Daily Archives: May 3, 2012

Leveson Inquiry – Politicians and the Press

Miss Kim Brudenell

Solicitor to the Inquiry

Leveson Inquiry

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London WC1

2 May 2012

Cc All barristers employed by the Inquiry

Dear  Ms Brudenell,

Politicians and the Press

I enclose three  examples of  collusion between politicians and the press.    All cases demonstrate the willingness of the British mainstream media to act in concert to suppress  stories of great public interest as a result of either direct  political interference or  a shared interest between politicians and the media in suppressing a story.

Case 1 Tony  and Cherie Blair

During the General Election campaign of 1997 Tony and Cherie Blair attempted without success to have me prosecuted for offences under the Malicious Communications Act and for common assault after I sent letters to them (the attempted charge of assault by writing was and is a crime unknown to English law).

The Blairs made the complaint to Belgravia Police who  immediately  referred the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS refused the complaint on the same day they received it,  ruling that my letters constituted NO CRIME.

The fact that the CPS made such a  rapid and unambiguous decision tells its own story:  they had the tremendous pressure  on them of having the man who was almost certainly about to become the prime minister making the complaint yet threw it out within a matter of hours.  There was a  very simple reason for that:  my letters  contained no obscenity, crude abuse or threats.

Ironically, I wrote to the Blairs  asking for their help after I had been the subject of a media storm in 1995 after Wisden Cricket Monthly published an article of mine “Is it in the blood?”  I contacted them after I was refused any opportunity to reply by the media and the PCC refused to adjudicate on my complaints.  I asked Blair  what he would do to stop such abuse if he formed a government and sought the assistance of his wife in her role as a prominent human rights lawyer.

Tellingly, the Blairs did not go to the police when I sent the letters but only after I had circulated copies of my letters and the non- replies I received from the Blairs’ respective offices  at the beginning of the General Election campaign.

The Blairs were advised by the police that if they wanted to take the matter further all they could do was start a civil action against me. They  failed to do so despite the fact that the evidential test in a civil case is much lower than it is in a criminal case.  That failure, together with the facts that (1) the Blairs did not go to the police when I sent the letters  and  (2) they  are both lawyers  with ready access  to legal advice from their friends and colleagues make it  reasonable to assume that they realised no crime had been committed and pressed the case simply as a device to silence me during the election campaign.

After the Blairs failed to have me made the subject of a criminal investigation the Daily Mirror and its sister paper in Scotland  the Daily Record  published stories  on 25 March 1997 revealing that the Blairs had been to the police to try to have me prosecuted.  The Inquiry already have copies of  both stories, including facsimiles of the original pages,  but I attach copies for your convenience (Daily Mirror and Daily Herald  stories.docx http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/the-failure-to-charge-piers-morgan-with-illicitly-receiving-information-from-the-police/  ).

The Mirror story in particular was dramatic, involving a large front page flier for the story and almost a full page for a photograph of me  (taken without my permission while I inside my flat) and story  which was both highly sensational and very libellous,  with  false claims such as “Police are probing a string of race hate  letters  to Tony and Cherie Blair” (there were no such letters and the police never began an investigation),  “The  letters,  which are said to  contain  racist   filth”  (ditto) and absurd (and false) claims that I bombarded the Blairs with letters.

What happened next will be of  interest to the Inquiry as it conducts module 3 dealing with the relationship between the press and politicians.  Despite the sensational nature of the Mirrors’  coverage  and the facts that it was (1)  published during a General Election campaign and   (2) it concerned the leader of the Party  who would in all probability be prime minister within six weeks, not a single  mainstream newspaper (or broadcaster)  took up the story of their own volition.   Nor could I get any newspaper (or broadcaster)  to  take it up, either immediately after the publication of the Mirror story or afterwards.

That the Mirror and Herald were the only papers to publish the story is easily explained: they were absolutely committed to Blair and the Labour Party’s election in May 1997. It would not be too much to say that the Mirror was at that point effectively the Labour Party’s house journal.

As for the failure of the rest of the media to take up the story, that demonstrates  the general  collusion of the UK media and politicians.  There is a constantly flow of personnel between politics and the media, not merely  politicians going to the media but also all the hangers on such as personal advisors.   In addition to that personal vested interest, there is a general vested interest with politicians begging for favourable media coverage and mediafolk desperate not to be  frozen out from government briefings, official or otherwise.

Case 2 Gordon Brown and the Francis Crick Institute

A very large research laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute,  is being built on land behind the British Library in Kings Cross, London –  http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/objection-to-ukcmri-planning-application-for-a-research-centre-in-brill-place-london-nw1/.

The land on which it being built was publicly owned. It was sold by ostensibly  public tender  by the Department of  Culture, Median and Sport (DCMS) in 2007 to  a consortium the United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCRMI).

Just as the decision on the Murdoch bid to buy all the shares in BSkyB that News  Corps did not own was supposed to be decided impartially by a minister (Jeremy Hunt),  so was the sale of the land by the  Secretary of State for the DCMS . The reality was that there was no impartiality exercised. As is clear from the documents below which I obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Gordon Brown persistently interfered with the sale by putting his weight behind one of a number of bidders. This invalidated the bidding process.

I made great efforts to get the story into the mainstream media and politics  – see http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/. These were unsuccessful which says a great deal about both our politicians and political  journalists. Nonetheless, it does stand as evidence of the persistent willingness of politicians to misuse their power  and of the British media to suppress political stories when it suits them.

There is another strong public interest in this story because the Francis Crick Institute will by dealing with highly toxic viruses and bacteria in its research. This makes it a serious and potentially catastrophic danger to London, both from lapses in bio-security and terrorist action.  The full story can be found at http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/.

The emails and letters showing Gordon Brown’s interference in the bidding process are contained in the attached file UKCRMIGordon Brown.docx (http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/gordon-browns-involvement-in-the-sale-of-the-land-to-ukcrmi/)

Case 3 The attempted suicide of Tony Blair’s daughter

In May 2004 Kathryn Blair attempted to commit (reports on the web by non-mainstream media  suggest she was taken to hospital on Thursday 13th May 2004, for example, http://www.public-interest.co.uk/aseye/index.htm# ). Every single national  newspaper and broadcaster (including the BBC) refused to use the story.  The BBC’s failure is especially reprehensible because  a public service broadcaster has a special obligation to put anything of political importance  before the public.

How do we know the story is true?  Well, Martin Bright when political editor of the New Statesman confirmed the story verbally to me at a meeting of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and Tom Leonard when he was with the Daily Telegraph sent this email when I raised the matter with him:

“ In message <011401c5913d$53a14e40$171b1…@tgl.telegraph.co.uk>, Tom Leonard <tom.leon…@telegraph.co.uk> writes

Dear Mr Henderson, thanks for your email. The problem with the story about the Blairs’ daughter is that the BBC was far from alone in ignoring it. I think the whole of Fleet Street ignored it too on the grounds of sensitivity and intrusion into privacy (she is a minor of course).

However, you are completely right about the BBC’s vested interest and well done for pointing it out to Mr Grade. The BBC is too used to never being properly grilled by >the public.

Regards, Tom Leonard”

Then there is the behaviour of  the BBC.  I twice confronted  Michael Grade when he was  BBC chairman with the failure of the BBC to run the story.

The first occasion was at the Viewers and Listeners Spring Conference in April 2005. Grade claimed not to know the story, but refused to discuss the matter. Later I wrote to him asking him to justify his failure to make the story public. Grade did not reply but I received a letter from the BBC’s Head of communications Tina Stowell which ran “The question you raised at the VLV Seminar on 25 April relating to the Prime Minister’s daughter is not one which the BBC Chairman will respond to in public or via correspondence.”

The second occasion was at the Governors “AGM” at Television Centre on 19 July 2005. After the programme, The Governors rashly mingled with the audience. I managed to corner Grade for about five minutes and ask him in front of plenty of witnesses why he had censored the story of the Blair daughter’s attempted suicide, especially after I had raised the matter with him in April 2005 at the Voice of the Viewer and Listeners Spring Conference. He tried to make a joke of it, but before he escaped I asked him the following question: Do you believe the story is true? He refused to answer. ’nuff said.

At the same meeting I lobbied four other Governors: Deborah Bull, Merfyn Jones, Fabian Monds, Ranjit Sondhi and Angela Sarkis. Without exception they all seemed painfully startled by the news. I got a promise from each to look into the matter if I sent them the full details. I wrote to them and the other Governors on 20 July 2005. None have replied. Instead, I again received a letter from Tina Stowell (22 July 2005). This ran “Thank you for your letter to the Board of Governors. The BBC’s position remains the same as in my previous letter.” I then submitted a formal complaint through the governors’ website of 28 July 2005. This elicited no reply.

I raised the failure of the  BBC to act on BBC phone-in programmes and was always cut off immediately I had raised the subject.   I wrote to Feedback, the programme which supposedly deals with listeners concerns with the BBC, asking them to investigate the censorship. They failed to do so.

In addition to this evidence, there were  also references in the mainstream media  in 2004 of a family matter which could persuade Blair to resign.  It is reasonable to conclude that the ‘family matter’ was Kathryn Blair’s attempted suicide.  Interestingly, Cherie Blair said this in an interview in 2009:

“  Mrs Blair has also told Italian paper La Repubblica that Nicky and Kathryn were taunted at school over their father’s decision to send troops into Iraq in 2003 to stop Saddam developing weapons of mass destruction.

‘They had some really difficult moments at school. Everybody called their father a liar,’ she said.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1211450/The-young-OBlairs–Former-Prime-Ministers-children-Irish-passports-thanks-grandmother.html

There is the strongest public interest in the media running stories such as Kathryn Blair’s suicide.  Politicians are by definition professional moralists because they tell  everyone how to live through the laws they pass and the moral judgements they publicly make. For that reason alone, in a democracy the electorate need to know how their private lives match up to that which they ordain for others.

But there are other good reasons. Blackmail is one and the effect on a politician’s mind and behaviour of traumatic events another. Clearly, this event was such as to potentially seriously  destabilise Blair’s mental balance. As he was PM  the public had a right to know what he was undergoing.

To argue that a child must be given anonymity at all costs is nonsensical. It would, for example, prevent the release of names and details for a child who has gone missing.

Nor is there any reluctance on the part of the media to constantly name children who have done something wrong which stops short of an appearance in a criminal court. In addition, in some criminal cases, the ban on identifying children is lifted and the media again is only too happy to identify them, often in ways which may incite attacks on the child or parents.

It is also true that children generally have to bear the humiliation and shock of seeing their parents and other adult relatives named in the media when they have committed a crime or behaved immorally. That is at least as traumatic as the child being named.

Tellingly, the media have no difficulty with reporting failed teenage generally can be seen from the vivid example of Rebecca Ling, the survivor of a suicide pact viz:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/3651008.stm

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/tragedy-of-the-suicidepact-teenage-girls-who-met-in-internet-chatroom-551402.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-316749/Suicide-pact-girl-bullied.html#ixzz11P5vVRDz

Both at the time of the suicide pact and during the inquest into the girl who died the BBC and every other mainstream media outlet reported the story with her name, in depth and sensationally. What is sauce for the Man on the Clapham omnibus gander should be sauce for the PM goose. It should not be for the media to decide what they will and will not put before the public when there is a matter of great public interest at issue. Clearly, the Blair child’s case was  suppressed because of political pressure and/or bias on the part of the media.   (It is worth adding that the children of the elite gain great privileges simply by virtue of their accident of birth. The downside is that they may be under greater scrutiny than the ordinary child in the street.)

Why was the story so completely suppressed? I would suggest this. In modern Britain it is next to impossible to force a Prime Minister out of office for political reasons. Where a Government has a massive majority it is impossible. The only thing which could bring Blair down was personal scandal. No media outlet was willing to risk being  the one which broke the silence and being shut out from the political inside stories.  There is also the fact that Murdoch was supporting Blair  and much of the rest of the media wanted Labour to remain in power.   That is probably why the story of his daughter’s attempted suicide was  so ruthlessly censored.

Conclusion

I am, as ever, willing to appear as a witness at the Inquiry and to offer any other help to the Inquiry.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 210 other followers

%d bloggers like this: