09:15 - Good morning one and all. Hello and welcome to another big-name day at the Leveson inquiry. Rebekah Brooks has an entire day devoted to her as Lord Justice Leveson seeks to establish just how much the politicians and the press have intermingled over the years. Having been editor of the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, editor of the Sun from 2003 to 2009, and chief executive of News International from 2009, Brooks is a key figure in the phone-hacking furore which has engulfed Rupert Murdoch's media empire. It was no surprise when she was forced to resign at the height of public anger over the scandal in July 2011. She has subsequently been arrested by the Metropolitan police in connection with its investigations into phone-hacking and illicit payments to police officers, so there will be limits to what Brooks can say today; but she remains a critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Inquiry counsel Robert Jay will be spending the day trying to work out exactly where she fits in.
09:25 - Today's evidence session, of course, follows hot on the heels of yesterday's developments at Leveson. Andy Coulson, the man who became David Cameron's spin doctor after unknowingly (he claims) presiding over phone-hacking as editor at the News of the World, gave a sterling performance which will have greatly relieved the prime minister. OK, so he admitted that Cameron had only asked him about phone-hacking just the once. Overall, though, he was very assured and gave away very little. For the line-by-line details of his encounter with Jay, why not wile away the minutes until we get going today at 10:00 with a quick read of our as-it-happened coverage from yesterday.
09:35 - Among the most significant revelations to have come out so far this year about Brooks' relations with the prime minister has been the eyebrow-raising fact that she lent him a retired police horse she was looking after. The story stemmed from the fact that they are country neighbours of the PM. This matters because it directly touches on the perhaps/probably/definitely inappropriately close relationship between Britain's senior politicians and its media chiefs. A Christmas dinner at the Cotswold home of Brooks and her husband, Charlie Brooks, for example, was the scene of a discussion between Cameron and James Murdoch over News Corporation's takeover bid for BSkyB.
09:45 - It all sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? Other stories to have filtered out relate to the extent of Brooks' communications with the prime minister via text message - did he really text her up to ten times a day? - and her attendance at a pyjama party at Chequers. Brooks, who is still just 43 years old, will also be questioned on her relations with the media-savvy Tony Blair and the media-obsessed Gordon Brown. This is likely to be the warm-up for the main event - her revelations about David Cameron. She will be reluctant to give much away, though. How competent will she be at resisting Jay's probing, patient, persistent style of questioning?
09:55 - The other big development in the Leveson inquiry this week also happened yesterday - when Lord Justice Leveson gave a clear response to Downing Street's attempts to avoid a separate probe investigating the conduct of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt. News Corp was in secret contact with Hunt's special adviser, the now-resigned Adam Smith, when Hunt was supposed to be conducting a quasi-judicial assessment of whether the Murdochs should be allowed to buy BSkyB. Downing Street, trying to save Hunt and protect Cameron at the same time, has responded by arguing the Leveson inquiry is more than good enough to scrutinise whatever's coming to light. Leveson, though, won't play ball. As he subtly explained yesterday, he's not going to act as a judge on whether Hunt has broken the ministerial code. Cameron has been rebuked, making it much harder for him to get away with effectively acting as a judge on the matter himself. Here's our news story from yesterday: 'Leveson refuses to judge Hunt over BSkyB takeover'
10:00 - So, it's 10:00. Obviously. Time for us to get started... but there's usually a few minutes' delay in court room 73 before the day's evidence session gets underway.
10:09 - Here we are, then, after a slightly longer than usual delay. The oath, the usual opening straightforward questions going through her CV. It's certainly an impressive one. "You resigned on the 17th of July 2011," Jay says. "Fifteenth," Brooks corrects. Ouch.
10:15 - A slight smile from Brooks there over the "absence" of certain documents. She seems fragile and vulnerable - far from the bombastic personality which we're so familiar with. We're just getting started, of course... This warm-up section about access to emails and text messages is laced with meaning for what's going to follow later on. In terms of text messages, "there was one from Mr Cameron that was compressed, but there's no content in it," Brooks says. It can't be read, frustratingly... But Brooks, when pushed, says she received messages from No 10, No 11, Home Office, Foreign Office... Jay gets her to confirm she's talking about the secretaries of state. What about Blair? "Er - yes," she says. Jay asks the question about Cameron's text message of support after he resigned. The Times reported he told her to 'keep her head up'. She says that this was right - "along those lines", at least. She says it was "indirect" - via an intermediary, then? In any case, the message was sent.
10:17 - Jay quotes Cameron saying he had got too close to News International, "or words to that effect". Brooks says he never mentioned anything to that effect to her. So Jay moves on to ask about Rupert Murdoch. "I think Mr Murdoch is probably more interested in the Sun in terms of political issues," Brooks says. She ought to use the past tense there, really...
10:20 - Next Jay is asking Brooks about the extent to which her political views matched those of Murdoch's. They disagreed on "the environment, immigration, DNA database, top-up fees, the amount of celebrity in the paper versus serious issues, columnists, the design, font size..." Starting to not get especially political towards the end. On the big issues, they broadly agreed, she adds. Jay is interested in the celeb v serious question. Brooks says she was pro-celeb stuff. Although, bizarrely, "he liked The X Factor".
10:23 - Brooks puts up a bit of resistance on the extent to which her thinking differed from that of Murdoch's. "The readers' views were always reflected," she insists. Brooks suggests Murdoch wasn't being "totally literal" when he told Leveson his thinking was effectively summed up by Sun editorials. "I don't think it was ill-guarded," Brooks continues, "I just don't think it was literal." I'm noticing a few tweets on Twitter noting Brooks' flirty nature. She does appear to be being quite feminine. But I am a hopeless judge of this sort of thing, so couldn't possibly comment.
10:28 - There's some real tension developing now in the court room over the role of editors, which Brooks has referred to in her evidence statement. They are not "unelected forces", as Jay claims, but "journalists". Leveson intervenes. He says the point is that newspaper editors "are shaping and changing government policy to shape your own interests". Brooks concedes that is what she's talking about. But she says "the power is your readership... it's not an individual power". Essentially, her argument is to undermine the significance of editors as arbiters of the public interest / public opinion, by playing up the importance of 'the readers'.
10:34 - Rupert Murdoch "sometimes" spoke to Brooks every day, she says (when pushed). Sometimes, when he wasn't in the country, less so. Jay says "various stories abound". Did they swim together in London? No, Brooks says. "You need better sources, Mr Jay," she adds after denying further rumours about Murdoch sending her a dress after she'd been arrested over the alleged assault of her ex-husband... What is correct is her 40th birthday party at Rupert Murdoch's house. Blair was there, she says, but as it was "a surprise party for me" she couldn't really remember much. There's laughter in the courtroom as Jay says he won't ask her about the birthday present. Leveson indicates he's relieved by this, but Brooks shrugs. "You've asked me about swimming," she points out, telling Jay to go ahead. But he moves on, more's the pity. The farce-o-meter is getting close to dangerously high levels...
10:39 - Time to work through Brooks' relationship with politicians, then. The opening gambits are well and truly complete. Brooks says her relationship with Tony Blair became more frequent when she became editor of the Sun. That was in 2003, of course - it was from that point that her contact with politicians increased significantly. Brooks agrees that she became "friendly" with Mr Blair. But there were no contacts with him as he didn't use a mobile or computer when he was prime minister. It was all via landline, therefore.
10:42 - Alastair Campbell's appointment, Brooks says, was key to Blair's advisers putting "huge store" by "certain newspapers". They triggered a "shift change from the John Major government into trying to get as much access to the press as possible". As she points out, this is not particularly revelatory. Jay goes on the offensive, telling her that the "impetus" comes from the politicians going to the editors, just as it's the readers who provide the impetus for editors. Brooks disagrees, unsurprisingly. But how can politicians be held to account if they're a "constant presence", as Jay says? Easily, Brooks replies. Jay suggests if a friendship develops the "constant presence... is in danger of being abused". Brooks says if either side compromises their role then they're "failing". As a journalist who comes across politicians every day, I have to agree with that. Any political journalist would say the same. Not that I've ever been to a pyjama party at Chequers, of course.
10:46 - All this journalistic neutrality stuff is all very well, Jay is now arguing, but what happens when you take into account the partisan nature of the newspapers? Brooks' paper had backed New Labour for years, of course. What about the Brown-Blair rivalry? "In the latter years of Tony Blair's prime minister-ship the hostilities between him and Gordon Brown got increasingly worse," she says. She says she was on "neither" side - only "the side of the readers". Brooks says she was friends with Sarah Brown, an "amazing lady", than she was with Brown. Only "by the end" was she properly palsy with Blair, Brooks insists. Jay wants a black-and-white definition of whether she liked Blair or Brown. She refuses to give one, but acknowledges that by the end she was on Blair's side.
10:48 - "It wasn't a playground spat," Brooks continues, on Blair and Brown. This affected the country, is her point. "Every story, every feud, every mediation by John Prescott or Peter Mandelson was analysed by the media in a just and proper way." Brooks views the media as being the judges of public opinion: they really are the interpreters of public opinion.
10:51 - Brooks is thoroughly resistant when it comes to talking about where her scoops came from. Were they fed to her by the politicians, or not? Brooks says she has "good sources". What were they? Predictably, the usual journalist defence comes up. A journalist NEVER reveals their sources. Brooks says this very quietly, very primly, like she has been affronted or offended. Very neatly done. But this is at the heart of the issue, isn't it? The way political journalists operate - how much they are actually fed by ministers in private chats, and by their special advisers, lies at the heart of the relationship between politicians and the press. Not that I would ever reveal my sources, of course. It's an impasse which Jay appears to be accepting.
10:54 - Brooks confirms that she had dinner on a one-to-one basis three times with Tony Blair between 2003 and 2007. It sounds like there were limited other private encounters between the editor and the prime minister then, but there's a bit of obfuscation on both sides.
10:57 - Brooks uses her 'Vatican chimney' story, in which the Sun indicated its political support by pumping red smoke out of its Wapping offices, as a way of lightening the mood. It was "funny at the time", she chuckles charmingly. It works, with Jay smiling. Still, he wonders whether there was any prior discussion of this with Blair. No, Brooks says.
11:02 - Another 'I won't reveal sources' defence from Brooks, who utterly refuses to tell Jay whether a Sun article had been driven by a tip-off from Blair himself. Jay responds by putting a rumour to Brooks. She asks who told him that. Jay says he won't reveal his sources if she won't reveal hers. "We'll play this game all day," she says lightly. And so the long session wears on...
11:09 - We're up to 2009, now, and the Sun's switch of allegiance to the Tories. "The position at the Sun at the time was not an overwhelming support for the Tory party," Brooks insists. The problem was on a number of issues, like the EU referendum issue and Afghanistan. She refers to what the "population" wanted, rather than the 'readers' as before. Another intervention, number two, from Lord Justice Leveson now. He picks her up on... a long pause as he tries to remember what it is... "pursuing matters on behalf of your readers". How did she discover what those readers' views actually were, apart from those "that actually communicated with you?" His suspicion is whether she's "reading the runes" as a newspaper editor. On the European constitution, for example, she was sure where her readers stood. There had been lots of polls. There had been a "lot of feedback from the readers". On Afghanistan, through the Help for Heroes campaign, "we were getting an incredible amount of feedback". Leveson says he's found the sentence. The question is, are these journalists "merely a conduit" or are individuals "thrown into the mix of deciding how we're going to pursue the matter?" Brooks explains that every editor has to judge this. Emails are always looked at. "It's almost a sackable offence to be rude to a reader," she explains. Sometimes they even ring up to ask them for directions!
11:11 - Time to move on to "Mr Cameron, now" - but Lord Justice Leveson takes the opportunity for a short break. Blast! We'll have to wait for a short while before getting on to Brooks' contacts with the current prime minister...
11:12 - It's been a fascinating opening hour and a bit. Brooks might appear to be fairly demure, but she has not budged an inch when it comes to the pressure points, particularly over revealing her sources. Probably the biggest single news line so far has been that David Cameron DID send her a text message of comfort after she quit as News International's chief executive last summer. That will only reinforce the impression of many people that the Conservative leader is solely on the side of the Murdochs, won't it? Let's see whether that impression is deepened further by what happens in the rest of the session.
11:19 - Rebekah Mary Brooks' witness statements are now up on the Leveson inquiry website. There are actually two of them: this one and this one.
11:24: And we're back. Jay begins without wasting any time, starting at the beginning. 2005, in fact, and the Conservative leadership contest which Cameron won. Coulson was appointed director of communications in May 2007, but Brooks didn't have any involvement in it. She first learned about it from Coulson himself. Brooks felt she was "pleased for him". Was she surprised by the Tory party choice? "Journalists are good communicators," Brooks replies. There was Alastair Campbell before him, of course. "There's a long history of journalists going into politics."
11:26 - Some questioning about the Santorini holiday in Greece, for Elizabeth Murdoch's birthday, which Cameron also attended in August 2008. There were a number of meetings - not that they were meetings, per se. Brooks was brought into one which happened to be about Europe. "It was a very cordial meeting, it went well," Brooks says. It lasted for "either an afternoon or an evening, so it wasn't particularly long". Sounds long to me!
11:29 - Brooks agrees that she was "quite friendly" with Cameron by then. It was that new year's that Cameron attended a new year's eve party. It was Charlie Brooks' sister's home where the party took place. The Brooks family had a family connection with the Camerons "before I came along", she points out. A distinction worth making, to be fair.
11:31 - Jay suggests that from mid-2009 Brooks saw Cameron much more than she saw Gordon Brown. Brooks gives an evasive answer, saying it's all written down, somewhere, probably. In fact that somewhere can be found right here - 'Full scale of Murdoch executives' ministerial meetings revealed'.
11:35 - A theme is definitely developing here: the wider point of whether Brooks is a "mirror" of readers views or a former of them. The truth, of course, is somewhere inbetween.
11:39 - Brooks says that Cameron probably knew roughly the timing of the Sun's endorsement - but he wasn't told that it would be in the party conference season. It happened immediately after Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour party conference. I remember being at the conference and watching the party's activists singing around the piano while, somewhere else in the country, the Sun's printing presses were rolling. The News International team "from the top to editorial level were responsible for the timing", Jay suggests. Who had the "major role", Jay asks? "I was certainly instrumental in it," Brooks says sweetly. So were Trevor Kavanagh, Tom Newton-Dunn and Dominic Mohan. "It was pretty collective."
11:41 - Preposterously, Brooks claims the reason for going against Brown that night was his speech had spent less than two minutes talking about Afghanistan. Jay gets her to agree that the decision had been made before the speech, though. Even more ridiculously, Brooks says it would have been less fair to make the move at the start of the party conference. That's ridiculous - going against Brown just then was damning.
11:43 - Jay appears to be getting really irritated. "Please just keep to the question, Mrs Brooks. Don't give us ancient history, focus on this please." "But ancient history is quite important," Brooks replies. There's a little dose of sarcasm coming in now, as to who it would damage. "The Labour party," Brooks says. "Obviously," Jay replies witheringly. He tells her to think about it in terms of "exercising power". She doesn't view it in those terms. Why not? "My main responsibility was to a readership." The same line, again!
11:47 - Jay won't let go. He's suggesting this cabal of journalists at the top of the Sun were exercising power, after all. Brooks rejects that. Jay says: "The dissemination of power from within a few people capable of impacting on the opinions of many people" - is that even a possibility? Brooks' answer is quite long-winded, but the answer is basically 'no'. The Sun is "always quite dramatic", she says. The paper "tells it like it is". "We've had a tradition and a history of being bold and dramatic in our timing when it comes to politics." She didn't speak to Cameron before the headline went out, she said, because she was "busy". Her main concern was talking to "Mr Brown". Why? "General courtesy," she explains. Also, Brown and Sarah Brown were due to come to the News International party that night. Must have been rather awkward... She put in a request to speak to Brown urgently later that afternoon. Mandelson did get hold of Brooks, of course. "One word was used that we'd better not go into." Brooks doesn't have any such compunctions. "Depending on how you heard it, the chump word could be quite an offensive word." That's the quote of the session so far.
11:54 - It's the personal nature of the attacks which characterises the Sun, Jay suggests, but Brooks says the very explosive nature of Brown's outrage shows it's only occasionally the case. Jay isn't budging, though. "Neil Kinnock may feel that about the Sun, but I'm not sure the paper has been like that for a while," Brooks insists. She then jumps on Jay using the phrase "prying intrusively" into people's lives, objecting to it. She disputes the claim that this might be the culture of the place. Jay then suggests politicians don't change their policies and keep newspapers sweet for fear of a personal attack. Obviously Brooks rejects that.
11:56 - "It was true that the readership was at the very centre of that paper," Brooks repeats. So Jay pushes this further. What happened, he wants to know, to the readers' reaction to the paper. Brooks says there was a negative reaction from the readers to the story about Brown misspelling the name of a fallen soldier in a letter to relatives. Overall they felt it was decent that he had taken the bother to write the letter, she accepts.
11:58 - Back to that conversation with Brown - the angry, shouty one. Did he say anything relevant to the inquiry? "I'm not sure there's anything particularly relevant," Brooks says. Looks like she's staying neutral on the Murdoch-Brown row over the Sun story about brown's children. That's what Jay's referring to, although he's refusing to 'lead' Brooks on this. "I had my own angry and intense conversation with Mr Brown," she recalls, but even before then had had comments made about the Sun abandoning Labour. "Hostile comments".
12:03 - Jay is utterly disbelieving of Brooks' claim that she didn't worry at all about the implications of a Labour victory in the 2010 election. Not for one moment. Really? "The fact is it just didn't occur to me they were real or proper - I just dismissed them, I suppose." She's talking about threats, there, is she? It's not clear. Brown would have been quite entitled to bring in media policies which hit the commercial interests of media companies, Jay says. Brooks agrees. Jay explains the point he's trying to make is that Brown was hostile, but Cameron was neutral at worst. "That's something you should be thinking about, wouldn't you agree?" Brooks is on dodgy ground here. She argues that the "threats are pointless and should be dismissed" if he's not vindictive. She appears to be assuming that Brown and his colleagues would not have been that vindictive to actually go through with "carrying out those threats". The big question here is whether or not there was a quid pro quo at stake. "No," Brooks says simply.
12:05 - Back to David Cameron, and the problem of the absence of text messages. She denies the claim that Cameron texted Brooks up to a dozen times a day, or even a handful of times a day. Or even "It's preposterous. One would think the leader of the opposition and as prime minister he'd have better things to do. I would text him on occasion, or vice versa, like a lot of people." They texted, on average, once a week, perhaps. In the election period that went up to "maybe twice a week".
12:09 - Brooks says she texted Cameron after the first televised debate. "Everybody wants to know how his texts are signed off," Jay says. "Do I?" Leveson asks. Jay says he doesn't care, but Leveson tells Brooks to "answer the question". "He would answer the question DC. Occasionally he would sign them off LOL, lots of love - until I told him that it meant laugh out loud, and then he stopped." "Move on," Leveson grumbles. They move on. But I'm struggling to. I can see the headlines now... this is, almost certainly, going to be the story that comes out of this morning's session! And I bet Brooks knows it, too.
12:12 - Now a question on communications with the Guardian last year on Milly Dowler. Brooks says she didn't have any direct contact with them. Then comes a key question: were phone-hacking allegations discussed with Mr Cameron at any time between 2009 and her departure? "Yes I did," she replies. Jay, tip-toeing around the current police investigation, asks her to provide more detail in general terms. It was discussed "once or twice", she says, as it was a "constant", but "in the most general terms". In 2010 they had a more specific conversation about it. "He was interested in the latest developments and asked me about them," Brooks says. He was interested in the amount of civil cases which were coming in around 2010.
12:16 - Jay, sailing even closer to the wind, gets Brooks to acknowledge that phone-hacking went beyond just Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. She says News International has already acknowledged that. Jay says he's more interested in what Cameron said when they talked about it - she can't remember when exactly that happened. "Was it related to his hiring of Mr Coulson and possibly having any second thoughts about that." "No, not on that instance." "In any other instance?" "No." Jay complains we're all still in the dark over what happened in those conversations, then. She says there was a more detailed conversation in late 2010, as that was when the civil cases were coming in.
12:19 - Brooks says she has never been in Cameron's home at the countryside. Once George Osborne might have been at a dinner at her own home, she says. The 40th birthday dinner was at Burford Priory, Jay says, adding "which I detect is in Oxfordshire". "It's in Burford," Brooks says helpfully. Here's another classic intervention from Leveson: "Well done," he intones, sarcastically. Marvellous stuff.
12:24 - Brooks talks about the 'anti-Sky bid alliance', naming virtually every other bid broadcaster or newspaper, forcing the hand of Brooks to "get involved" in the deal. That comes in response to an intervention from Leveson, who's struggling to believe her claim it was nothing to do with her. He now suggests that she basically use her papers' power to make a difference and exert power. "In some circumstances that may be true," Brooks says, "but in this one it was a quasi-judicial decision". It was therefore "irrelevant". But that didn't stop her putting News Corp's view of the decision as a "counter-voice" to that very large opposition. She doesn't think it made any difference, though.
12:25 - Next Brooks is asked about 'Rubicon', the codename given to the takeover bid. Who named it, Jay asks? Brooks doesn't know. "Obviously someone who enjoyed classical allusions," Jay says drily. All very Establishment in court room 73 right now.
12:28 - December 23rd 2010, we're up to now, and there the bid was mentioned at a dinner. That was shortly after Vince Cable had "resigned" from the role of making the decision. Brooks is cagy about whether they put forward the view that it might be fairer now. They viewed it as disappointing that "personal prejudice" had come into it. "Fair," rather than "favourable", Jay gets her to clarify. Jay wants to know if Brooks was putting out informal feelers to see Hunt's view. She says he had published something on his website, but didn't know anything further. Boxing Day 2010 - a meeting with Mr Cameron - is then raised by Jay. This was a Boxing Day mulled wine/mince pie party at her sister-in-law's. Brooks herself had "popped in". She didn't even speak to them, Brooks says, but they didn't have a "proper conversation".
12:30 - Time to step away from BSkyB for a bit, moving on to more general issues. What topics did her conversations with politicians cover? Press regulation and media policy were only very infrequently covered, for example. The role of the BBC was also rarely brought up. "I never really had a conversation with a politician about topslicing the licence fee," she claims.
12:35 - Cherie Blair was concerned that a lot of her coverage was "quite sexist", Brooks recalls. "She felt it was sometimes quite cruel and personal about her weight," rather than those things - her charitable activities, etc. Tony Blair described the press as "feral beasts" in 2007, but he never mentioned anything like that to Brooks. She suggested the 24-hour media was behind his thinking though, and that he had especially talked about that after the invasion of Iraq. 'Feral beasts' "went further than just a temporal point", Jay says, but Brooks says he didn't "communicate any of those concerns to you".
12:40 - Brooks says she trusted Rupert Murdoch "implicitly". Did politicians want to get close to him to "advance their own interests"? She thinks that politicians might have a "higher view" of what they were doing. "In order to get close to Rupert Murdoch they'd have to get close to you," Jay says. "No," Brooks replies, "it's not true". She was just an editor of a newspaper, guv, with an exceptional percentage of floating voters. "I don't think people ever thought to get to Mr Murdoch they had to go through me." Jay tries to break this down - he's not giving up just yet. Brooks keeps it simple, though, saying that this didn't need much thinking through. Politicians want access to journalists - it's as simple as that. "You were in possession of the megaphone that would be of utility to you," Jay says, not taking us very forward there. Not long till lunch now, I can't help but think! But let's see what Jay can rustle up between now and then.
12:43 - We're starting to repeat ourselves now, going back once again to the interpreting readers' views debate. Jay says Brooks understands "the potential of personal alchemy". "I'm not trying to be sinister," the big bad wolf Jay says in a thoroughly sinsister fashion. "I'm not sure quite what you mean," she says, batting her pretty little eyelids. OK, I made that last bit up. But this sort of stuff writes itself, doesn't it? "I do hope to be empathetic," she says coyly.
12:53 - Questioning is now focusing on the serialisation of the McCanns' memoirs in the Sunday Times. Brooks says she got on very well with them. She remembers Gerry McCann calling for a UK police review of the case. Of course, one did take place. Jay is trying to work out what impact Brooks had on this. She says she didn't talk about them, but that Tom Newton-Dunn - the Sun's political editor - or Dominic Mohan - its editor - would have spoken to No 10 or the Home Office about it. "The Sun wanted an immediate result," Jay continues. There was an ultimatum, in short - a letter on the front page of the paper asking for a review. The home secretary was told if she agreed to the review the front page letter would not run, Jay says. Brooks doesn't remember that - ah yes, the classic Leveson inquiry defence. "I'm pretty sure there will not have been a threat," she continues. But it was left to both editors to "execute the campaign". She denies all claims that she intervened on this directly with the prime minister. "I did not say to the prime minister I will put Theresa Page on the front page of the Sun every day unless you... I did not say that," she says. Brooks sounds thoroughly fed up here.
12:57 - Now Leveson jumps in to have a go. He asks a much more generally phrased question. "I was certainly part of a larger strategy," Brooks says, happy to lie in the long grass of the general nature of the question. She replaces "threat" with "persuasion" after being invited to do so by Leveson. "Per-sua-sion," Leveson says solemnly and thoughtfully to himself, rolling it around his mouth like a fine wine. Jay was obviously hoping that this was a case study in the "exercise of power". Brooks says that this wasn't a long campaign, and that it wasn't a big deal. "It didn't take long because the government yielded to your pressure," Jay says, sounding thoroughly, thoroughly unconvinced by her arguments. He retreats, trying to get Brooks to admit that this sort of thing is "never clear cut". She won't even admit that. So Jay invites her to say it was the readers, once again, who were ultimately behind it. Oh yes, Brooks says, now very pleased with herself. Absolutely.
13:01 - Jay takes on another case study of the exercise of power, now - something on the Conservative opposition's attitude to the Human Rights Act. Dominic Grieve had argued that the Tories wanting a British bill of rights would have to be quite careful about this at a dinner conversation full of shadow Cabinet members about this. "I admired him standing up to his shadow colleagues like this, but in the end he turned out to be correct." Brooks denies telling Cameron to sack Grieve after this, but only after a bit of hesitation.
13:04 - To wrap up before lunch, Leveson returns again to the question of "who is leading who". He wants to know whether she thought she was "bringing issues to her readers, as opposed to merely responding to her readers' interests". Brooks says that's right, surprisingly. That's quite significant. He then gives her some homework for the lunch break. "Everyone's entitled to be a friend of whoever they want to be a friend, that's part of life. But can you understand why it would be a matter of public concern why a very close relationship between politicians and journalists might create subtle pressures on journalists who have the megaphone and politicians who have the policy decisions?" Brooks, again, says 'yes'. Well, well, well. Some last-minute concessions from her there.
13:06 - And with that they're off for lunch - they'll be returning at 2.00. The big highlights from the morning are as follows:
- Cameron DID send Rebekah Brooks a text message telling her to keep her head up, or words to that effect, after she resigned at the height of the phone-hacking scandal last year
- Cameron and Brooks DID have conversations about the phone-hacking scandal before she quit the job - but these were limited in scope, she claims
- Brooks' big defence of her style of journalism lies in the interests of readers - their views were being reflected by the newspaper, not its senior political individuals dictating to them
- Cameron used to sign off text messages with his initials, 'DC'. He had added 'LOL, meaning 'lots of love', before being told it meant 'laugh out loud' by Brooks.
14:08 - And we're back, and straight in with a question from Robert Jay about Chris Bryant, the Labour MP, complaining about Murdoch back in 2004. A brush between them is supposed to have taken place in which Bryant was told: "It's dark now isn't it? Shouldn't you be out in Clapham Common by now?" Not very nice stuff... Then Jay moves on to Tom Watson, and the suggestion that the Sun was encouraged to write "adverse things" about Watson. Brooks takes the opportunity to repeat a negative story about Watson claiming he was delivering a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD to Gordon Brown, having driven halfway across Scotland. She concedes that she "may have" asked 'what are we going to do about this Tom Watson'? Jay cuts to the chase, asking whether she used the Sun to disaparage politicians she didn't like. "No," she says primly. Jay has come right out of the traps there, fully on the offensive.
14:13 - Back to the BSkyB bid, and Brooks repeats her line about the 'anti Sky bid alliance'. There were occasions when she had defended the bid, she's clear, as she explains that she would put "her side of the story" wherever possible. Did those people include Cameron and Osborne? She says she did have a conversation with Osborne, some time in 2010, where "I put my views that were contrary to the ones I'd heard from everyone else". She also says she mentioned it to David Cameron, too, but only fleetingly. This sounds significant to me. She was effectively lobbing the prime minister and the chancellor. These were always rebutting the claims of the "anti-Sky bid". "The BSkyB bid was mentioned at the dinner in our home in December, but I don't remember having a particularly forceful conversation with Mr Cameron on this." She says Cameron always made clear it wasn't his decision. He'd been "lobbied by lots of other people", she says. She says he was "not particularly supportive" of the BSkyB bid. Osborne "never said so explicitly," she continues. But "if that kind of level of investment was coming into the UK that contrary to what the anti-Sky bid alliance were saying... the creation of jobs, we would try to put those arguments to Mr Osborne. But again they would all say the same thing - it's not my decision".
14:16 - We're moving on to the Fred Michel emails - he's News Corp's public affairs chief for Europe and Asia - the one which have put Hunt in so much trouble. "The truth is at the time of the BSkyB bid, I suppose like most journalists I viewed public affairs and lobbyists with slight scepticism. I often thought Mr Michel overegged his position. However, he was doing his job." Another bit of downplaying there that actually takes the sting out of the story, it should be noted. "I always thought it was slightly strange... the level of access that seemed to come out was pretty good, really." All very quotable stuff, here. I saw a tweet just now saying Brooks is hanging Michel out to dry, but I don't think that's the case: if anything, she's defending him. He was "doing his job", after all.
14:20 - Jay raises an email dated December 14th 2010 from Michel to James Murdoch, with Brooks copied in, which refers to a good meeting with Jeremy Hunt. Brooks had replied, three minutes later: "Same from GO [presumably George Osborne]. Total bafflement at response." Jay wants to know why she was talking about this at all. It was "more of a social occasion", Brooks says. "I probably brought it up, but I can't remember." She would have mentioned News Corp's "frustration", Brooks says. This is exactly the kind of mixing of formal and informal which will surely be criticised so heavily in Leveson's final conclusions.
14:23 - Jay tries to get Brooks to say who brought the matter up. She gets a bit fed up when he presses her on that, and Leveson intervenes to calm matters down. Jay won't let go of this, though. He says she's being "diffident about this". If she can remember how long the conversation was, surely she can remember who initiated it? "It was obvious he was supportive of your bid, wasn't it?" Jay continues. Brooks says Osborne was "baffled by the response", but everyone's confused now. Everyone, perhaps, except Brooks.
14:27 - We're getting back to where we were before lunch, and the point about Hunt putting something on his website about supporting the bid, as Jay tries to work out how much Brooks was involved in monitoring the views of Cabinet members on the bid. Her conversations about the bid with the Murdochs were usually discussing "the latest move of the anti-Sky bid alliance", she says. Jay suggests that what Brooks "brought to the table" was an insight into the views of Cabinet members. Brooks isn't having any of that, insisting that this was a quasi-judicial decision which didn't have anything to do with personal prejudices. Jay simply calls that "naive". "Maybe it was naive of me to think that the procedure would be dealt with properly, but I did believe that," she replies firmly. "OK," Jay says, sounding a little defeated. Like all good lawyers, though, he quickly moves on.
14:33 - Brooks sighs wearily as she tries to shrug off Jay's questioning about Michel's emails, detailing insider information about the state of the bid. Brooks isn't keen on adding much more, really. She doesn't know whether the information Michel was getting was from Hunt or No 10. The key quote here is: "JH is now starting to look into phone hacking/practices more thoroughly and has asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No 10's positioning." We'll be writing a lot more about this later, that's for sure.
14:36 - An interesting question here from Jay, who wants to know about whether the relationship between Rupert and James Murdoch was "increasingly fraught". The question is based on a Vanity Fair story which Brooks dismisses out of hand. They were "very happy to speak to each other", she says, after admitting that the father-son "dynamic" was fraught generally because of phone-hacking - just like all the other relationships at the time. "I reported both to James and Rupert Murdoch. I would talk to them both," she confirms. "If Vanity Fair want to characterise that as a go-between, then fine, but I don't accept the premise of what they're insinuating."
14:37 - Just spotted a little smile there from Brooks as she looks away from Jay to her right. Was that to her husband, perhaps? Is this all some big joke?
14:42 - We've moved on now to the Metropolitan police, and Brooks is explaining that her meetings with Dick Fedorcio, the Metropolitan police's public affairs chief, were mostly to do with "the issues of the day" or introducing a new commissioner, that sort of thing. Did she ever get a story from him? No, Brooks says. Did he put her in contact with officers who did provide a story? "I think the process was we would often ring Dick Fedorcio if we'd got a story that we'd got from our own sources," Brooks says. Ah, sources once again. They could be anything, of course. And there's not a chance Brooks is going to tell us about those now. (We're getting quite close to Operation Elveden, which is investigating illicit payments made to police officers. Jay had better be careful).
14:45 - "The inquiry has very little interest in the retired police force," Jay says, before asking the question anyway. Brooks says there was no link between work experience for Fedorcio's son and the retired police horse being given to her (that's the horse which the prime minister was lent). Then Leveson interrupts, suggesting yet again that a "balance" has to be struck. Brooks says her experience of this was "relatively good", whatever that means. Which other areas were 'relatively bad'?
14:50 - Next we're looking at the story revealing that Gordon Brown's son had cystic fibrosis. This has been the subject of intense hatred between News International and the ex-PM. Brown has alleged that the Sun hacked into Brown's family records. The Sun says the source was a "shattered dad" at the hospital. Brooks says that's true. Jay asks where the 'shattered dad' got his information from. Brooks explains his own child had cystic fibrosis and "he was given this information when information was sought about cystic fibrosis". Er - what? "That's all very vague," Jay says. "Purposefully so," Brooks replies brazenly. The Sun had an affidavit from the father, she says, but she's being careful to conceal his identity. "We're not concerned about his identity," Jay replies. He repeats the question: how did he get the information? "From legitimate means, we were very sure about that," Brooks says. Jay repeats the question again. This is turning into a Jeremy Paxman/Michael Howard situation. Brooks says he got it through involvement in a charity. "I'm not going to tell you any more about the source," Brooks says finally.
14:58 - Now Leveson gets involved. He says all this plays into something else which he's thinking about. Leveson says they could only have come from medical records, so Brown's view - or "assumption" as Brooks put it - is reasonable, Leveson says. After an irrelevant waffle from Brooks, Leveson then sums up Brooks' position: that the source wasn't discussed at the time. Here comes the question, based on the first line of the Sun article. 'The Sun today exposes the allegation that we hacked... blah blah blah... as false and a smear'. Was it correct to describe this as 'false and a smear'? "This was a particular journey that the Sun had been involved in since the beginning of the information coming into the Sun newsroom," Brooks says. Leveson wonders whether it's part of the culture of the press that "attack is the best form of defence. People don't just get it wrong, it's - in capitals - FALSE AND A SMEAR". Brooks is really having to defend, now. "The Sun felt it was a smear," Brooks says - she explains the Sun felt Brown was attacking them. Leveson isn't buying it. "What you've demonstrated is the Sun believed that Mr Brown had added two and two and two and got 27. Whereas in fact if you took each one of the instances on their own, he may have made a mistake... but it goes a bit further than that." So was Brown going for a smear, or not? I was in the Commons chamber and watched him go for the Murdochs' throat that day. There was no doubt he was being vindictive. Here's my story, Brown blasts News International, from July 14th 2011.
15:00 - Jay, after that long break, comes back where he left off. He gets Brooks to say the Sun got the information from a third party, who wasn't in the NHS, and didn't have a duty of confidence for the information. "The information came from legitimate means," Brooks says. A donation was made - to a charity, it appears. He asked for it to be given to the Cystic Fibrosis charity. Sounds like the source was perhaps an employee of the charity. Brooks is right - Jay's question is getting closer to identifying him. He is actually making some progress.
15:03 - Brooks says if the Browns had asked her not to run the story she would not have done. They gave her permission to run it, she says. A claim that she ought to be making a lot more. Oddly, she then agrees with Brown's suggestion that the only legitimate way in which the information could be put into the public domain is via the consent of the doctor and the parent.
15:05 - The 'shattered dad' was supposed to have been just a random guy at the hospital, so it had been suggested before. Now it seems it was someone working for a cystic fibrosis charity who had an obvious motive in wanting to raise the profile of the condition...
15:08 - Brooks, who says she was very friendly with Sarah Brown, says she would have put her approach to the Browns in a very "considerate and caring" way. It was not a case of approaching them with a story and then negotiating how it could be agreed to, she says. Brooks then gives a long spiel about how it was all quite sweet and cosy between Brooks and the Browns at the time. Leveson comes in again, and contrasts the editorialising of the "sub-edited line" about it being 'false and a smear' with a fact box summing up the facts. It's clear the judge is focused on this one point. Brooks ought to repeat her defence of the Sun's journalists from before, but she stays silent.
15:10 - Finally we're moving on, to the Baby P story and what Jay calls "the campaign against the social workers involved". Most notably Sharon Shoesmith, of course, who was director of children's services at Haringey and lost her job as a result of the media furore. She was sacked, in fact, by Ed Balls on December 1st 2008 - a decision held to be unlawful in the court of appeal. The Sun had launched epetitions calling for people to be sacked. Jay wants to know whether Brooks told Balls to sack Haringey or they would "turn this thing on him". Brooks says 'no'.
15:15 - Two weeks before Balls fired Shoesmith, Brooks says she had discussed the case with Balls, and wanted to know why Haringey were allowed to conduct their own investigation . "I didn't tell Ed Balls to fire Sharon Shoesmith," Brooks says. On the other hand, the Sun's editorial line was obvious, she implies. "I would have spoken to anybody to try to get some justice for Baby P which was the point of the campaign." Jay wants to know whether Brooks tried to bend Mr Balls' ear. A thoroughly odd turn of phrase, if I may say so.
15:16 - They're now going off for a short break, so we will too. Back in about ten minutes or so.
15:29 - Time for some general points now to conclude the evidence session. Jay wants to know, in effect, whether editors have "sole responsibility" of what constitutes "the public good". Brooks disagrees - there's lots of other journalists in the room. But ultimate responsibility lies with the editor, she says. Subject only to review by the PCC, "ultimate responsibility" - as Leveson intervenes to put it - is agreed to. Is this alright, Jay asks? "The editor needs to have an eye on matters such as circulation figures," Jay observes. Brooks just says "that's the role of the editor" and leaves it at that. Brooks is looking surly now. She's almost sulky as she says the circumstances which would prevent the publication of private details would be "public interest".
15:35 - Jay chooses to concentrate on a particular campaign - the murder of Sara Payne, and Sara's law. He wants to know why Brooks needed to publish the photographs of known sex offenders to illustrate "what was otherwise", in Jay's words, a good point. Brooks gives her reasons: "It was news to me that convicted paedophiles of that serious nature were allowed to live unchecked in the community." Jay agrees that the criminal law might need to be strengthened, but doesn't think it's justified to publish the paedophiles' names and photographs. "It was a way of highlighting the campaign," Brooks says. She seems on the back foot now. Jay accuses her of sensationalising the story, and creating the risk of reprisals. "There is very limited vigilantism," Brooks says. There were two known reprisals. "The natural and forseeable consequence of a sensationalised campaign," Jay says. Brooks remains defiant.
15:39 - Jay complains of a theme which has come up throughout the day - he puts a commons sense proposition to her and she rejects it out of hand. He has another go now, but she sticks to her guns. Ninety-eight per cent of the British public continued to agree with the campaign, she says. Jay is at his most damning right now - saying that it was "natural and probable" that the reprisals would happen, "palpable" to anyone else. "It's plain as a pikestaff that this sort of outcome might arise," Jay says. He hasn't raised his tone of voice. He's just pressing on carefully. But Brooks hits back. "You've just taken the opinion of the Guardian," she says. Leveson says he has "absolutely no concern" about the policy objectives of a campaign. "The only question I might ask is, if you had appreciated that the public might react in the way in which it did in the two incidents, do you think you would have rethought whether that aspect of the campaign should be run?" This paves the way for Brooks to outline her "regrets" about the campaign. She said the list of convicted paedophiles published in the campaign was a bit harsh, as they'd got the criteria wrong, but says the overall "mechanic" was "the right thing to do".
15:42 - We've moved well away from politicians and the press now, and are looking at the impact of inaccuracies in the press. Brooks says the prominence of apologies matters. Jay says he's looking at an "ironical aspect of your evidence". He thinks, "in a funny sort of way", her dismissals of so many sources talking about her are quite - well, ironic. Brooks says "gossipy items" have been put to her. "Same sort of stuff one did read in the News of the World or the Sun", Jay observes. Brooks lists all the personal things. She's waffling, I'm afraid. A lot of it is gender-based, she suggests, but insists she wasn't complaining. Her only point is that "the apology never matches the inaccuracy" - she's referring to its prominence in the publication, of course.
15:45 - Jay has gone a bit too far, there, suggesting that in "microcosm" what we have heard today reflects the dangerous press tendency of viewing the story as being more important than the truth. Every journalist in the room would disagree with that, Brooks declares.
15:47 - Leveson is in final thoughts mode, now. He wonders about the press intruding beyond Brooks' public position into her private life. Does she have a comment as a victim of the press, in short (my words) - on "the extent to which the press does get further and further into issues of privacy"? Brooks says she's a journalist, so "it would be the height of hypocrisy for me to complain". She says she's had those complaints, and she's tried to use her judgement about where the line falls. "As to my own situation, it's been a difficult year but a lot of the questions I've had from Mr Jay I've felt concentrated on quite a trivial side. I'm not sure it helps this inquiry whether Mr Murdoch bought me a suit or not, or whether I went swimming with him." Leveson says these "bits and pieces" could help.
15:50 - Brooks, wrapping up, says it's hard for journalists to be transparent about everything - because that's how they get information. It's hard for a politician to have a drink with a journalist if the journalist is then going to print their schedule in the paper the next day. She wants enforcement of the current laws before new measures are introduced, in short. Brooks says "it's up to individuals' conduct", on both sides. Their professional life needs to be "in front of anything else so they don't compromise". Surely pyjama parties do compromise, though?
15:56 - A lengthy speech from Leveson about openness and transparency. Brooks just makes the point that journalists aren't trying to see a politician for commercial reasons. The purpose is to "gather information" - to "get a good story". But Leveson thinks it gets a bit "fuzzy" when it comes to the BSkyB bid. "I've never heard of every media group in the country getting together against one commercial bid," Brooks says, sounding rather bitterly. Leveson is worried about the "megaphone" on the one hand and the policy pressure on the other - between them, there's a risk that they might get out of hand. This 'megaphone' language is obviously central to the judge's thinking. It sums up the press' power and influence. It is desired by politicians, and journalists use that for their own interests.
15:59 - Brooks returns to Sara's law to defend herself. She says her readers were "incredibly moved" by what happened to the Payne family, and so knew they would be responsive to it. "It's all a bit like that," Leveson says slowly. There's a slightly awkward pause, and then the questioning wraps up. Brooks closes up her ringbinder and her entourage, including her husband, leave court room 73. It's been five hours of intensive questioning - she'll be very relieved that's over. (I know I am. Ahem).
16:01 - The Leveson inquiry is now moving on to look at other issues. News International's lawyer wants the chance to make an opening statement to module three, after Jay's opening statement. Well, I'm going to stop listening - for my own health as far as anything else - so I think it's time to step away from the inquiry for now...
16:07 - Here's the highlights of the afternoon session:
- Brooks thought it was "slightly strange" how good News Corp's public affairs chief Fred Michel had to the government
- She complained about the "trivial" nature of the questioning focused against her personal life by the inquiry's counsel, Robert Jay QC
- The source of the story about Gordon Brown's son having cystic fibrosis was closely connected with a cystic fibrosis charity, Brooks has revealed, despite refusing to reveal its identity
- Brooks denied having demanded to Ed Balls that he sack Sharon Shoesmith, the head of children's services at Haringey council, after the death of Baby P
- Brooks repeatedly talked about the "anti BSkyB bid alliance" which forced the Murdoch empire to defend itself