just tweeted:
    Brown says Watson's trip to Scotland before the "curry house coup" against Tony Blair had nothing to do with politics; the MP was delivering a present for his newborn baby.
    BBC News political correspondent Robin Brant has just tweeted:
    Jay turns to Brown's proposals for future regulation of the press.
    Brown says the PCC's handling of complaints is satisfactory. He adds quality journalism should be "incentivised" and there would be cross-party support for that.
    Brown says there is problem about financing quality journalism in the future and that new avenues should be explored.
    He adds: "Is the BBC model of any use to us? I think we ought to look at that."
    The Guardian's Lisa O'Carroll has just tweeted:
    Rhodri Davies QC, counsel for News International, asks if he can put questions to Brown about the disputed phone call with Murdoch.
    Mr Rhodri Davies, for News International
    From Guardian Live Blog:
    Here is a lunchtime summary of Gordon Brown's evidence:

    • Fife NHS board has apologised after details of Brown's son's cystic fibrosis were leaked.

    • Brown "absolutely" denied giving the Sun permission to run front-page story about his son's illness, and said he was presented with a "fait accompli".
    • Brown did not declare war on News Corp in a phone call with Murdoch in 2009, he told inquiry.
    • He denied special advisers Charlie Whelan and Damian McBride briefed against government colleagues.
    • Brown told inquiry he has passed to police a recording of Sunday Times reporters discussing "illegal [newsgathering] techniques".
    • News International's "commercial interests" took over under James Murdoch, Brown claimed.
    • He criticised the Sun for its "sensationalised" coverage of Labour government stance on the Afghanistan conflict.