Gordon Brown calls for second Leveson press abuse inquiry

Amol Rajan
Media editor

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Gordon Brown has called for the second part of the Leveson Inquiry to go ahead - and said the majority of press abuses in recent years were from the Murdoch press.

Speaking to the former prime minister for Thursday's BBC News at Ten, I asked him why we need it, given the criminal trials that followed the first part and high cost to the public.

"There are so many unanswered questions about what the Murdoch News International group did… blagging, impersonation, email interception, breaches under the law itself... that unless there is a full and proper inquiry we'll never be able to clear the air," he said.

"And we'll always have suspicions about how the media was acting for a whole decade at the start of the 21st century."

As things stand, there is a judicial review into the terms of a government consultation into both whether the second part of Leveson should happen and also if Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (which imposes costs of legal actions against publishers on to those publishers if they don't sign up to an approved regulator) should be implemented.

The second Leveson Inquiry was to look specifically at allegations of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other newspaper organisations and, as appropriate, other organisations within the media,

Most of the people I speak to in Westminster think it is unlikely that a government so focused on leaving the European Union will want the distraction of another inquiry.

For Brown, that is not good enough - and the fact that David Cameron promised it would happen counts for plenty.

Image source, PA
Image caption, Lord Justice Leveson recommended new press regulation

"Leveson himself said this was only the first part of his inquiry, Mr Cameron when prime minister said there had to be a Leveson Two, the House of Lords has looked at this and agreed there has to be a second inquiry," he said.

"Mr Cameron said that was to happen when he was prime minister. It does seem strange that we're now not going to have it unless we keep pushing for it.

"Leveson One could only deal with part of the problem. The whole of the problem has to be dealt with, including the way Murdoch newspapers impersonated people, including the way there were breaches of the law, including also how email interception might have happened, as well as telephone interception. And the media itself should want an inquiry to clear the air."

'Fresh evidence'

Brown believes there is fresh evidence that has not been sufficiently raked over. And it was clear in speaking to him how personally he was affected by press intrusion.

"There is fresh evidence. We have the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry and that is revealing fresh evidence almost every month. We have the statements made by people who were in police at the time that have been sent to [Culture Secretary] Karen Bradley as a reason for taking action.

"We have the evidence that people like me have that I was impersonated, that my bank account was broken into, that my lawyer's office was besieged by calls impersonating me from the Murdoch newspapers.

"These are all things that happened and have not been properly accounted for by the Murdoch empire."

I asked Brown whether, as many of his critics contend, this was really the vendetta of a wronged man.

His response was: "I can only explain what happened to me. I know I was impersonated. My lawyer's office received questions by impersonation. My bank accounts and mortgage accounts were broken into.

"I am in a position to defend myself. There are thousands who don't know what happened to them. People who have less power to defend themselves than me deserve this inquiry."

Murdoch, with whom Brown was thought at one point to have developed a trustful relationship, deserted Labour at the 2010 election, endorsing the Conservatives in a manner timed to inflict maximum damage on Brown's ambitions.

Sky bid

The bid by 21st Century Fox for the 61% of Sky it does not already own is imminent. It is currently being bounced between Fox and the European Commission as part of what are known as "pre-notification talks". They are a formality.

Very soon, Fox will formally notify Karen Bradley of their bid and she will have 10 days to decide whether to refer the bid to telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, James Murdoch gave evidence to the first Leveson Inquiry

I asked Brown specifically whether he thought that the Murdochs, and James Murdoch, were fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence.

"Before you make a decision about the ownership of a very important media organisation, you should know all the facts.

"Because we haven't had Leveson Two there is always going to be doubt as to whether we know what is happening in this organisation, whether we know whether there are fit and proper people governing this organisation."

I asked him finally why he seemed to be targeting Murdoch particularly. After all, it was not just the Murdoch press that did wrong. But that is not really how Brown sees it.

"All the major instances of abuse that merit inquiry in recent years have come out of the Murdoch press. We have the fake Sheikh, we have the telephone hacking, we have issues about email hacking.

"Most of them resolve at least in the main around the Murdoch media and that's where the inquiry has got to start."

News UK declined to comment on these assertions. Their position is simple and has been made publicly many times: there have been extensive criminal trials into many of these accusations, with several journalists in the dock.

We don't need yet more flagellation of the press.

Watch the interview on BBC News at Ten at 22:00 GMT on BBC One on Thursday or on iPlayer for 24 hours afterwards.

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