Rebekah Brooks accused of bullying Government over McCanns
Rebekah Brooks was accused of bullying the Government into ordering a British police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
by Ross Lydall
QC Robert Jay claimed Mrs Brooks threatened to put Home Secretary Theresa May on the front page of The Sun every day until she ordered a new inquiry into the missing child.
But Mrs Brooks denied she had used threats and said her argument — and that of Maddie’s parents Kate and Gerry — had simply “persuaded” the Tory-led government soon after it took power.
She said: “I didn’t speak to No 10 or the Home Office about the McCanns until after the campaign had been won.”
Mrs Brooks, then News International chief executive, had personally negotiated the serialisation of Kate McCann’s book about her missing daughter for around £500,000. Maddie went missing aged three five years ago on a family holiday to Praia de la Luz.
Extracts were published by The Sun and the Sunday Times, with the Sun campaigning for UK police involvement in a case generally perceived to have been botched by the Portuguese police.
Mrs Brooks said that in a meeting with Maddie’s parents, her father Gerry “said he wanted a UK police review of the case”.
Times story alleges Cameron asked Met to open review of Madeleine McCann case as "debt being repaid" for Sun backing Conservatives.— Jonathan Haynes (@JonathanHaynes) May 8, 2012
She added: “The McCanns were deeply upset that there hadn’t been a review. We said, ‘We will join forces with you’.”
Mrs Brooks said she personally did not speak to Downing Street or the Home Secretary but believed Sun editor Dominic Mohan or political editor Tom Newton Dunn may have.
It was put to Mrs Brooks by Mr Jay that the Met’s investigation had so far cost £2 million of public money. “Some would say maybe that money might have gone somewhere else,” he said.
Asked by Mr Jay whether she was behind an “implied or exaggerated threat”, she said: “I think the word threat is too strong.” She said “persuasion” was more accurate.
Lord Justice Leveson intervened during the questioning. He asked whether Brooks was involved in a strategy to threaten No 10 in order to obtain a review of the Madeleine investigation.
“I was certainly part of a strategy to launch a campaign in order to get a review for the McCanns,” Mrs Brooks said.
in London Evening Standard, May 11, 2012
«(...)Thankfully, Robert Jay was on far better form today than he was against the stonewalling Andy Coulson yesterday. He also seemed far better briefed. Brooks had to deny, unconvincingly, that she had variously demanded that Downing Street order a reopening of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, else Theresa May would be appearing on the front page of the Sun every day until they did; that she did not, as widely reported, tell Andy Coulson that the Sun would not support the Conservatives until Dominic Grieve was moved from his job as shadow home secretary, having had the temerity to say to Brooks's face the Sun's coverage of crime and the Human Rights Act was hysterical; and that she did not in a phone call to Ed Balls demand the sacking of Sharon Shoesmith following the Baby Peter case, else they would "turn this thing on him".
Funny, isn't it, that there all these stories, all apparently untrue, about Brooks using her power and influence to demand things of politicians and yet she didn't believe there was anything inappropriate about the level of contact between the then editor of the biggest selling newspaper in the country and those making the law. She also didn't believe that politicians were trying to get to Rupert through contact with her, which is just about as obtuse as her evidence got. It was fascinating to learn though that David Cameron spoke to her repeatedly about the phone hacking accusations against the Screws, and yet he apparently never spoke to Andy Coulson about it. Very strange.(...)» extract from Obsolete blog, May 11, 2012
The Cameron-Brooks texts begin to leak
The PM told Brooks to "keep her head up" the week she resigned.
David Cameron with former Sun editor and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.
by George Eaton
Last week we learned that David Cameron may have texted Rebekah Brooks "a dozen" times a day. Today, courtesy of News International's the Times (£), we learn of some of the contents. An updated version of Times journalist Francis Elliott and Independent journalist James Hanning's biography of the PM, Cameron: Practically a Conservative, reveals that Cameron texted Brooks in the week she resigned as chief executive of News International to tell her "to keep her head up" (not a direct quote).
In a revelation that will certainly brighten Labour's morning, we also learn that such contact then came to an "abrupt halt", with Cameron dispatching an emissary to explain that "Ed Miliband had him on the run." And there's more: Brooks and Cameron texted each other to make sure they were not seen together at the Heythrop point-to-point; Cameron asked the Met to open a review into the Madeleine McCann case in May 2011 as "a favour" for Brooks; and Royal courtiers warned that Buckingham Palace would "think poorly" of a decision to take Andy Coulson into Downing Street.
The case for the defence is put by Oliver Letwin. "If you are on the same side as her (Brooks), you have to see her every week," he explains. "This was how it worked." In other words, the PM courted Brooks no more or less than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But even if we accept Letwin's assurances, the problem for Cameron is that he was the one standing up when the music stopped.
It's tempting to dismiss the Leveson inquiry (before which Coulson will testify on Thursday, followed by Brooks on Friday) as of interest only to journalists but Rebekah Brooks's name is one that has penetrated the public consciousness. As I've written before, the claim that Cameron texted her a dozen times a day (more contact than most people have with their partner) could permanently reduce him in the eyes of the public. Conversely, as Sunder Katwala notes, there are "as of now, no actual texts/emails to/from Cameron to Rebekah Brooks yet in public domain." So long as this remains the case, No. 10 will hope that it can limit the damage.
in New Statesman, May 9, 2012
David Cameron was 'pressured into new Madeleine McCann inquiry by News International'
The Prime Minister came under pressure from News International to set up the new inquiry into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, according to this evening’s BBC Panorama programme - ‘Madeleine: The Last Hope?’
The Home Office has declined to explain why they chose to look again at the unsolved case above any other but a source at Number 10 has said that David Cameron “acted as a sympathetic parent.”
In 2011 The Sun printed an open letter on their front page from The McCanns to Mr Cameron, appealing to him as a parent to agree to a review.
But tonight Panorama will claim there was also much more going on behind the scenes to try to influence the Prime Minister.
Downing Street sources have revealed to the programme that influence was being exerted on Number 10 by News International and by The Sun newspaper, as well as by the McCanns.
Within 24 hours of the front page appeal Mr Cameron announced a review could be paid for out of a contingency fund run by the Home Office, reserved for special cases.
The review is already understood to have cost £2 million but the detective in charge is publicly optimistic.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood believes his team has the best chance yet of finding out what happened to Madeleine.
He tells Panorama tonight: “As a detective, it is a huge privilege to have an opportunity to work on this case. Both my team and I feel that.”
BBC Panorama – Madeleine: The Last Hope? will be shown tonight at 7.30pm on BBC One.
in The Telegraph, April 25, 2012
The Prime Minister’s instruction to the Metropolitan Police to review the Madeleine McCann case is in breach of the draft protocol that is supposed to protect the operational independence of the police
by Lord Toby Harris
David Cameron has instructed the Metropolitan Police to review the case of Madeleine McCann. This is in response to an open letter in The Sun and is entirely predictable in terms of the “pulling power” of News International on Government policy.
However, his intervention drives a coach and horses through the draft protocol issued by the Home Office designed to preserve the operational independence of the Police which says:
“The operational independence of the police service, and the decisions made by its operational leadership remain reserved to the Office of Chief Constable and that Office alone.”Whilst no-one doubts the desirability of doing what can sensibly be done to find out what has happened to Madeleine McCann, I can imagine that the senior leadership of the Metropolitan Police are not exactly happy about this. It again embroils their officers in a high profile investigation, where the chances of success are unclear, and which will divert limited investigative resources away from other matters.
in Lord Toby Harris' blog, May 13, 2011
Extract from page 98 to page 109
Q[Robert Jay Q.C.]. I just wonder whether you sense or sensed -- because we're talking about the past now -- the effect you might have had on politicians. Some of them may even have been afraid of you. Is that true?
A [Rebekah Brooks]. I literally -- like I say, I don't see politicians as these sort of easily scared people. Like I say, most of them are pretty strong, ambitious and highly motivated, so ...
Q. Let's see if we can just take one case study and see whether there's any validity in that case study.
A. Okay, right.
Q. You remember the McCanns serialisation case?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Actually, we have Dr McCann's evidence in relation to this in the bundle at page 57 under tab 6. Do you have that there? We're working from the transcript of the evidence this Inquiry received on 23 November 2011.
A. Right, yes.
Q. If you look at page 57, line 11, the question I asked was: "You talk about a meeting with Rebekah Brooks ..." Are you on the right page?
A. They're not numbered in that way.
Lord Justice Leveson: They are, actually.
A. 57, is it? At the bottom?
Lord Justice Leveson: No, it says 15 at the bottom, but each page has four pages on it.
A. Yes, right. I have it, sorry. Thank you, sir. Yes?
Mr Jay: The question was: "You talk about a meeting with Rebekah Brooks which led to a review of your case, a formal review. Just to assist us a little bit with that, can you recall when that was?"
Dr McCann's answer was:
"I think it's probably worth just elaborating a little bit because it's quite a complex decision-making process. News International actually bid for the rights to the book along with Harper Collins, and one of their pitches was the fact that they would serialise the book across all their titles. We were somewhat horrified at the prospect of that, given the way we had been treated in the past and the deal was actually done with the publishers, Transworld, that excluded serialisation.
"Now, we were subsequently approached by News International and Associated to serialise the book, and after much deliberation, we had a couple of meetings with the general manager and - Will Lewis and Rebekah Brooks and others, and what swung the decision to serialise was News International committed to backing the campaign and the search for Madeleine."
Pausing there, there was going to be serialisation in both the Sunday Times and the Sun, I believe. Do you recall that?
A. I do.
Q. I think this is the year 2010, by which time you were chief executive officer, weren't you?
A. That's correct.
Q. What was the price that you paid for the serialisation? Can you remember?
A. I can't remember, actually. I -- it's hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Q. A million, we've been told.
A. No, it wasn't. It wasn't a million. Half a million, maybe. I can't remember. I mean, I can -- there are ways to find out, but I'm not sure it was a million.
Q. Okay. I paraphrase the rest of what Dr McCann said, because he couldn't take this issue much further. Your intervention was successful in securing a review of the case. Do you understand that?
A. I -- you asked if it was successful and he says it was, yes.
Q. Yes. Can you remember anything about that intervention?
A. Actually, to just go back, the reason I was involved as chief executive was because it concerned two newspapers, the Sunday Times and the Sun. So if you like, I did the deal with Harper Collins from the corporate point of view, and then left it to the two editors, John Witherow and Dominic Mohan, to decide the different approaches.
I had always got on very well with Dr McCann and Kate McCann throughout their incredible traumatic time, and in fact I think they, if asked, would be very positive about the Sun, actually, and in this case, I thought that Dominic Mohan's idea to run the campaign for this review of Madeleine's case by the Home Secretary was the right thing for the Sun to do, and I think the Sunday Times did the book. So my intervention was at that point, as in: was the original discussion with Dr McCann. I don't think I spoke to Theresa May directly, but I am pretty sure that Dominic Mohan may have done.
Q. Let's see whether we can agree or disagree on what may have happened. When you were discussing the arrangements with the McCanns, you asked if there was anything more they wanted. Do you recall that?
A. Maybe, yes.
Q. And Dr Gerry McCann said that he wanted a UK police review of the case. Do you remember him saying?
A. That I do, yes.
Q. Do you remember your answer being: "Is that all?"
A. I may have said it slightly more politely: "Is there anything else before we conclude this meeting?", but -- I don't particularly remember saying that, but maybe I did, yes.
Q. I'm not suggesting to you that it was impolite; I'm just summarising the gist of what you said.
A. Maybe, yes. We had been going through a list of issues that Dr McCann and Kate McCann wanted to be assured of before we went forward with the serialisation, so possibly.
Q. Did you then take the matter up with Downing Street direct?
Q. Did you not tell Downing Street that the Sun was going to demand a review and the Prime Minister should agree to the request because the Sun had supported him at the last election?
A. No, in fact I didn't speak to Downing Street or the Home Secretary about this, but I know that Dominic Mohan or Tom Newton Dunn will have spoken to them.
Q. Pardon me?
A. They would have spoken directly to either Number 10 or the Home Office. I'm not sure. You'll have to ask
14 them. Probably the Home Office, I would have thought.
Q. That the Sun wanted an immediate result and that a letter would be posted all over the front page from the McCanns to the Prime Minister asking for a review, unless Downing Street agreed. Did that happen?
A. I think that's how the Sun launched the campaign from memory. It was with a letter, yes.
Q. The Home Secretary was told that if she agreed to the review, the page 1 letter would not run. Do you remember that?
A. No, I don't.
Q. But as the Secretary of State did not respond in time, you did publish the letter on the front page. Do you remember that?
A. I do remember the Sun kicking off the campaign with a letter, yes.
Q. But you don't believe there was any conversation or indeed threat to the Secretary of State? Is that right?
A. I'm pretty sure there would have not been a threat, but you'll have to -- we'll have to ask Dominic Mohan, because, like I said, my involvement was to discuss the campaign in the continued search for Madeleine with the McCanns and to do the deal on the book and to -- they -- because I had done so many campaigns in the past, they
wanted my opinion, but after that I left it to both editors to execute the campaign.
Q. What I've been told is that you then intervened personally, Mrs Brooks. You told Number 10 that unless the Prime Minister ordered the review by the Metropolitan Police, the Sun would put the Home Secretary, Theresa May, on the front page every day until the Sun's demands were met. Is that true or not?
Q. Is any part of that true?
A. I didn't speak to Number 10 or the Home Office about the McCanns until, I think, after the campaign had been won, and then it came up in a conversation that I had -- and I don't even think directly with the Prime Minister. I think it was one of his team.
Q. We can find out in due course whether this is true or not, but I must repeat it to you. It is said that you directly intervened with the Prime Minister and warned him that unless there was a review by the Metropolitan Police, the Sun would put the Home Secretary, Theresa May, on the front page every day until the Sun's demands were met. Is that true or not?
A. I did not say to the Prime Minister: "I will put Theresa May on the front page of the Sun every day unless you give me a review." I did not say that. If I'd had any conversations with Number 10 directly, they wouldn't have been particularly about that, but they would have been, if I'd been having a conversation, that the Sun was leading a major campaign with a very strong letter on page 1 to start the campaign, and anyone who knew me would have talked to me -- any politician would have talked to me about it. But I did not say that. I don't know who said I said that, but we're going back to sources again.
Lord Justice Leveson: Could we ask this: were you part of a strategy that involved your paper putting pressure on the government with this sort of implied or express threat?
A. I was certainly part of a strategy to launch the campaign in order to get the review for the McCanns, yes. But I think the word "threat", sir, is -- is too strong.
Lord Justice Leveson: Well, give me another word then for "threat", could you?
A. Persuade them?
Lord Justice Leveson: Persuasion. All right.
Mr Jay: In your own words, Mrs Brooks, define for us what the strategy was.
A. So the McCanns were deeply upset that there hadn't been a review. It seemed incredibly unfair that they hadn't got this review. You only have to read their book to understand the trauma that they go through. So we said, "We'll join forces with you", and Dominic Mohan and his team went away and constructed a campaign. I cannot remember when the idea of the letter came up. It may have even been my idea to do the letter. I can't remember. But the campaign was launched in order to try and convince the government or convince the Home Secretary that a review would be the right thing to do.
Q. Do you know how it came about that the review was ordered?
A. No, I -- I can't remember, I'm sorry. Such a lot has happened since then, but...
Q. You must have been told, Mrs Brooks?
A. I remember Dominic Mohan telling me that the review was going ahead.
Q. That the Sun had won, in other words?
A. He didn't put it in those terms, but he said -- well, actually, I think he said, "The McCanns have won."
Q. The Sun headline on 14 May, front page, was that as a result of its campaign, the Prime Minister was "opening the Maddie files". Do you remember that one?
A. I remember the Sun winning the campaign, the McCanns winning the campaign, yes.
Q. So this is not, you say, a case study then in the exercise of power by you? I'm not suggesting that the end result was right or wrong. Many would say it was right, that there should be a review. I'm just saying the means by which you achieved the objective.
A. But it could be said that a review of Madeleine McCann's case, with everything that had gone on, was the right thing to do. We presented the issue. We supported the McCanns in their determination to get a review. It
21 wasn't new. They'd tried before, before the election, and the election had come into -- and the Sun -- and the Home Secretary clearly thought it was a good idea too, because I'm pretty sure there wasn't -- it wasn't a long campaign. It wasn't like Sarah's Law over ten years. I think it was very short.
Q. Yes, it didn't take very long because the government yielded to your pressure, didn't they? It took all of about a day.
A. Or perhaps they were convinced by our argument.
Q. There are always two sides to the coin here, that of course everybody would say, on one level, money should be spent, but the campaign to date, I'm told, has cost £2 million and some would say maybe that money might have gone somewhere else. It's never clearcut, is it?
A. What, the Madeleine McCann campaign?
Q. No, the operation which started up the review, which was called Operation Grange, I understand.
A. Right, sorry.
Q. Perhaps you would say all you were doing was reflecting the views of your readers. Is that it?
A. I think in that case, it was an issue that we brought to the readers, that we explained to the readers that a review hadn't taken place and that -- we presented the McCanns' story as in the reason why they wanted the review. I think that absolutely chimed with our readership and the campaign was started with a very heartfelt letter and the politicians were convinced our argument, or the McCanns' argument, was correct.
Q. It also chimes with the commercial interests of your papers because this sells copy, doesn't it?
A. Well, campaigns can sell newspapers. I think the serialisation of the book actually was good for circulation for the Sunday Times. I'm not sure how well the campaign was in circulation terms, but they would be a matter of record. It may have been.
Full transcript of morning hearing available here.