UK

Leveson Inquiry: Summary of week 17

  • 26 April 2012
  • From the section UK

It was one of the most dramatic weeks at the Leveson Inquiry, when the men whose newspapers sparked the phone hacking scandal - James and Rupert Murdoch - took the stand.

James Murdoch's five hours of evidence caused shockwaves across Westminster, leaving a cabinet minister fighting for his career following claims he had acted as a "cheerleader" for News Corporation during its bid to take over BSkyB.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt faced calls to resign after a 163-page dossier of emails suggested that News Corp PR executive Fred Michel was regularly obtaining confidential information from Mr Hunt's office.

While Mr Hunt said he had operated with "scrupulous fairness," the prime minister was forced to defend him in the Commons and his adviser Adam Smith stepped down.

On Wednesday, it was to take the stand, declaring his session was an opportunity "to put certain myths to bed".

High up on his list was the idea that he uses his papers and his contact with politicians to further his commercial ambitions. Hitting the desk at one point, he insisted, "In 10 years I never asked Mr Blair for anything. Nor did I receive any favours".

Rupert Murdoch said he is a man who does not know many politicians and who has never asked a PM for anything.

Clearly proud of the Sun newspaper, he said ministers seeking an insight into his thinking should read the tabloid's editorials.

He also claimed former prime minister Gordon Brown had phoned him in 2009 after the Sun switched allegiance to the Conservatives.

He quoted Mr Brown as saying: "Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company". He said Mr Brown had not been in a "balanced state of mind".

But Mr Brown said the allegation was "wholly wrong".

he repeatedly claimed there had been a "cover-up" at the News of the World over the extend of phone hacking but insisted it was kept hidden from him.

"I do blame one or two people for that... someone took charge of a cover up we were victim to and I regret that," he said.

The mea culpas kept on coming throughout the evidence. "I failed." "I am very sorry about that." "I apologise."

Mr Murdoch told the court the hacking scandal was "a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life".

The week - which saw the focus of the inquiry shift to the relationship between newspapers and politicians - and Evening Standard, Evgeny Lebedev, saying politicians overestimated the influence of newspapers.

Telegraph Media Group chairman Aidan Barclay told the inquiry that he thought it was the duty of "most businessmen to get to know the politicians that make rules and regulations that affect their business".

He said he sends plants to MPs at Christmas and texts David Cameron - not that often, he insisted, but it was good to go direct to the intended recipient.

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