Can Leveson tackle the power of Brooks and the harlot of Fleet St? | Leveson Inquiry News | The Week UK
Fellow journalists said after her performance that they could see why this grammar school girl from Cheshire and one-time personal assistant to media pirate Eddy Shah had got so far in the male-dominated world of journalism to become chief executive of News International. Feisty seems to be her middle name, they said. But they were missing the point.
Brooks almost certainly confirmed in Leveson’s mind the old aphorism that the press is guilty of “power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”. It was coined by Stanley Baldwin at a time when two press barons, Beaverbrook and Rothermere, were doing their best to force him out as the leader of the Conservative Party.
There was abundant evidence in Brooks’s evidence of the attempts by Murdoch to play the Beaverbrook/Rothermere game, of making and breaking politicians – the personal attacks in The Sun against Labour leader Neil Kinnock, the support for Tony Blair (a close friend of Rebecca, we learned), and the final sabotage of hope for Gordon Brown by The Sun coming out for the Tories on the night of Brown’s big conference speech.
Brooks had been a very close friend of Brown’s wife Sarah, she told the inquiry (Sarah organised a sleep-over party for Rebecca’s 40th birthday). No wonder Brown blew a fuse after hearing of The Sun’s disloyalty. He was due to go to a News International conference party that night, and refused to take Brooks’s calls warning him not to attend. Peter Mandelson was deputed to speak to her instead, and allegedly used the ‘C’ word… “You chump”.
Quizzed whether this was actually the word used, Rebekah demurely replied: “That is what he claims he said. Depending on how you hear it, chump can be quite offensive.”
There were also the frequent soirees attended by the Conservative Prime Minister Cameron and his wife Sam when the Murdoch takeover bid for BSkyB was discussed informally over the Christmas champagne at the Brooks’s house (interestingly, there was no evidence Brooks and her husband Charlie, a close friend of Dave’s, were ever invited back to the Camerons’ house). These revelations may yet claim the career of another politician, Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary.
But the damning evidence was not the power broking at the Fortress of Mordor, sorry, Murdoch. It was the daily life behind the steel fences of Wapping. Brooks chided Jay at one point for indulging in tabloid tittle-tattle, after he asked her whether she had gone swimming with Murdoch in London (she had not). It was a neat putdown from a woman who said she had disagreed with Rupert Murdoch over the amount of celebrity stories in The Sun. “I wanted more celebrity,” she said. “He wanted more serious issues.”
Having sat through six hours of evidence by Rebekah Brooks, it became clearer than ever she thought she was more powerful than the elected government of the day, and in many cases she was.
In her written evidence, Brooks proudly listed the campaigns in which she had personally taken part from her seat of power at The Sun and the News of the World: Sarah’s Law, Help for Heroes, Baby P, Madeleine McCann, Malaria No More, Europe, Domestic Violence, Make Poverty History, Academy Schools.