Phone Hacking: The Guardian should hang its head in shame over its stance on a second Leveson inquiry


Lord Justice Leveson: Pic courtesy of Leveson inquiry website Not chairing any new inquiry now


The Guardian is my old employer. It has a long and honourable tradition of fearless investigations which do not follow the rest of the pack. That included holding the media industry to account.

The decision this week to join the rest of the press pack and welcome the demise of Leveson 2 – the inquiry which would have taken a cold hard look at how mainstream media – in particular the News of the World and the Mirror – indulged in phone hacking and other nefarious practices  is profoundly disappointing.

It is even more so because one of the Guardian’s finest investigative reporters Nick Davies – now properly retired unlike me – exposed the practice in the  Milly Dowler case which triggered  the public exposure of the whole sordid business.

It is the spurious reasoning the paper has used to justify such action. The paper talked about looking forward rather than in the back view mirror as the main reason why it had decided to side with the Sun, the Murdoch empire and the Daily Mail and Telegraph. Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and Rupert Murdoch must be rubbing their hands with glee at their latest supporter, Kathy Viner, the editor in chief of the Guardian.

The inquiry would have made publicly accountable the top people who authorised such shameful practices which bring investigative journalism into disrepute  whether by hiring private investigators to blag, steal and phone hack anybody’s private life so long as they were a celeb or a Royal. More to feed the public’s voyeurism than in the public interest.

Worse, through this culture, they may have been with the Met police an accessory to  the horrific murder in 1987 of private investigator, Daniel Morgan – now at long last the subject  of a forensic independent panel inquiry under Baroness Nuala O’Loan , the former first Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. If the second Leveson inquiry had been launched, the independent panel report would have helped  inform Sir Brian Leveson in his difficult task.

The dropping of the inquiry has nothing to do with the future of press regulation – even though it is in the interest of newspaper proprietors and The Guardian to suggest it is. That is a separate matter.

If one followed the spurious logic of the Guardian – in simple don’t look back in anger – then it could have said in 1994 that the ” cash for questions” saga was also old hat -it was revealed 10 years after the event anyway- and there was no need for an expensive inquiry by Lord Nolan.

Yet because they did examine this historic scandal we now have a benchmark for MPs and ministerial behaviour and a permanent body – the Committee on Standards in Public Life- which can investigate new issues of propriety. It still as relevant today as in the 1990s.

The Leveson 2 inquiry could have provided something similar for the media and opened the debate on the way social media operates.

The  same logic would also suggest – as the Daily Mail and The Times already have – that there is no need for the present independent child sexual abuse inquiry – as that is just historic or why bother covering reports from the National Audit Office as they look back at past mistakes. It will be a very quick way of denuding the Guardian’s website and print editions.

My suspicion – and I have no knowledge – is that this decision is driven by commercial worries. Mainstream media is being sandwiched between the rise of social media giants Google and Facebook who are taking away their advertising – and the growing  popularity of websites and blogs – often with a right or left wing bias which attract a young readership.

Panic has led the mainstream media to rush to hang together and try and stop any further independent inquiry into their working practices. They should be careful – those who hang together could fall together. That is why the Guardian – a traditional dissident voice – should  hang its head in shame for what it now stands for.







The Media’s Attack on Corbyn: Research Shows Barrage of Negative Coverage – Media Reform Coalition

This factual analysis shows what everybody suspected – there has been an unrelenting media attack on Jeremy Corbyn in the media since he was elected.It is by a press dominated by unelected multi millionaire owners. This is chilling for democratic debate. The scale of the bias is staggering, particularly in the news coverage.

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corbyn_coverage-360x222New research by the Media Reform Coalition shows how large sections of the press appeared to set out systematically to undermine Jeremy Corbyn in his first week as Labour Leader with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Brooks, Piers Morgan “may” have mentioned phone hacking in 2004 – Martin Hickman

Another lapse of memory from Rebekah Brooks – can’t remember whether teased by rival piers Morgan over hacking her phone way back in 2004.

Inforrm's Blog

Brooks and MorganDay 66, Part 2:   Journalist and former chat show host Piers Morgan may have mentioned phone hacking in 2004, two years before detectives arrested two News of the World figures for intercepting the voicemails of the Royal Household, the Old Bailey heard today.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Brooks: The Sun had no written rules on payments to public officials – Martin Hickman

Interesting conundrum that The Sun had no rules about payments to public officials because it knew they were illegal yet Rebekah Brooks is happy to pay out tens of thousands to people without asking who was receiving the money.

Inforrm's Blog

Sun Day 65:   The Sun under Rebekah Brooks’s editorship had no written rules controlling the payment of money to public officials, she told the phone hacking inquiry today.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Brooks unable to recall how The Sun established Blunkett story – Martin Hickman

Extraordinary amnesia by Rebekah Brooks over the Blunkett lover story – did Andy Coulson who she was having an on off affair herself tell her or not?

Inforrm's Blog

David-Blunkett-010_0 Day 64, Part 2:  Rebekah Brooks was unable today to remember how The Sun established the identity of Home Secretary David Blunkett’s lover hours after the News of the World being edited by her close friend Andy Coulson revealed the relationship.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Brooks asked to authorise cash payment to “serving police officer”, court told – Martin Hickman

This latest disclosure shows Rebecca Brooks being asked to authorise payments to a serving police officer while editor of The Sun and allegations that the Sun had bribed a Ministry of Defence official to get premature disclosure of the deaths of serving soldiers in Afghanistan. In one case Rebekah Brook’s lawyer pointed to a MOD press release before they published the story.

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Rebekah BrooksDay 26: Rebekah Brooks was asked to authorise a cash payment to a “serving police officer” while she edited Britain’s best-selling national newspaper The Sun, the phone hacking trial heard yesterday.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Police investigate Army officer over £4,000 picture of Prince William in The Sun – Martin Hickman

This vignette about a £4000 payment by the Sun for a picture of Prince William in a bikini shines light on another aspect of a current police investigation, Operation Elveden, corrupt payments to officials by News International. The court is told by the Met police that they have 60 officers pursuing 80 to 90 lines of inquiry – a very large operation indeed. Unusually the court is told of an existing police investigation- with one army officer due to be interviewed by the police about payments for the picture when he comes back from an overseas posting.

Inforrm's Blog

sun-getcccctyDay 25: Detectives are carrying out a live investigation into whether a senior Army officer leaked a photograph of Prince William in a bikini to the Sun, the phone hacking trial heard today. An email from a Sun journalist discussing a payment of £4,000 for the image, taken at a fancy dress party while the prince was undergoing his military training, referred to it coming from “William’s direct platoon commander.”

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Phone Hacking Trial: Sun lawyer: “possible” that he gave advice to journalists on phone hacking, Old Bailey hears – Martin Hickman

Lawyers are now under pressure at the Hacking Trial. Sun lawyer Justin Walford is pleading that he can’t remember whether he gave advice on phone hacking – rather like evidence given by the Murdochs to Parliament. But then he admits it is possible he did. As a former journo at the Guardian I know lawyers crawl over all copy before it is published, so his answers are at the very least rather interesting.

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Brooks arriving at Old BaileyDay 16:  A senior lawyer today said today that it was “possible” he had given advice to Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group on phone hacking. Justin Walford, editorial legal counsel at News UK, who was being asked for a second time whether he had done so, went on to say: “I cannot remember.”

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Phone Hacking Trial: Sun political editor claimed evidence of non-existent affair between Home Sec and special adviser, court hears – Martin Hickman

An extraordinary story of how surveillance and phone hacking were used to try and stand up a baseless story that former Labour home secretary Charles Clarke was having an affair. This time the ” victim” put an end to the tale by telling Trevor Kavanagh, then the Sun’s political editor, by refusing his offer to ” confess” and instead warning him that it was untrue and he would sue. Another murky look into the worst side of the tabloid world.

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Charles ClarkeDay 14:  The Sun’s political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, confronted a Home Secretary claiming to have “evidence” of a non-existent affair, the phone hacking trial was told today.  

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Murdoch eats humble pie over private comments at the Sun

Rupert Murdoch yesterday rowed back from his private comments seen and heard by Exaro News and on this site  condemning the police, the judiciary and his admission that he knew all along about payments to police and officials.

In two letters to John Whittingdale, Tory chair of the culture, media and sport committee, and Keith Vaz, Labour chair of the home affairs committee, his strident comments became strangely muted.

The full quotes are in an updated piece on the Exaro News website and Channel Four News.

No doubt the media mogul, advised by his lawyer,realised that the leaking of his comments to arrested journalists had attracted too much attention, particularly after  the Met Police Operation Elveden  asked Exaro for a tape with his views.

Now he does not doubt the police’s professionalism and says any interpretation on his words that he knew about bribing official is ” wholly false”. This is after he called the police operation totally incompetent and said the Met Police inquiry was about ” next to nothing.”

Really. He was obviously not wanting to row back too much from the words he gave to his journalists – still complaining the investigation had taken too long and was ” disproportionate ” and admitting to raw emotion at the meeting.

But will this be  enough to get him off the hook. Will people really believe him?  It was definitely a repentant Rupe, but I suspect the humbling was only skin deep and I am not sure that it will get him entirely off the hook from the Met.

More seriously how will people in the US and Australia take this explanation. I think there is more to come.