Leveson Inquiry: Adam Smith - Live coverage - The Independent

Leveson Inquiry: Adam Smith

Adam Smith and Jonathan Stephens give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press.

  • Frederic Michel has started giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry.
    5/24/2012 10:08:13 AM
  • Frederic Michel says that he had no sense of whether or not the Tory Party was inclined to support Murdoch's bid for the rest of BSkyB. Is this plausible? No. Any reasonable observer would have been able to guess that, for instance, Tories such as Jeremy Hunt would be more likely to support Murdoch than, say, Liberal Democrats like Vince Cable.
    5/24/2012 10:10:53 AM
  • Fred Michel cagey. Seems to be ducking questions about when he first knew that News Corp was launching takeover of BSkyB. Timing is important here because there are suspicions that News Corp elicited the Conservatives' tacit support for the bid at the end of 2009, before News International's papers, notably the Sun, switched support from Gordon Brown to David Cameron. Mr Cameron's Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, backed the bid despite the growing criminal inquiries into News International.
    5/24/2012 10:12:30 AM
  • Michel has said that he only became aware that News Corp was launching its bid for full control of BSkyB the day before it was announced. He says that he didn't have a view on whether particular ministers would or would not favour the bid. Logically, this means NewsCorp employed, at significant expense, a political lobbyist with remarkably poor understanding of leading political players. At the very least, then, whoever appointed Michel to the task must have been myopic.
    5/24/2012 10:17:08 AM
  • Jay is asking why Michel was lobbying/tapping up Jeremy Hunt during 2010 when it was his Cabinet colleague, Vince Cable, who was taking the decision (Mr Cable was stripped of it when it emerged that he had secretly 'declared' war on Rupert Murdoch). Michel's answer is revealing: "Our view was that although the decision was ultimately in the hands of the Business Secretary [Cable] we didn't have much chance to make representations to him." The implication is that Mr Cable was not clubbable, but other Cabinet ministers, such as Mr Hunt, were.
    5/24/2012 10:20:09 AM
  • Michel written statement says "reference to hunt, JH, Jeremy in the emails are I'm fact summaries of what I was told by Adam smith #leveson
  • Michel - no convo w Hunt between Dec 24 10 and end of July 11 - but there were texts with Hunt. See those later.
  • FM: Some of the feedback i was given was discussed [WITH HUNT].. that was the impression I was given. - Not looking good for team JH so far.
  • Michel says that he has no reason to "believe either way" whether or not Adam Smith was personally supportive of the bid. Michel says "Adam has always been warm, professional... accessible... diligent... reliable... straightforward". All those things. But completely inscrutable on the fundamental thing that brought the two men into contact: whether or not Murdoch should be given full control of BSkyB.

    Michel then says he couldn't tell either way about Hunt either.

    What Frederic Michel is saying is utterly implausible. He's really stretching credulity in this first half hour.
    5/24/2012 10:28:12 AM
  • The Michel-DCMS numbers.

    - 191 telephone calls;
    - 158 emails;
    - 799 text messages, of which 90% were with Smith.

    - Between 28 November 2011 and 11 July 2011 Smith sent 257 text messages to Michel

    Not many businesses get this much attention from special advisers to extremely ambitious Cabinet Ministers. News Corp are a lucky bunch.
    5/24/2012 10:32:22 AM
  • What was Adam Smith like? Tricky. Michel says he was "always very diligent." But Hunt says Smith acted badly. Can't both be right. #Leveson
  • Michel trashes BBC and Mark Thompson in text to Hunt. #leveson
  • Now we're getting into the meat: the content of the hundreds of text messages and emails between Coalition ministers/advisors and Rupert Murdoch's lobbyists/executives.
    5/24/2012 10:38:58 AM
  • #Michel accepts that his comments about Thomspson's MacTaggart Lecture in a text to #Hunt were "colourful". Classic Gallic modesty, eh.
  • In Nov 2010 while Cable was deciding BSkyB bid, James Murdoch had cosy phone chat with Jeremy Hunt. Michel vague about details. #Leveson
  • Here is the email from Michel to James Murdoch, in which he says that Jeremy Hunt has received "very strong legal advice" not to meet the younger Murdoch: www.guardian.co.uk

    It does suggest that Hunt resisted, at least in part, the overtures of News Corp at one point. Much more effective to do it all through his special adviser instead.
    5/24/2012 10:45:58 AM
  • Fascinating window into seedy back dealings. Not just because of Murdoch/Govt axis, but because they prob feature in all big deals #Leveson
  • Leveson asks why Michel wrote to Murdoch it was "fine to liaise at that political level". Michel-Smith link in addition to lawyer contact
  • This is a lobbyist's nightmare. You were being so clever, all those little texts, friendly chats... now exposed on live TV. #Leveson
  • There is a clear divide between the behaviour of Vince Cable's BIS department and Jeremy Hunt's DCMS. Cable's advisor repeatedly stressed the important of respecting proper "boundaries" between a minister making a quasi-judicial decision and the company which was the subject of the decision. At DCMS, there was a matey-ness in the contacts. Michel coyly says: "There was a very different behaviour behaviour the two departments." He puts the best gloss on it: DCMS had "much more openness" to hear News Corp's "plurality arguments" about why it should be able to take complete charge of Britain's richest TV network (as well as controlling 40 per cent of national newspaper circulation).
    5/24/2012 11:36:01 AM
  • "I am a compulsive texter, I will accept" - #Michel at #Leveson
  • "I apologise if my texts are too jokey sometimes" - ludicrous statement from #Michel at #Leveson. Like Naipaul apologising for clear prose.
  • Frederic Michel denies Adam Smith gave him a running commentary of the BSkyB bid, but admits updates on "timing, process and on the atmospherics of the day".
    5/24/2012 11:49:16 AM
  • Michel says that he was not at all surprised to read The Daily Telegraph's revelations about how Vince Cable had "declared war on Rupert Murdoch", as that was very much consistent with the intelligence he was receiving from within Government.
    5/24/2012 11:53:21 AM
  • "Was Smith giving you a running commentary on bid?" Michel: "No," but he helped with "process" and something called "atmospherics." #Leveson
  • There's something unspeakably English about Robert Jay QC asking "Is this what you might call 'schmoozing', Mr Michel?". #patriotism
  • Flattery, a lobbyist's weapon. Michel praises Hunt's interview on TV. Hunt: "Merci" & looks forward to meeting "like the old days." #Leveson
  • Trouble for Jeremy Hunt a) Frederic Michel denies exaggerating DCMS support for bid; b) direct contact between Hunt and Michel c) Michel knew what Hunt was going to say
    by ChrisBryantMP via twitter edited by IndyModerator 5/24/2012 12:01:19 PM
  • Very important admission by Michel. He has just admitted what's plainly obvious: that Adam Smith was secretly supporting News Corp's £8bn bid for BSkyB.
    5/24/2012 12:02:36 PM
  • Robert Jay QC has had a good morning. One of his opening gambits was to get Michel to say he felt that Adam Smith, Jeremy Hunt's special adviser, was neutral and impartial on the question of NewsCorp's bid for BSkyB.

    But over the course of the past half hour, he has built up a case, using the evidence of extensive text messaging and emails, to suggest that Smith in fact had sympathy NewsCorp's bid. As my colleague Martin Hickman notes below, as we break for lunch Michel has in fact admitted that Smith was a supporter of the bid.

    Superb interrogation from Jay. Back at 14.00.
    5/24/2012 12:03:39 PM
  • Robert Jay QC grills Frederic Michel at Leveson today

    5/24/2012 12:06:44 PM
  • Jeremy Hunt is fast becoming an iconic figure. If Cameron can't see why "Merci, large drink tonight" is a career-ending phrase...
  • The Financial Times' Chris Cook, and a Peter J Forster, have been in touch on Twitter to point out that the worst possible thing for Smith would be for Hunt to go down, and that is why he is being loyal here. It is certainly true that if Hunt went down, Smith would be further tarnished through guilt by association.

    What sparks my (mild) sympathy is simply that Smith is clearly a capable man, appointed to an exceptionally ambitious minister, suddenly caught in a huge and politically toxic merger, who was used as a back-channel by a boss very eager to please the Murdoch empire. Now he's out of a job. There's some misfortune as well as malice in all that.
    5/25/2012 9:38:43 AM
  • I was too flippant and jokey in texts to Michel says Smith #leveson
  • Smith: "Four days earlier Mr Hunt had sat in a room with Mr Murdoch and explained what happened next." #Leveson
  • Smith is portraying Michel as a bit of an irritating text-pest. Smith's responses, he says, were just an attempt to get Michel to "shut-up", not an insight into departmental thinking.
    5/25/2012 9:43:44 AM
  • Jay isn't convinced: "One strategy you could have used was to just turn off your mobile phone, frankly."
    5/25/2012 9:44:45 AM
  • Mr Smith suggesting he was sending overly helpful/friendly messages to News Corp lobbyist, Fred Michel, because Michel was bugging him (not actually bugging him, of course).

    Asked why he told Michel in a text message that Mr Hunt's statement to Parliament could not be too warm about News Corp (to allow Cabinet Minister "legal wriggle-room" against opponents of the bid) Mr Smith said: "This another example of me to get him [Michel] off my back."
    5/25/2012 9:46:14 AM
  • PA: Former prime minister Tony Blair is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry into media standards on Monday next week
    5/25/2012 9:48:57 AM
  • PA: Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will give evidence to Leveson on Thursday next week.
    5/25/2012 9:49:33 AM
  • PA: Michael Gove and Theresa May will give evidence to Leveson on Tuesday and Vince Cable and Kenneth Clarke on Wednesday.
    5/25/2012 9:50:07 AM
  • LEVESON INQUIRY next week.

    MON: Tony Blair;

    TUES Theresa May;

    WEDS: Vince Cable;

    THURS: Jeremy Hunt.

    Tony Blair likely to be asked about close relationship with Rupert Murdoch - and whether he granted him any favours in Government. Topics will include Blair's visit to Hayman Island in 1995, when - according to former advisor Lance Price - the Labour leader agreed an outline understanding with Murdoch that Murdoch would give New Labour a fair ride, if New Labour was good for Murdoch's business.

    Vince Cable will be asked about 'declaring war' on Murdoch, and whether News Corp threatened him and other senior LibDems if they blocked the takeover of BSkyB, as reported last year.

    But the biggest day, of course, will be Jeremy Hunt on Thursday. We now know that Mr Hunt's department and News Corp exchanged more than 1,000 text messages over BSkyB; the department gave the UK's biggest media company the inside track on what was happening to consideration within government and regulators of the £8bn deal. Mt Hunt, still clinging to his job, insists he did nothing wrong and will clear his name.
    5/25/2012 9:56:13 AM
  • Richard Graham: FM claimed 54 conversations with SoS; will he confirm how many he did have? Mr Hunt: The answer is zero.
  • Massive week at #Leveson next week: MON: Tony Blair; TUES Theresa May; WEDS: Vince Cable; THURS: Jeremy Hunt.
  • Inquiry stops for a break after and hour and a half of questioning.
    5/25/2012 9:59:21 AM
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