12 June 2012

Leveson Inquiry - Module 3 - Day 18 - Harman, Miliband and Major

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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 relevant articles, information and comment: (links to Google digest of media articles in right-hand sidebar of blog) ---->>>
There's something quiet extraordinary about this testimony from John Major. not surprising but somehow still shocking

Harriet Harman

Media archives:

Guardian Live Blog HERE
Harriet Harman swears in..
...and begins her testimony.
@nataliepeck: Jay says Harman is here largely to talk about the future. Harman: Inquiry provides opportunity for a real stepping back and for a recognition politicians have vested interest in free press.
@IndexLeveson: Harman: Inquiry provides us with an opportunity, but need to end up without vanquished or victors.  Harman: need to achieve cross-party working together, and have engagement/involvement with broadcasters and campaign groups
@nataliepeck: Harman: After all those years in opposition felt necessary to do more assuaging, neutralising + courting. Different situation now.  Harman: Been talking to individual editors, encouraging them to circle the wagons around a set of principles everyone can agree on. harman: I've been trying to encourage the press they don't need to fear Armageddon here, there can be reasonable settlement.
Harman: If it leaves a situation where people can choose not to be a part of a new redress system, then it's pointless.
Harman: Could have a firm cross-party consensus where press don’t need to face a slippery slope because we can give assurances. 
Harman: Any model which just requires you to join it voluntarily and if you don’t it doesn’t apply to you, that is the status quo.

Guardian Live Blog:
Harman says the inquiry presents the opportunity for politicians to step back and examine the "immediate turbulence" that has come to light since July last year.
Harman says she has been speaking to national newspaper editors to encourage them to "circle the wagons" around a set of proposals for reform that they can all agree on.
Harman: my main concern is we move on question of redress for individuals and concentration of media ownership
Harman: Fact newspapers have declining readership doesn't mean not influential.

From Guardian Live Blog:
Jay asks if there is an emerging consensus between editors about what they want. She says there is more of a sense about what they do not want, rather than what they do.
Harman uses the term "statutory recognition" for a new system.
Harman says that current proposals for a reconstituted regulator do not deal with people who do not wish to join, which she says is "not good enough".
"It does need to have some statutory empowerment and statutory recognition," she adds.
Harman acknowledges that statory recognition of this regulator ought to be done with care, saying she sympathises with concerns that the government will be allowed to interfere if the legal powers are too great.
Harman: we must live up to that opportunity. ‪#Leveson‬: so no pressure?

Harriet Harman's evidence ends.
Ed Miliband

Media archives:

Guardian Live Blog HERE
Ed Miliband swearing in...
Ed Miliband begins his testimony..
@nataliepeck: Miliband says it is a privilege to be able to give evidence. Is praising fantastic tradition of the press in this country.
@benfenton: It was collective failure of press, police and politicians to deal with it earlier.I failed to speak out at first.Crossed Rubicon when I did. Miliband: For any Prime Minister this is going to be very difficult + I will do everything to seek to work on a cross-party basis. #leveson‬ says he will be v disappointed if all intellectual effort, not to mention public money, comes to nothing.

@nataliepeck: Miliband: My primary interest in the work of the inquiry was to protect innocent victims and I want to reaffirm that. ‪ Miliband: At the worst there is a mutual culture of contempt between press and politicians.
@IndexLeveson: Impassioned opening from Miliband. Says his primary interest in work of Inquiry is to protect innocent victims. Miliband: We should be seeking relationship of mutual respect. But are a long way from the ideal. 
@nataliepeck: Miliband: The code is very radical on separation of fact and comment. My view is this might not lend itself to regulatory solution.
@joeyjonessky: Gently, but clearly ed mili distancing himself from blair and brown on idea regulator should enforce separation of fact and comment
@nataliepeck: Miliband: There's no question that the press had a significant influence on the parameters of public debate in this country.
@rosschawkins: Miliband: we have a partisan press, more centre right than centre left
@IndexLeveson: Miliband: no question that the press has a significant influence on the parameters of public debate.  Miliband: we have a partisan press in this country, more centre-right than centre-left ‪
@TomJHarper: Miliband: "Having had the experience of Govt, makes me more cautious and less informal about the way you do things in opposition." 
@IndexLeveson: Miliband:are we seeking to curtail ppl who are regulating us, by regulating them? Adds chilling effect shldn't =excuse for inaction
@nataliepeck: Miliband: When I look through the McCanns' evidence and then the code, I think accuracy, privacy, harassment etc breached. Miliband: Not all of those things are illegal but it in no way lessens the harm and grief the McCanns felt.
@IndexLeveson: Miliband: Not all of those things are illegal, but it in no way lessens harm and grief the McCanns felt over missing daughter
@nataliepeck: Miliband: I think NI's sense of power without responsibility came from the fact they controlled 37% newspaper market.
Part of Murdoch titles' arrogance came from the concentration of media power that News had in UK.
Miliband has produced list of media owners and editors he met.[Sadly not displayed on our screens long enough to take details.]

Miliband called by James Murdoch March 2011 on the day UILs (BSkyB bid) published by News Corp. Says it was a courtesy call.
Miliband: Rang Blackhurst (Indie) and Dacre (Mail) July 2011 as giving a speech the next day calling PCC a "toothless poodle".
Miliband: Harriet Harman has undertaken a series of structured conversations with editors over the past few months.
Jay says 15 contacts with NI Sep 2010-July 2011 but only one after that.

I didnt have good relations with Sun before phone hacking. It didn't improve post phacking.I'm not saying I'm not going to engage with them.
Miliband: Records of media contacts definitely good idea. Means have to make judgment about invitations and wisdom of accepting.
Miliband: If decided to take a proprietor on a week's holiday - not going to do that and don't think they'd accept - good backstop.
Miliband: Shouldn't take politicians out of media policy completely but should be higher bar in going against Comp Comm.

Jay qts Miliband ws: New Lab paid inordinate attention in early days to courting persuading and assuaging the media
A sense of fear...anxiety about speaking out...if it had been any other organisation perpetrating what happened, action wd have been taken.
Miliband: What I mean by too close is that we didn't speak out on these issues where increasing evidence of NI's behaviour. ‪
Abuses by the press were known by politicians, but it was a place neither govt nor opposition was going to go to ‪#Miliband‬ tells ‪#leveson
Miliband: was a compartmentalised part of political debate. Neither for govt nor opposition was it a place we were going to go to
Miliband: G Brown talked about some of the things he did to change lobby system, don't think it was getting at main issue
Miliband: when I was cabinet min did raise specific concern I had about Damian McBride with Mr Brown I believe in Sept 09

Miliband: Balls no, Whelan known for briefing, and rasied concern with Brown Sep 2008 on McBride's activities.
Jay refers to Michel-Smith text message (2nd Feb 2011) "I did tell the Labour Leader what the core of our thinking was…"
Miliband: Pretty sure I didn't meet/call Fred Michel. He was definitely having meetings with shadow secretary. 
Jay moves onto Tom Baldwin (director of comms for Labour Party).  
Baldwin worked for Times 1999-2010. Miliband says it isn't particularly relevant, didn't have close relationship with Brooks etc.
Miliband: When I hired Baldwin, Lord Ashcroft had not yet make allegation he had blagged his way into his bank account.  
Miliband: We felt we had two robust positions [why made it clear phone hacking and BSkyB bid should not be linked].  

Miliband: "Tom Baldwin and former editor of The Times Peter Stothard both denied Lord Ashcroft allegation re Baldwin blagging."
Re Tom Baldwin email in Jan 11 saying BSkyB bid/NI hacking shd not be linked, Miliband: "I agreed with it."

Miliband: We felt we had two robust positions [why made it clear phone hacking and BSkyB bid should not be linked].
@TomJHarper: [ah, Jay asking why Baldwin recommended not linking bid with hacking] ‪#Miliband‬: at that point we didn't think they were linked.
Miliband called for review Apr 11."Thought getting to stage where something more needed to be said about what would happen after". 
Miliband: I was too slow to speak out. Was crossing Rubicon when called for Brooks resignation, would be seen by NI as act of war.
Miliband: I was worried at that point there would be a bit of a hullaballoo and then people would all forget about it.  

Jay: "Were you warned off attacking NI by Brown and Blair?" Miliband: "Not really my recollection. Had broad support."

From Guardian Live Blog:
Here is a brief summary of Ed Miliband's evidence to the Leveson inquiry:
• Miliband said speaking out about phone hacking in July 2011 felt "like crossing the Rubicon".
• News International would see Miliband's criticism over phone hacking as "an act of war", he told inquiry.
• Not speaking out about hacking sooner was a "failure of the establishment", Miliband said.
• Miliband stood by a January 2011 Tom Baldwin email urging Labour MPs not to link phone hacking and News Corp's BSkyB bid.
Ed Miliband speaking about a phone conversation he had with Rebekah Brooks about the BSkyB bid...

 Robert Jay has clearly been on Twitter, acknowledges he works in same chambers as Miliband's wife.
Blimey. Jay makes declaration about Miliband's wife demanded earlier by @guidofawkes !
(not that I know or suspect the demand and declaration are related - Ed Miliband wife in Jay's chambers)

Rebekah Brooks requested conversation with Miliband on evening Cable was stripped of QJ role. "She was very annoyed with Dr Cable."

Miliband: We need something independent of press and politicians, there's clearly an issue about internet orgs and accessible.
Miliband: Have read Lord Hunt's evidence. My anxiety is whether it can achieve comprehensiveness and independence.
Miliband: I haven't yet seen a way forward that can get principles I've outlined without some kind of statutory support.
Miliband: I would not countenance this becoming a licence for some massive bureaucratic assault on the press.
Miliband: My strong instinct is one man controlling 34% of newspaper market is too much.
Miliband: My aim is not to stifle one organisation or another, plurality in sense one organisation does not have overweening power.  
LJ Leveson asking about the part of terms of reference of his Inquiry which expect him to address media plurality..
#Leveson‬ doesn't like being asked to judge how cross-media concerns should be dealt with (not sure why - surely it's crucial to everything?)
Leveson: I was on receiving end of differing versions of terms of reference which grew like mushroom cloud
Miliband: Collective view [Clegg, Cameron] that it was important that this limb of the terms of reference was there [on plurality].
Miliband: The right course can be followed and the right standards can be upheld by politicians.
#Leveson‬ says he has found it easy to set aside personal views when sitting on judicial reviews, and would recuse himself if not.

#Leveson‬: "I took an oath to judge issue by the law and ignore my personal views and I've not found it difficult to do that."
Miliband: I do believe it is possible for politicians to exercise the funtion in a way that respects quasi-judicial roles. ‪#Leveson

Ed Miliband's evidence ended.
Sir John Major

Media Archives:

Guardian Live Blog HERE

Sir John Major swears in..
Mr Jay begins his questioning, asking Major about Thatcher's relationship with the media.
@nataliepeck: Major ws: She made [Black and Murdoch's] political convictions/prejudices into political flesh, and they admired her for it.
@rosschawkins: Major: right of centre Thatcher appealed to natural instincts of proprietors & editors.
"Clear meeting of minds over trade union reform and EU" between press barons and Margaret Thatcher. Also she became iconic after Falklands.
Major:Thatcher admired buccaneering businessmen prepared to take risks.That led to mutual admiration. I didn't inherit it, Major says.
Major:undignified to seek to influence editorial support.Govt shd run country;press shd hold them to account.Melding roles means both fail

Major: would have been "rather undignified" to have courted press, thought "relative distance" from press was gd idea  
Major says he wasnt hostile to press.But too close a relationship probably wasn't for me.Clear downsides to courting the press.
Major says lack of close relationship led to media hostile to govt;press misjudgments of his govt;his successors became too close to press
[Assume Major means Blair got too close rather than his successors as Tory leaders] Major says press got hostile after 92 election.
Major admits "I was much too sensitive at the time about what the press wrote." If you read a caricature of yourself and actions...
"It is a basic human emotion to get a bit ratty about it. Friends who heard that in private were kind enough to carry it out in public" [!] 
Sir John Major relating the Mackenzie phone-call story..
Major says he read too much,took it too serious but for others to judge if it was malicious.A big mistake to ring Kelvin after Black Monday.

@nataliepeck: Major: Perhaps my memory is very faulty indeed but I certainly don't recollect the same conversation that has been circulated. ‪ Major: Suggested that I phone one or two editors to see how they viewed it. Called MacKenzie first to see what his perspective was. Major: I dare say it wasn't a particularly productive call. Major: Always struck when I went away from chattering circle of Whitehall and Westminister how different attitude of people was.

@benfenton: "It sticks,but it does not mean it is public's only perception of you."M: "I never found anything but a considerable degree of friendliness" [Use of phrase "considerable degree of friendliness" would be classic in a Major parody of course.He was easy to caricature.]
Major:British press is a curate's egg.Don't report accurately.Deal in caricatures.Stretch points beyond reason.Cites "Mr Chips" [!] Major: You cannot see British press as a single entity.Not all misbehaves.Hope ‪#leveson‬ will lift worst of press to standards of best.

Major: worst part of journalism takes something that has tiny kernel of truth in it & stretches it beyond where it wld honestly go
Major: If what papers print is grotesque, is balance between freedom of press + liberty of individual to be protected. 
Major: One must draw a distinction between the good, the bad and the ugly when one comes to talk about journalism as a whole.

Have to draw distinction between good, bad and the ugly. Fact and comment have melded.24-hr news cycle makes it v difficult.
Papers either have to reprint what is old or stretch an angle.News is by the morning "stale buns". Or they meld comment as if it were news.
Newspapers have little choice but to meld comment and news.Circulation trends are downwards.Some columnists good;some self-promoters.

Major's poised and measured tone makes him seem an authoritative witness. No brown-style rancour, but in fact wants similar big big change. 
@benfenton: Often leaks from govt are malicious, aimed at denigrating politicians from same party.Policy discussion presented as splits within party. 
[my theory that politics & newspapers got into trouble because people without age & experience took charge is not damaged by Major's wisdom]
#leveson‬ moves on to Blair.Apptment of political choices as press secretary [Alastair Campbell] Major says it was a v retrograde step. Once a political appointee speaks for govt, the word of the govt is no longer unquestioned.Civil servant shd present unvarnished truth.

Major: I think the return of the Civil Service to run the Information Service would be a thoroughly good move.
[having read an awful lot of old govt files at PRO, I can tell you that Major is wrong to think civil servants never tried to deceive press]
Major:public interest is for accurate,fair & full reporting.Politicians shd avoid political stunts to get airtime.
But political stance of papers means hard news omitted in favour of stunts.News is twisted & public get much less info than they ought to.

Major: the public gets lost, it gets all these stories but does it actually get clear cut info on what govt proposes?
"There has been a huge and important loss in an important role[accurate reporting] that newspapers could play, should play and don't play".
Major met Conrad Black owner of Telegraph 6 times in 7 yrs. Met Rupert Murdoch 3 times in 7 yrs. [interesting]
Jay says Rupert told ‪#leveson‬ he didn't remember the meetings. Major says he doesnt remember them either."Plainly unmemorable to both of us"

Major: British economic recovery started when UK was in ERM and continued thereafter
(Major says this was his message to Murdoch at time, suspect it's one he's keen for everyone to hear now)
Major: we had over a decade of low interest rates and solid growth
Major: I was prepared to take political pain to get interest rates down
Major: Note from Gus O'Donnell as press sec suggested "threat" to Murdoch says Major - who didn't make the threat
Major: Dinner would have contained usual amount of political gossip.Became apparent that Murdoch wished me to change Euro policies.
Major: I haven't talked about this conversation over the past 15 years but I am now under oath. Was more laconic in autobiography.
Major: Not very often someone sits in front of PM +says "Would like you to change your policy, my organisation cannot support you".

Major: Wasn’t v surprising that Sun decided to support Labour.
Major: After all Sun had written about Conservative party between 92-97, would've been difficult editorial line to support us

Major says it was a "ludicrous charade" for Sun to switch support on pretext that Blair wrote anti-EU article for them.
Sun cd have sd Tories were tired after 18yrs.Cd have sd Blair changed Labour "In many he ways Blair was to the right of me," Major says.

Major: Remember joking I had gone swimming in Thames, left my clothes on the riverbank. When I came back, Blair was wearing them.

Jay now asking about 92 election, which boffins sd they were going to lose.It didn't feel that way to me out on the streets, Major says.
Jay asks after "Sun wot won it" claim, after Sun vilified Kinnock.Major says he doesn't think it made a huge amount of difference.  

Major: Neil Kinnock I knew was v honest & straightforward, if he gave me his word he kept it

Major: News coverage in 92 + 97 accelerated change that existed. I do not think it changed the result of either of those elections.
Major ws: Press made no direct representations to the last Con gov on media policy but exposed to views through editorials.
Major: Framework Agreement draft leaked to Times from hostile union source [to NI peace process]. Said it could break up process.
Major: Caused mayhem in the House of Commons. Midnight meeting in my room packed with angry Conservative MPs.

Times was irresponsible to print story when govt had flatly sd to them"don't do it, this is wrong"[a debating point.Plenty of precedents] 
Major: Presenting only one side of a complex argument - most obvious illustration is the reporting of the European Union.
Major: Diet of negativity has been served up day after day month after month, year after year, presenting only one side.
Major takes the opportunity to quote his own 'Back to Basics' speech from 1993. Says it wasn't moral crusade at any time.

Major formidable opponent for Sun and others as comes over as v reasonable; distance breeding objectivity - harder to argue settling scores

Major nostalgia all very well but he is now whinging about his press. British papers are politicised + adversarial - so is the Commons.

Major discussing Broadcasting Act 1996 and proposals on cross-media ownership. Doesn't recall any media lobbying.
Major: Should be a limit beyond which, in the interests of plurality, no individual or single company should be permitted to go.
‪ Major says there were unsuccessful attempts to access his bank account.
Major: Office phoned by someone claiming to be from A&E, said son's girlfriend in an accident and was she pregnant. She was fine.
Major: Son followed repeatedly by motorbike, man had been instructed to follow him day and night.
‪ Major: Picture of me throwing a can from a rock cropped to make it look like I was littering, actually throwing to wife on beach.

Major: pic was cropped to wrongly show him as litter lout, wants papers like this to be forced to print uncropped pic 
Major: press shld be instructed by new PCC to print photo as it was along w/ doctored version w/ explanation of why they did it
Major: Sun talked way into holiday home+ took pictures. Wife called Kelvin MacKenize, he said we had no right to privacy + hung up.
Major: I was not especially an admirer of Mr Murdoch's activities as a proprietor.

Major: Sky sports and wildlife programmes & good deal of political coverage are of very high quality

Major: Sheer scale of influence RM is believed to have, whether exercises or not, is unattractive facet in British national life.
Major: If recommendations from this inquiry are not enacted + nothing done, difficult to see how this matter could be returned to.

Major: bad in journalism is cancer in journalistic body, is not the journalistic body as a whole 
Now on to first Calcutt report of June 1990 (before Major became PM). PCC set up Jan 1991, Calcutt 2 report Jan 1993
Jay moves on to the Calcutt reports. Major says Calcutt 2 one of 30-40 issues a day that cross PM's desk.
Major: Had freedom of the press in mind. That was why we regarded statutory tribunal as a very last resort.
Sir John Major speaks about freedom of the press...

[Major has dished it out to Murdoch press this morning. In some ways, the most damaging testimony for months, if it is widely reported.]
Major: Real concern that privacy tort could not be used by the vast majority of people without complete access to legal aid.
Major: Universality of opinion across the press was that the tort would be very damaging to investigative journalism.

Major: principle reason why we were unable to enact Calcutt was we wd not have got it through Commons
Major: we at the time had no workable majority

Major: important, if action is taken, that there is 2-party support at least and 3-party if possible

Major: If wanted someone to guide PCC to a better code of behaviour, would have been difficult to find someone better than Wakeham.
Major: The PCC did make some changes, although relatively trivial, and I appointed a privacy commissioner.

(as expected we're onto details of Major not changing press regs after report suggesting that should happen ‪#leveson‬)
(v relevant to Inquiry, but politically Major's I cdn't have got it through parl argument is hard to quibble with)

Major: It wasn't case of the press making a fuss about a policy distant from their natural self-interest, was germane to interests.
Jay asks about the dressed-up "do nothing" option taken by the government.

Major says it was a missed opportunity if it had been able to enact a stronger law on press behaviour, we wouldnt have had ‪#Leveson
But he stresses that it could not have been carried through parliament."A missed opportunity, but it was not one that could have been taken"
[Major is talking about enacting the Calcutt inquiry recommendations including having a "tort" of privacy.No wonder ‪#leveson‬ is interested!]
Major says some will say freedom of press is sacrosanct, but gross privacy intrusions not acceptable.Public will want 2 contrasting things.
Major:I think you err on the side of the minimum amount of correction or control, but I don't think it is credible any longer for...

Major: Don't think it is credible any longer for the phrase 'the freedom of the press' to be interpreted as licence to do anything.
Major now being asked about his view of the future. Says PCC has always been inadequate.Purpose of regulation is to stop malpractice.
Major suggests proprietors and editors cd be made personally liable for content of their titles. We are here because they didnt tell...
...their reporters to behave.[cites Murdoch, Black[!] Rothermere] I find it difficult to accept that editors and owners don't know... 
Major: The I had no idea what was going on beneath me argument is one I find extremely difficult to accept. Shd be written instructions.
#leveson‬ came about because those who cd have ensured proper behaviour have not done so.They cd have done and they should do.
#leveson‬ says he doesnt think written instructions wd work, but problem goes back to culture behind need to get ever more saleable stories.
[quite big points, but Major shows he doesn't understand how newspapers work]
People cannot just wash their hands in Pontius Pilate fashion of what has been done in their name, Major says [headline-grabber]
The responsibility for press misbehaviour must ultimately lie at the top.I think it lies in the hands of editors as well as proprietor-Major

Major to Leveson on the UK press: "We need to curb the worst to protect the best". Hear, hear...

From Guardian Live Blog:
Here is a lunchtime summary of Sir John Major's evidence:
• Major said Rupert Murdoch asked him to change government policy on Europe in 1997.
• Murdoch told Major in 1997 "I would like you to change your policy and if you don't change your policy my organisation cannot support you", the inquiry heard.
• In a letter seen by the inquiry, Major accused Gordon Brown's special advisers of lying about him "for party political advantage".
• Major denied Kelvin MacKenzie threatened to pour a "bucket of shit" on him in a now-famous "Black Wednesday" phone call.
• Major said he was "much too sensitive" about press coverage of him during his seven-year premiership.
• The appointment of spin doctors by prime ministers, ushered in by Tony Blair, was a "very retrograde step", Major said.
• Major urged cross-party support for recommendations of the Leveson inquiry, and said proprietors should ultimately be held responsible for their newspapers.

NI has put out statement rejecting Major"Murdoch threatened to withdraw support over Europe" line saying in 1997 NI titles acted separately
[However,in 97 Sun&NotW backed Lab,STimes backed Con&Times urged voters to back most eurosceptic candidate, exactly what Murdoch told Major]

From Guardian Live Blog:
News International has issued a statement about Major's claim that Murdoch threatened his titles would oppose the Tories if they did not change policy before the 1997 election. An NI spokesperson said:
News International titles did not act in unison in the 1997 election. The Sunday Times supported John Major, The Times was neutral, and The Sun and the News of the World supported Labour.