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
  • "It's a fairly obvious deduction Hunt supported it, which contradicts what you told me earlier" t.co #livepolitics #leveson
  • Now Robert Jay, QC, is picking up on the inconsistencies in Michel's evidence. Michel said earlier that he did not know whether Hunt supported the bid, but his emails give the clear impression he was. This is perilous territory for Michel. He has an incredibly difficult task: he can't make himself look like a fantasist but neither does he want to suggest that he was improperly receiving information from Adam Smith and Jeremy Hunt, or that they were biased in favour of the bid. A tightrope. I don't think Michel is cleverer than Jay; I think he is likely to fall off.
    5/24/2012 10:55:41 AM
  • Jay: "You don't appear to be willing to tell us, Mr Michel, whether Mr Hunt was supportive or not." Funny, that. #Leveson
  • Robert Jay QC has asked Michel several times now whether or not Jeremy Hunt was supportive of the bid. Finally, Michel's answer has come back as:

    "My view is that Jeremy Hunt was probably supportive of some of the arguments we were putting forward and he has made that public on the plurality [issue]."
    5/24/2012 11:03:24 AM
  • after a little dip in form, #Jay is at his outstanding best again today. exposing #Michel's sophistry and inconsistency superbly at #Leveson
  • On Twitter, Hugh Jackson (@huge_action) speaks to the Alice in Wonderland approach towards the meaning of words. He tweets: #leveson #definitions "Privately = directly" "Supportive = Strictly impartial"
    5/24/2012 11:06:29 AM
  • It's very important to bear in mind what this looks like to non-journalists - especially, perhaps, to leaders of small businesses.

    Frederic Michel has had an extremely large amount of attention and even affection from a Cabinet Minister and his special adviser. Further, he has clearly collaborated with them, for instance in preparing speeches.

    Most small businesses, the engines of growth in our economy, couldn't afford to pay for a lobbyist like Michel, to grease relations with the political class. And they would do anything to be on text messaging terms with someone as senior as Jeremy Hunt.

    Is it really plausible to argue that the level of access that Michel obtained for News Corp is unrelated to the power, influence, and wealth of Rupert Murdoch? No.
    5/24/2012 11:10:02 AM
  • We're on a short break for the short-hand writer.
    5/24/2012 11:11:45 AM
  • The Inquiry will be resuming shortly.
    5/24/2012 11:17:24 AM
  • Evidence shows Vince Cable led News Corp's executives up the garden path by saying he didn't see any policy problems with BSkyB bid.#Leveson
  • ...but Cable did mention News Corp's coverage of politics (papers ignored LibDems). Michel worried "element of politics." Ho ho #Leveson
  • The Inquiry has resumed.
    5/24/2012 11:21:15 AM
  • Michel says his links w DCMS were not clandestine - they were legitimate advocacy.
  • Michel is struggling to convince the inquiry that the many text messages, phone calls and emails with Hunt's department were not a "clandestine back channel." Michel tells Jay: "It's not for me to say how a Secretary of State's office should work. But I can understand your agument."
    5/24/2012 11:26:43 AM
  • Frédéric Michel

    5/24/2012 11:31:39 AM
  • Osborne's Chief of Staff, Rupert Harrison, is dragged in. He had lunch with #Michel, a very prolific eater with Tory advisers. #Leveson
  • One of the main things to emerge from #Leveson is that Vince Cable's less easy to grease than Jeremy Hunt
  • 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
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