Hugh Grant links Mail on Sunday to phone hacking

"I would love to know what the Mail's explanation or source was," the actor tells the Leveson inquir

Hugh Grant has speculated over the source of a 2007 story on his private life in the Mail on Sunday, claiming it was obtained by phone hacking.

Giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry into press standards earlier today, the actor seemed to make a concerted effort to broaden the focus of attention from News International to other newspapers.

Grant referred to a piece claiming his relationship with Jemima Khan was on the rocks because of his late-night phone conversations with a "plummy voiced studio executive from Warner Brothers".

He subsequently realised that he had been having phone conversations with a friend who worked at a film studio in Los Angeles with a "plummy voice". Because of the time difference, she had left him answer phone messages late at night.

He told the inquiry: "I would love to know what the Mail's explanation or source was, if it wasn't from phone-hacking." The counsel to the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, said that his claim was merely speculation.

Grant also spoke about the injunction obtained by the mother of his baby, Ting Lan Hong. He said that although he had been pilloried in the press for being a "bad father" and not being present at the birth, he had in fact made the decision to stay away because he feared bringing down a "press storm" on her. He said that her parents, and a female cousin of his, were present.

When he visited Ting Lan Hong in hospital, Grant said that he received a call from a Daily Mail reporter, saying that the paper was ready to publish a story about the child (which the Mail eventually did in November, once a magazine in the US had broken it). "On the day afterwards, I couldn't resist a quick visit. But the day after the phone calls started. The Daily Mail rang saying 'we know about Ting Lan'," he told the inquiry.

Grant added that one of the Mail journalists working on the story had previously worked at News of the World.

In November, two articles about Grant and his child appeared in the Mail under the byline of Keith Gladdis. Until June this year, Gladdis wrote for the News of the World. It is not yet confirmed whether Gladdis is the reporter who phoned Hugh Grant.

A statement from the Mail on Sunday said the newspaper rejected the allegations, adding: "Mr Grant's allegations are mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media."

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Leader: The unresolved Eurozone crisis

The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving.

The eurozone crisis was never resolved. It was merely conveniently forgotten. The vote for Brexit, the terrible war in Syria and Donald Trump’s election as US president all distracted from the single currency’s woes. Yet its contradictions endure, a permanent threat to continental European stability and the future cohesion of the European Union.

The resignation of the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, following defeat in a constitutional referendum on 4 December, was the moment at which some believed that Europe would be overwhelmed. Among the champions of the No campaign were the anti-euro Five Star Movement (which has led in some recent opinion polls) and the separatist Lega Nord. Opponents of the EU, such as Nigel Farage, hailed the result as a rejection of the single currency.

An Italian exit, if not unthinkable, is far from inevitable, however. The No campaign comprised not only Eurosceptics but pro-Europeans such as the former prime minister Mario Monti and members of Mr Renzi’s liberal-centrist Democratic Party. Few voters treated the referendum as a judgement on the monetary union.

To achieve withdrawal from the euro, the populist Five Star Movement would need first to form a government (no easy task under Italy’s complex multiparty system), then amend the constitution to allow a public vote on Italy’s membership of the currency. Opinion polls continue to show a majority opposed to the return of the lira.

But Europe faces far more immediate dangers. Italy’s fragile banking system has been imperilled by the referendum result and the accompanying fall in investor confidence. In the absence of state aid, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, could soon face ruin. Italy’s national debt stands at 132 per cent of GDP, severely limiting its firepower, and its financial sector has amassed $360bn of bad loans. The risk is of a new financial crisis that spreads across the eurozone.

EU leaders’ record to date does not encourage optimism. Seven years after the Greek crisis began, the German government is continuing to advocate the failed path of austerity. On 4 December, Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declared that Greece must choose between unpopular “structural reforms” (a euphemism for austerity) or withdrawal from the euro. He insisted that debt relief “would not help” the immiserated country.

Yet the argument that austerity is unsustainable is now heard far beyond the Syriza government. The International Monetary Fund is among those that have demanded “unconditional” debt relief. Under the current bailout terms, Greece’s interest payments on its debt (roughly €330bn) will continually rise, consuming 60 per cent of its budget by 2060. The IMF has rightly proposed an extended repayment period and a fixed interest rate of 1.5 per cent. Faced with German intransigence, it is refusing to provide further funding.

Ever since the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, declared in 2012 that he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency, EU member states have relied on monetary policy to contain the crisis. This complacent approach could unravel. From the euro’s inception, economists have warned of the dangers of a monetary union that is unmatched by fiscal and political union. The UK, partly for these reasons, wisely rejected membership, but other states have been condemned to stagnation. As Felix Martin writes on page 15, “Italy today is worse off than it was not just in 2007, but in 1997. National output per head has stagnated for 20 years – an astonishing . . . statistic.”

Germany’s refusal to support demand (having benefited from a fixed exchange rate) undermined the principles of European solidarity and shared prosperity. German unemployment has fallen to 4.1 per cent, the lowest level since 1981, but joblessness is at 23.4 per cent in Greece, 19 per cent in Spain and 11.6 per cent in Italy. The youngest have suffered most. Youth unemployment is 46.5 per cent in Greece, 42.6 per cent in Spain and 36.4 per cent in Italy. No social model should tolerate such waste.

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has often asserted. Yet it does not follow that Europe will succeed if the euro survives. The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving. In these circumstances, the surprise has been not voters’ intemperance, but their patience.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump