The Guardian has reported today that an updated biography of the prime minister claims David Cameron texted Rebekah Brooks before she quit as News International’s chief executive.
An article on the Guardian‘s website reports that Cameron allegedly texted Brooks “to tell her to keep her head up” days before she resigned from News International.
It has also emerged that he agreed to meet her at a point-to-point horse race so long as they were not seen together, and that he also pressed the Metropolitan police to review the Madeleine McCann case in May last year following pressure from Brooks.
The prime minister then sent an intermediary to Brooks to explain why contacts had to be brought to an abrupt halt after she resigned. The authors say the gist of that message was: “Sorry I couldn’t have been as loyal to you as you have been to me, but Ed Miliband had me on the run.”
The revelations were made in the updated version of Cameron: Practically a Conservative by Francis Elliot and James Hanning. Brooks is due to appear before the Leveson inquiry on Friday.
The paper says the reporters “were checked into hospital at the expense of News International on the orders of Rupert Murdoch”.
Sources said other journalists inside the Wapping HQ look “terribly stressed and many are on the edge”. It is understood the company’s offer of psychiatric help is available to any journalist who feels under pressure.
The tragic developments happened after News Corp’s Management and Standards Commitee, a branch of the empire that reports directly to independent board directors in New York, passed evidence to Scotland Yard.
The MSC is co-operating with the Metropolitan police investigations into allegations of phone hacking, computer hacking and payments to police and other public officials. Eleven people from the Sun have been arrested in recent weeks as part of Operation Elveden and released on police bail without charge.
Another development in the News International/Metropolitan police story has emerged today – with the Evening Standard reporting that the Metropolitan police loaned Rebekah Brooks a police horse for two years.
The paper says it raises questions about the force’s links with Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper empire. A friend told the paper: “Rebekah acted as a foster carer for the horse. Anybody can agree to do this with the Met if they have the land and facilities to pay for its upkeep.”
The Metropolitan police said in a statement:
“When a police horse reaches the end of its working life, Mounted Branch officers find it a suitable retirement home.
Whilst responsibility for feeding the animal and paying vet bills passes to the person entrusted to its care at its new home, the horse remains the property of the Metropolitan Police Service.
Retired police horses are not sold on and can be returned to the care of the MPS at any time.
In 2008 a retired MPS horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was subsequently re-housed with a police officer in 2010.”
I’ve worked alongside you for 43 years to build The Sun into one of the world’s finest papers. It is a part of me and is one of our proudest achievements. The Sun occupies a unique and important position within News Corporation.
I have immense respect for our heritage, your exceptional journalism and, above all, you, the talented women and men who work tirelessly every day to ensure our readers have access to such a trusted news source. I believe this newsroom is full of great journalists and I remain grateful for your superb work and for the stories you uncover to inform and protect the public. None more so than over the last three weeks.
My continuing respect makes this situation a source of great pain for me, as I know it is for each of you.
We will obey the law. Illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated – at any of our publications. Our Board of Directors, our management team and I take these issues very seriously.
Our independently chaired Management & Standards Committee, which operates outside of News International, has been instructed to cooperate with the police. We will turn over every piece of evidence we find — not just because we are obligated to but because it is the right thing to do.
We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested — all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work. News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.
I made a commitment last summer that I would do everything I could to get to the bottom of our problems and make this Company an example to Fleet Street of ethical journalism. We will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, which I know are essential for all of you to do your jobs. But we cannot protect people who have paid public officials.
I am confident we can live by these commitments and still produce great journalism.
We will build on The Sun’s proud heritage by launching The Sun on Sunday very soon. Our duty is to expand one of the world’s most widely read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before.
Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.
I am even more determined to see The Sun continue to fight for its readers and its beliefs. I am staying with you all, in London, for the next several weeks to give you my unwavering support.
I am confident we will get through this together and emerge stronger.
In the above clip, Kavanagh gives his most controversial interview of the day to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Richard Bacon, criticising both the police operation and News Corporation’s own investigation by its Management Standards Committee. “There’s never been a bigger crisis than this [at the Sun]”, Kavanagh tells Bacon.
Here’s the full transcript:
RB: “Trevor Kavanagh told me earlier about the atmosphere in the Sun news room.”
TK: “Well despondent I would say and a feeling of being under siege I suppose.”
RB: [paraphrase] Re: Rupert Murdoch planning to fly in later this week – will he face a hostile newsroom?
TK: “Well I think the newsroom is full of people who feel deeply unhappy about the way that their colleagues, who they worked alongside for sometimes decades and who they respect and admire as supremely professional operators, have ended up being arrested, searched, put on police bail and suspended from their duties and so there is a huge amount of anger at the fact that this has happened. And, as I would point out, not a single one of them has been charged, let alone tried or convicted.”
RB: “Do some people at the Sun feel as though their parent company has hung them out to dry a bit?”
TK: “Well there’s certainly a mood of unhappiness that the company’s proudly, certain parts of the company, not News International I hasten to add, not the newspaper side of the operation, are actually boasting that they’re sending information to the police which would put these people I’ve just described into police cells.”
RB: “Forgive me, I know the structure of the company is quite complex, when you refer to another bit of the company, what does that mean, what are you talking about?”
TK: “Well there is a parent company, News Corporation, and that has set up this management committee to look into the evidence, the documentary evidence and so on, if there is any, against any members of staff. Now I think it’s fair to say that we are not opposed to the fact, that we are co-operating with the police, that’s what we should be doing and I think that if we are to get through this we need to provide them with all the co-operation we can. I think that perhaps what we best do is if we left them go through the evidence and found out what they can.”
RB: “That word ‘boasting’, what do you mean by that?”
TK: “Well I meant that when the arrests were made it was made clear that they had been arrested on the basis of evidence provided by this management committee.”
RB: “Are you saying that they shouldn’t have provided that evidence, they should have let the police come for that evidence?”
TK: “Well I think that, I don’t know how it works frankly but it does make us feel, make people in the company feel, that evidence which as of far as we know, I have to point this out, that on the basis of the evidence that’s been suggested to those who have been arrested so far, is pretty flimsy stuff. I can’t describe it in any further detail than that but it doesn’t really stand close scrutiny and people are wondering what on earth is happening.”
RB: “A lot of the evidence has come from the parent company now. It gets complex because I know that a lot of emails have been handed over. These are emails that were thought to be missing and now have been recovered and there’s something like I think 11 million of them. When you say the evidence is flimsy are you saying you more or less know exactly what evidence the police have at the moment?”
TK: “No I don’t and I’m not going to go any further into what evidence may or may not be available.”
RB: “Why do you say it’s flimsy then if you don’t know?”
TK: “Well because I have been told what the police have been asking about and those, you see the people that have been arrested have been told why they have been arrested and on the basis of that I would say that the evidence is flimsy. What other evidence is about I simply don’t know but my point today is that this police operation is wildly disproportionate with what might be the potential offences that may or may not have been committed.”
RB: “How many police are involved in this investigation?”
TK: “You have 171 officers who are involved in three separate investigations and this is the biggest single police operation in the history of British policing. It is bigger than the operation on the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing, it’s far, far bigger, totally dwarfs the operation on Milly Dowler and nobody’s died, nobody’s committed any hideous offences that I’m aware of or even been suggested as having committed such offences. It does seem to me wildly disproportionate that these police officers are raiding people’s homes with up to 20 officers at a time, ransacking their homes, going through their personal possessions, carting off sacks of paper after a dawn raid. It’s completely out of proportion.”
RB: “Why do you think it’s got here, why do you think that the operation is on such a scale, is it partly about the police trying to recover their own reputation do you think?”
TK: “I suspect that’s the case, they feel that they’ve lost a police commissioner and a deputy police commissioner and they now want to make it abundantly clear that they aren’t going to leave a single stone, floorboard, drawer, cupboard, Kellogg’s cornflake packet or any other part of a household untouched in their hunt for evidence that may or may not exist.”
RB: “Do you think the investigation would be smaller if News International had been more co-operative with the initial phone-hacking allegations?”
TK: “Well that may or may not be the case but this is not the point, the point is that as we speak 30 journalists have been suspended from their jobs, their careers may have been ruined by this and their families have been shocked and appalled by dawn raids by people acting I think in a disproportionate way when I think a polite knock on the door, perhaps after a phone call, would have unearthed precisely the same so-called evidence. I don’t know whether it’s evidence or simply other pieces of paper that’s in every household.”
RB: “But when I say co-operative in the first place I think that’s an important point because initially the company said it was all down to one individual and that turned out not to be true and they misled parliament, they misled the public, then they said these 11 million emails had gone missing whilst being transferred to the Middle East and now 11 million have been recovered. But News International may have played its own part in the police investigation being of this scale.”
TK: “Well that’s for you to suggest and it’s…”
RB: “I don’t know that Trevor…”
TK: “Let me finish my sentence…”
TK: “It may well be the case I don’t know, I’m not involved in any of that side of things and what you have to remember is that if indeed we were misjudging things or getting them wrong completely even, we have already paid a pretty heavy price for that have we not? We have had to close one of the biggest newspapers and the oldest and one of the best newspapers in the country and 300 excellent journalists have paid the price. Now, I think that we were talking earlier about the witch-hunt and I think that the view of those who are out to get us in this witch-hunt is that nothing will satisfy them until News International has gone altogether.”
RB: “Who are those people Trevor, who do you think really is out to get the company?”
TK: “Well I think one person quite clearly is Tom Watson, I don’t think he would deny it but I don’t want to go into any further detail about who… I mean you and others can easily decide who you think might fit the bill but when you have an operation as disproportionate as this you have to wonder what they’re up to, and why.”
RB: “And I guess just finally Trevor with the story about Rupert Murdoch flying back in this week to face his hostile newsroom do you think there is any chance at all that the Sun itself could go the way of the News of the World and get closed down?”
TK: “No. I think that the Sun is a paper that if it hadn’t been invented you would have to re-invent it then. I think that the fact is this is a great newspaper, it’s loved by millions, it’s even loved occasionally by the BBC. I think the idea of losing a paper of this sort would surely be the ultimate disproportionate act would it not?”
RB: “Mmm. It’s very successful as well isn’t it? It’s one of the few newspapers left that makes a lot of money I think as well.”
TK: “It is, it’s successful for a very good reason, it’s successful because it breaks great stories, it’s successful because it represents its readers’ interests. It’s successful because it has a vigour and a lifestyle and a life force which resonates through this country. It is the greatest newspaper in this country.”
RB: “By the way the journalists that were arrested, are they back at work?”
TK: “They’ve been suspended.”
RB: “Yeah, OK. Trevor, thank you…”
TK: “Indefinitely I have to say without any prospect of knowing when any further action is going to be taken, if any.”
RB: “Is that the right call by the Sun to suspend them or do you think that’s a bit harsh?”
TK: “Well I think that, I don’t think there’s much choice once this has happened but you know it’s hard for people like me who have worked alongside people we admire and respect for, in my case, nearly 40 years with the Sun, to see them languishing at home, frustrated and unable to do anything to defend themselves and I feel very sorry for them and I know it’s causing them and their families a great deal of anguish.”
RB: “I’m sure that’s right. I didn’t realise you’d been with the paper for 40 years, did you ever see the newspaper at a lower ebb than this, have you ever been through a bigger crisis than this at the Sun?”
TK: “There’s never been a bigger crisis than this.”
Speaking on Radio 4’s The World at One, Kavanagh said there was “no justification” for calling for the paper to be closed – and he reiterated that no one had been charged. He said:
There are people who will stop at nothing to destroy News International. The News of the World has already closed and they will not be satisfied until the Sun is closed too. That is not going to happen.
There is no justification on the base of what you and I know so far. I think it would be a catastrophe for the British media, the newspaper world and even possibly the BBC if action which at this stage suggests no actual guilt should be regarded as grounds for closing newspapers.
Asked if there was unease at the Sun with the way News International’s independent committee had handled the affair, Kavanagh replied:
I think it’s fair to say that there is unease about the way that some of the best journalists in Fleet Street have ended up being arrested on evidence that the MSC has handed to the police. I think there is unease on that.
And asked if he would discuss the issue with Rupert Murdoch when he visits later this week, Kavanagh replied:
If he wants me to talk to him about it, I would be delighted.
News International is planning to launch a Sunday version of its popular UK tabloid newspaper the Sun on 29 April, sources have told Journalism.co.uk.
Staff have been secretly working on the new publication since January and it is believed some former News of the World employees (casual and/or full-time) are involved.
News International has declined to comment. After Journalism.co.uk tweeted about the planned launch date last night, the Telegraph’s home news reporter Matthew Holehouse also tweeted that News International would neither “confirm or deny”.
News Int won’t confirm or deny @journalismnews claim that a ‘Sunday Sun’ will launch April 29.
Neville Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter at the News of the World, has penned a first person account of his part in the phone-hacking saga.
The eloquent Thurlbeck certainly doesn’t hold back in the dramatic stakes:
After years of sitting silently in the wings while a bloody Jacobean revenge tragedy played out on the stage, you probably wonder why I have finally decided to cast myself in a speaking role and stroll briefly onto the stage that bears the corpse of my former newspaper.
As he did in his short statement to the cameras last week, Thurlbeck backs the assertion by News International executives that the evidence was kept from them, claiming there was a “pattern of withholding information”.
Editors of the Mirror and the Times were today questioned at the Society of Editors conference about their coverage of the phone-hacking scandal.
Editor of the Times James Harding said earlier on in the scandal that the newspaper’s decisions were informed by “a combination of the company denying it, police saying there was nothing to see and an issue of rivalry”.
I look back and think why didn’t we jump on it? There’s often the sense that there’s an agenda there so I think when that story broke in the Guardian there was a tendency to see that and when news broke the police came out and said there’s nothing to see here. That did inform the thinking.
It was only as a few more pieces fell into place … I remember thinking there is something that is seriously wrong here.
He said following more allegations of wrongdoing the “engines fired up a bit” at the Times and there was “a real attempt to ensure we were reporting on it as any other story.”
Editor of the Mirror Richard Wallace added that when it first started “it was very much a meeja story”.
We didn’t think our readers were interested in it and frankly they weren’t.
The National Union of Journalists is due to hold a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, 2 November) to discuss the recently announced cuts to editorial within the Times and Sunday Times, which is open to member and non-member freelance, casual and staff journalists at the publisher’s titles.
Last month the Times announced it was to cut around 100 staff from the newspapers’ editorial workforce, with the bulk of those said to be to casual staff. It was also confirmed that 20 compulsory redundancies are due to be made from full-time staff at the Sunday Times, which is cutting 30 per cent of its casual editorial workforce.
Following this announcement the NUJ set up a meeting, which is open to any staff who wish to seek advice. It will be held from 1 to 3pm at the Captain Kidd pub, 108 Wapping High Street, E1W 2NE. The union has also invited representatives of the company’s in-house union NISA to attend if interested in working with the NUJ.