Reading what Rebekah Brooks says

What today's statement says and does not say.

The statement by Rebekah Brooks on phone hacking is fascinating reading and deserves to be read closely.

Dear All,

When I wrote to you last week updating you on a number of business issues I did not anticipate having to do so again so soon.

However, I wanted to address the company as a matter of urgency in light of the new claims against the News of the World.

We were all appalled and shocked when we heard about these allegations yesterday.

These are not new claims. They have been current in journalistic and media law circles for some time. For example they were mentioned in the recorded conversation between Hugh Grant and Paul McMullan, and they were put to John Yates by the Parliamentary Select Committee. It also appears from Nick Davies and Amelia Hill's report that the News of the World had already freely told the local police.

Note she does not state which "allegations" are appalling and shocking. This will be the major flaw in the statement: it is never clear what facts or allegations are being discussed at any point in what follows.

I have to tell you that I am sickened that these events are alleged to have happened.

Here we have the combination of the legally cautious "alleged" and the emotional "sickened". Again, she does not specify what the alleged "events" are which sicken her.

Not just because I was editor of the News of the World at the time, but if the accusations are true, the devastating effect on Milly Dowler's family is unforgivable.

Now she is combining her editorial responsibility with an appeal to Milly Dowler's family's sensibilities. It is interesting that she cannot even bring herself to devote one entire sentence to her editorial responsibility without trying to deflect attention. Again, the actual "accusations" are not stated.

Our first priority must be to establish the full facts behind these claims. I have written to Mr and Mrs Dowler this morning to assure them News International will vigorously pursue the truth and that they will be the first to be informed of the outcome of our investigation.

More deflection. The intention may be to make it look like News International is "doing something". However, what is glaring is a lack of any denial at all.

Our lawyers have also written to their solicitor Mark Lewis to ask him to show us any of the evidence he has so we can swiftly take the appropriate action.

This is a red herring. It is not for Mark Lewis to provide evidence of wrongdoing at this stage of the claim which the Dowlers are reported to be bringing. One notes that it is not denied that News International has the evidence itself.

At the moment we only know what we have read.

A wonderfully vague statement, which carefully avoids saying that what they read was actually news to them.

Since 2006, when the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) seized the documentation from the private investigator Glen Mulcaire, News International has had no visibility on the evidence available.

The process of discovery is complicated. The MPS first present relevant documents to potential victims. We only see the evidence much later during the legal process.

This all means the documentary and witness "evidence available" of other parties. This statement cannot logically mean any documentary and witness evidence possessed by News International.

This morning, in our regular Operation Weeting meeting, we have offered the MPS our full co-operation to establish the veracity of these fresh allegations.

I have also written to the chief constable of Surrey police. Although their nine year investigation is now complete, I want to offer our co-operation should they intend to discuss this matter with us.

I am determined that News International does everything it can to co-operate fully and pro-actively with the MPS, as we have been doing for some time, to verify the facts so we can respond in a robust and proper way.

This is again send a positive signal that they are "doing something". Again, the lack of a denial is glaring. One can also note that the "robust" phraseology is evocative of previous internal investigations.

It is almost too horrific to believe that a professional journalist or even a freelance inquiry agent working on behalf of a member of the News of the World staff could behave in this way.

Mulcaire was sufficiently closely employed by News of the World to sign a settlement agreement in respect of any employment claims. This is not consistent with the strained label of "freelance inquiry agent". Note the reference to "working on behalf of a member of the News of the World staff" and not "working on behalf of the News of the World".

If the allegations are proved to be true then I can promise the strongest possible action will be taken as this company will not tolerate such disgraceful behaviour.

At what stage will the allegations be "proved to be true"? News International is closing down the civil litigation claims with generous pay outs. The allegations may never be proved in a way to trigger the "strongest possible action". She also does not offer to resign, even though the allegations are about conduct under her "watch". One will recall that Coulson resigned when the allegations were about conduct on his "watch".

I hope that you all realise it is inconceivable that I knew, or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations.

This is a formulation of almost Clintonesque proportions; but it is not a denial. Also, of course, one does not "sanction" allegations: presumably she means the hacking.

I am proud of the many successful newspaper campaigns at the Sun and the News of the World under my editorship.

In particular, the 10-year fight for Sarah's Law is especially personal to me.

The battle for better protection of children from paedophiles and better rights for the families and the victims of these crimes defined my editorships.

More deflection; this time it is a crass appeal that won't anyone think of the children.

Although these difficult times will continue for many months ahead, I want you to know that News International will pursue the facts with vigour and integrity.

I am aware of the speculation about my position. Therefore it is important you all know that as chief executive, I am determined to lead the company to ensure we do the right thing and resolve these serious issues.

Even though the allegations are not "proved" and that News International wants to see "evidence", she has prejudged the situation as meaning that there could be no conceivable proof and evidence which would make this a resigning matter.

We will face up to the mistakes and wrongdoing of the past and we will do our utmost to see that justice is done and those culpable will be punished.

We will see. Note how "mistakes" are added to "wrongdoing". And note how the word "culpable" is used instead of the word "responsible". Those responsible will not be punished, only the culpable.

 

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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Celebrate Labour's electoral success - but don't forget the working class

The shutting down of genuine, constructive debate on the left is the great danger we face. 

In the moment when the exit poll was released on 8 June, after seven weeks of slogging up and down the streets of Britain, dealing with scepticism, doubt and sometimes downright hostility, we felt a combination of relief, optimism, even euphoria.
 
This election broke wide open some assumptions that have constrained us on the left for too long; that the young won’t vote, that any one individual or political party is “unelectable”, that perceptions of both individuals, parties and even policies cannot change suddenly and dramatically. It reminded us that courage, ambition and hope are what’s needed and what have been missing from our politics, too often, for too long.
 
We have learnt to tread carefully and wear our values lightly. But in recent weeks we have remembered that our convictions can, as Jonathan Freedland once wrote, “bring hope flickering back to life” and meet the growing appetite for a politics that doesn’t simply rail against what is but aspires to build a world that is better.
 
In this election at least, it seems the final, anticipated fracture of Labour from its working-class base after Brexit did not materialise. Shortly before the snap election was called I wrote that while Brexit appeared to be Labour’s greatest weakness, it could just be our biggest strength, because: “consider what remain voting Tottenham and leave voting Wigan have in common: Labour… We will succeed if we seek the common ground shared by the decent, sensible majority, and more importantly, so will Britain.”
 
But consider this too. The Tories ran a terrible campaign. It was, without any doubt,the most inept, counter-productive campaign I’ve ever seen in British politics. The day their manifesto hit the headlines, even in our toughest neighbourhoods, we could feel change in the air. Arrogance is never rewarded by the British people and Theresa May has paid a price for it. Yet, despite a Tory manifesto that was a full, square attack on older people, the majority of over 65s still came out for the Tories.
 
And despite the growing relevance of freedom, internationalism and tolerance in an era characterised by Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the Liberal Democrats managed to become bystanders in the political debate. They stood on a platform that aimed to capture the support of those remain voters for whom Brexit is the major question, but neglected the rest. And they quite spectacularly failed to foresee that those who were intensely angered by May’s conversion to a little England, hard Brexit stance would vote tactically against the Tories. Over those seven weeks, they all but disappeared as a political force.
 
As Bob Dylan once said, "the times, they are a-changin" – and they will change again. The recent past has moved at extraordinary speed. The Brexit Referendum, the rise and retreat of nationalism, the election of Trump and his crushing unpopularity just a few months later, the reversal in fortunes for May and Jeremy Corbyn, the astonishing phenomenon of Emmanuel Macron and pro-European centrism, and the dramatic rise and sudden collapse of Ukip. Politics, as John Harris wrote last week, is now more fluid than ever. So now is the time, for hope yes, and for conviction too, but not for jubilation. We need some serious thinking. 
 
We should be cautious to rush to judgment. It is only two weeks since the exit poll sent shockwaves across the country. There is no comprehensive explanation for the multitude of motivations that delivered this election result and will not be for some time. But there are some early indictors that must make us think. 
 
After seven years of austerity, as John Curtice observes, the Tories made some of their biggest gains in some of the poorest areas of Britain. It is something I felt in all of the eight constituencies I campaigned in during the election. While the Labour vote rose significantly in towns like Wigan, so too did the Tory vote, despite little or no campaigning activity on the ground. As Rob Ford puts it, “Labour, founded as the party of the working class, and focused on redistributing resources from the rich to the poor, gained the most ground in 2017 in seats with the largest concentrations of middle-class professionals and the rich. The Conservatives, long the party of capital and the middle class, made their largest gains in the poorest seats of England and Wales… Britain’s class politics has been turned completely upside down in 2017”.
 
To acknowledge the growing, longstanding scepticism of many working-class men, and women, towards Labour in towns across England is not to take away from the hard work and drive of the activists, advisers and politicians that helped to fuel such a dramatic turnaround for Labour during the short campaign. To have won considerable gains in wealthier suburbs is no small achievement. 
 
But if the future of Labour lies in a coalition between middle-class young professionals and the working class, what is the glue that binds? While there is shared agreement about investment in public services, how are those interests to be squared on areas like national security and immigration? I believe it can and must be done, but – as I said to conference when I was first elected seven years ago - it will demand that we begin with the difficult questions, not the easy ones.  
 
Just a few days before the election, statistics were released that pointed to a collapse in trade union membership. What does the decline of an organised Labour movement mean for who we are and what we can achieve? These are not new questions. They were posed by Eric Hobsbawm in his brilliant lecture, "The Forward March of Labour Halted" in 1979 - a challenge laid down in the year I was born. Now, 37 years on, we are no further down the road to answering it. 
 
The most dramatic finding from this election was the support Corbyn’s Labour party appears to have won from middle-class, young professionals. They said he couldn’t do it and quite stunningly it seems they were wrong. But a ComRes poll last week caught my eye – by a large margin those 30-44 year olds would favour a new centre-ground political party over the current political settlement. In an election where we returned strongly to two-party politics, it appears they moved to us. But what would a dynamic and renewed Liberal Democrat Party, or a British En Marche do to our support base?
 
After a hellish two years we have learnt in Labour, I hope, that unity matters. The public and private anger directed towards each other, whether the Labour leadership, the parliamentary Labour party or elected councillors, is desperately damaging and its (relative) absence in the campaign was important.
 
But unity is not the same as uniformity, and while two weeks ago I felt there was a real danger of historic fracture, now I believe the shutting down of genuine, constructive debate on the left is the great danger we face, and must avoid. No one person, faction or party has ever had the monopoly on wisdom. The breadth of the Labour movement was and remains our greatest strength. 
 
Consider the Labour manifesto, which drew on every tradition across our movement and demanded that every part of the party had to compromise. Those broad traditions still matter and are still relevant because they hear and are attuned to different parts of Britain. Our country is changing and politics must catch up. The future will be negotiated, not imposed.
 
As we witness the age of "strong man" politics across the world, here in Britain our political culture has become angrier and more illiberal than at any time I can remember. The Brexit debate was characterised by rage, misinformation and a macho political culture that demanded that we abandon nuance and complexity, an understanding of one another and tolerance of different points of view.
 
But this is not where the future of Britain lies: it lies in pluralism. It lies in a politics that is nimbler, more fleet of foot, less constrained; a return to the great tradition of debate, evidence, experience and argument as a way to build broad coalitions and convince people; not shouting one another down, nor believing any of us are always right; an arena in which we listen as much as we speak; a political culture in which we are capable of forming alliances within and across party lines to achieve real, lasting change.
 
And ultimately that’s the prize: not just seek power but, to paraphrase a philosopher whose work inspired millions, in the end “the point is to change it”. We could sit tight in Labour and hope to see the current government fall apart. We might even inherit power, we could temporarily reverse some of the worst of the last seven years, but what then? If we have learnt anything from 13 years of Labour government it should be this: that to build lasting change is the hardest political task of all, and it requires now that we do not turn to the political culture, the tools or even the ideas of the past, but that we think hard about where the future of our movement and our country really lies. Now is not the time to sit back and celebrate. Now is the time to think.

 

Lisa Nandy is the MP for Wigan. She was formerly Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

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