Brooks, Cameron discussed hacking

Fri, May 11, 2012, 01:00

David Cameron signed off messages to former tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks with an affectionate "LOL", she told the Leveson Inquiry today.

The revelation will be a further embarrassment to the British prime minister, who has been accused of cosying up to Rupert Murdoch’s empire both before and after his election.

The former Sun and News of the World editor also revealed she was commiserated by Mr Cameron after she resigned as News International chief executive over the phone hacking scandal.

Mrs Brooks said the indirect messages from Mr Cameron were “along the lines” of “keep your head up” and had also expressed regret that he could not be more loyal in public.

She also received sympathetic messages from other senior figures in the Conservative Party and some Labour politicians, including Tony Blair.

The glimpse of Mrs Brooks’s network of high-powered friends and contacts came as she took to the witness box, despite being under investigation by police.

Mrs Brooks said she only had access to around six weeks of texts and emails from her time as NI chief executive, from the beginning of June to July 17th last year.

Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, asked Mrs Brooks about reports that she had received sympathetic messages after her resignation last July.

“I had some indirect messages from some politicians but nothing direct,” she replied. “A variety - some Tories a couple of Labour politicians. Very few Labour politicians. I received some indirect messages from Number 10, Number 11, the Home Office, the Foreign Office...”
A screengrab of Rebekah Brooks giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry
She said Mr Blair had been among them but former prime minister Gordon Brown had not. “He was probably getting the bunting out,” she added, provoking laughter in the courtroom.

Questioned on whether reports were correct that Mr Cameron’s message had urged her to “keep your head up”, Ms Brooks responded: “Along those lines.”

Pressed on whether the prime minister had also conveyed regret that political circumstances meant he could not be more “loyal”, Mrs Brooks replied: “Similar, but very indirect.”

After she became editor of the Sun, in which she admitted Rupert Murdoch had a hand, she spoke to the mogul “frequently”, Mrs Brooks said. She revealed that the tycoon “liked X Factor”, despite arguing for coverage of serious issues over celebrity, and also quashed a rumour that the pair used to swim together when he was in London.

Mrs Brooks also denied that, after she was arrested in 2005 over an alleged assault on her then-husband Ross Kemp, Mr Murdoch sent a dress to the police station where she was being held. She was later released without charge and the police took no further action.

The inquiry heard that Mr Blair attended a surprise party thrown for Mrs Brooks by Mr Murdoch, but she said she could not remember whether Mr Cameron was there, though it was possible he was.

She told the inquiry she met Mr Blair in 1995 after he became leader of the Labour Party, and their meetings became more frequent throughout his decade as premier. They met formally, informally and socially, and often spoke on the telephone, she said, admitting they became “friendly”.

But she said there were no emails or texts because “he did not have a mobile phone or in fact I think use a computer when he was prime minister”.

Mrs Brooks dismissed reports that Mr Cameron would text her 12 times a day. “No, thankfully,” she said. “I have read this as well, 12 times a day. It is preposterous.

“I would text Mr Cameron, and vice-versa on occasion, like a lot of people. Probably more between January 2010 and maybe during the election campaign," she said. “He would sign them off DC, in the main. Occasionally he would sign them off ‘lol’, lots of love. Until I told him it meant ‘laugh out loud’.”

Most Discussed