A Pinch of Snuff

17:50 Friday 11th May 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY GALL: Rupert Murdoch’s protege Rebekah Brooks has been giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards. The former editor of the Sun and News of the World was pressed on whether she and her newspapers have been able to influence politicians. Mrs Brooks confirmed that she had regular contact with the Prime Ministers over the years, and even received sympathetic text messages from them when she was forced to quit following the phone hacking scandal. (TAPE)
REBEKAH BROOKS: I received some indirect messages from Number 10, Number 11, the Home Office, Foreign Office.
INQUISITOR: So you’re talking about Secretaries of State, Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer obviously, aren’t you Mrs. Brooks?
REBEKAH BROOKS: And also people who worked in those offices as well.
INQUISITOR: Ok. Mr Blair, did he send you one?
ANDY GALL: Mrs Brooks insisted that David Cameron had long been her husband’s friend before becoming her own, and that it was preposterous to suggest that she received texts from him up to 12 times a day. But she said that when she did receive a message on occasion, he would sign it DC, or something more personal. (TAPE)
REBEKAH BROOKS: Occasionally he would sign them off LOL, Lots Of Love, actually until I told him it meant Laugh Our Loud, and then he didn’t sign them like that any more. (LIVE)
ANDY GALL: The former News International Chief said that she had dinner with Tony Blair at least 30 times when he was Prime Minister, but denied ever receiving a scoop in return for her paper’s support. She also said it was wrong to suggest Gordon Brown’s anger over the Sun publishing a letter he’d written to a dead soldier’s mother proved politicians feared personal attacks in the press. (TAPE)
REBEKAH BROOKS: I don’t think it’s fair to say that politicians live in fear of newspapers. They are highly motivated ambitious people, and MPs don’t scare easily. (LIVE)
ANDY GALL: Mrs Brooks also admitted discussing her company’s bid to buy BSkyB with the Chancellor. She said that she made use of a social dinner with George Osborne to discuss opposition being put forward by the regulator Ofcom, and then emailed his response to her colleague Fred Michel.
REBEKAH BROOKS: It may have been precisely three minutes of me saying can you believe that has happened and George Osborne looking slightly perplexed and me responding to Fred Michel the next day. It was a very brief conversation but it did happen. (LIVE)
ANDY GALL: An email from Mr Michel given to the Leveson Inquiry alongside Mrs Brooks’ evidence has also thrown up questions about the relationship between journalists and politicians regarding the phone hacking scandal. It suggests the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt sought guidance from News Corporation on his and Number 10’s positioning on the issue. Mr Hunt is facing questions about contact between his political adviser and Mr Michel, and is expected to go into the witness box at the Leveson Inquiry later this month.