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Leveson Inquiry highlights

Video: BBC

Blunkett and Burns’ Leveson letter ‘was drafted by Daily Mail executive’

MORE: READ LEAKED MURDOCH LEVESON EMAILS HERE

A letter sent by 80 MPs and peers to Lord Justice Leveson warning about the dangers of press regulation was originally drafted by an executive at Associated Newspapers, the publishers of the Daily Mail, Scrapbook understands.

The former editor of the Mail on Sunday, Peter Wright is said to have penned the first version of the letter, before approaching Tory backbenchers to front it in the media. Tory MP Conor Burns was brought on board alongside former Labour cabinet minister David Blunkett, whose £49,500 second job as a “corporate social responsibility” adviser to Rupert Murdoch may have influenced his thinking.

The news comes after it was revealed that Wright wrote to Tory MPs asking them to read the Daily Mail’s 12-page smear of Leveson adviser David Bell.

David Cameron got his copy of the report at lunchtime, Ed Miliband gets his tomorrow morning and selected members of the press will read copies in a secure “lock in”.

But it will all kick off in earnest once we can all download it at 1:30pm.

More evidence: Did Michael Gove mislead the Leveson Inquiry?

As we revealed last week, Michael Gove told the Leveson Inquiry that he hadn’t heard of News Corporation’s $360m education subsidiary — despite spending two days with the executive in charge. A further trawl through documents obtained by this blog through raises further questions about Gove’s version of events.

Internal emails from the Department for Education show discussion about NewsCorp’s education interests mere weeks after it acquired Wireless Generation in November 2010. Coordinating an appearance by Joe Klein at a Free Schools conference in January 2011, News Corp specifically directed that Mr Klein was to be referred to as:

“CEO, Educational Division and Executive Vice President, Office of the Chairman, News Corporation”

Given that we already know NewsCorp was hoping to open its own free school, and Klein was angling for support from the Education Secretary, the suggestion that he wouldn’t have mentioned a $360m marquee acquisition seems odd to say the least.

When quizzed last Tuesday, however, Gove claimed:

“I didn’t know anything about that [Wireless Generation] until I read about it in the Guardian”

Stay tuned for more on Gove later this week.

Jeremy Hunt on BSkyB bid: ‘Margaret Thatcher would be proud of me’

The evidence, including emails and texts, is out. When Adam Smith told Hunt that his decision not refer the BSkyB bid to the Competition Commission had an, erm, mixed reception, he replied:

“… good to be a hate figure, Maggie would be proud of me!”

In 1981 Margaret Thatcher famously waved Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of The Times through, despite concerns over media plurality. The Culture Secretary, supposedly acting in a non-political matter told another colleague that being a hate figure on the left in particular meant he “must be doing something right!” And there’s more:

Preparing for Hunt’s statement to the Commons in March regarding BSkyB’s Undertakings in Lieu (which got them out of referral to the Competition Commission), politically neutral Adam Smith prepared a series of friendly questions which could be planted with backbenchers, including:

“Can [the minister] confirm that Ofcom’s advice is that these arrangements are sufficient to address the plurality concerns that initially led them to believe the deal should be referred to the competition commission?”

Seems odd that one so confident in their quasi-judicial capacity should need political allies to throw him soft balls.

Scrapbook is sure that Mr Hunt has the full confidence of the Prime Minister.

Liveblog: Jeremy Hunt at Leveson

Hunt’s account of Adam Smith’s resignation is particularly interesting:

Jay: “Did you say to him at about 9.30 in the morning “‘everyone here thinks you need to go?'”

Hunt: “Yes, I wasn’t particularly including myself in that description of ‘everyone'”

And:

Jay: “So if something had gone wrong…it theoretically fell within your responsibility didn’t it?”

Hunt: “I do have responsibility for what he does, I have repsonsibility for what everyone in my department does…”

That last admission seems especially pertinent.

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Did Michael Gove mislead the Leveson Inquiry over News Corp links?

  • Inquiry grilled Gove on his links to News Corp subsidiary
  • Claims he never heard of company until Guardian article
  • But spent two days with company boss months prior

Despite his close links with Rupert Murdoch’s companies, Michael Gove told the Leveson Inquiry that he had never heard of News Corporation’s education subsidiary, Wireless Generation, until it was mentioned in a newspaper:

“I didn’t know anything about that company until I read about it in the Guardian.”

This claim seems at odds with the known chronology of events. According to the Guardian website, their first article on Wireless Generation was published in May 2011 — but Michael Gove had already spent a significant period of time with company boss Joel Klein earlier that year.

Klein was brought to News Corp as an executive vice president in November 2010, charged with getting them into the education industry. Just two weeks later they acquired Wireless Generation for $360m.

As we can see from an internal Whitehall itinerary, published below by Political Scrapbook, Klein spent the best part of two days with Michael Gove, including a visit to an academy school in London (above). The pair seemed to bond, with Klein proclaiming Gove a “hero” after the education secretary sent him a thoughtful gift.

Conducted in early 2011, a Google or Google News search for “Joel Klein” would have returned manifold references to Wireless Generation.

  • Was Wireless Generation really absent from civil service briefings on Klein?
  • In the hours they spent together, did Klein never once mention a $360m marquee acquisition which was integral to News Corp’s education strategy?

The questions don’t stop with Leveson.

Adam Smith Leveson evidence contradicts resignation statement

Adam Smith’s evidence to Leveson seems to be contradicting his resignation statement. Asked by Robert Jay QC whether the communications created the impression that Hunt’s office were too close to News Corporation, he said:

“I don’t think the substance of what we’ve been through was inappropriate.”

So why did he put his signature to this?

“I appreciate that my activities at times went too far and have, taken together, created the perception that News Corporation had too close a relationship with the department”

It doesn’t seem as though Smith thinks he has done much wrong here.

On the basis of his testimony, perhaps “resigned” is a euphemism for “sacked”.

Leveson Inquiry QC asks questions about Political Scrapbook

This morning saw Political Scrapbook raised at the Leveson Inquiry, with Tom Watson forced to deny he was part of the “management” of this website — a ridiculous notion to anyone with knowledge of the UK blogosphere.

The questions asked by Robert Jay QC were put to the inquiry by a core participant — an individual accorded special rights to view witness statements and suggest lines of questioning.

The bizarre exchange left the Scrapbook office wondering which core participant we have offended such that they would put these questions to the inquiry.

We’ve obviously been ruffling some feathers somewhere.

More: Full list of core participants »

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