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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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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