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Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

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Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.11.12 0:29


Leveson Inquiry has momentous implications for free speech. But Mail dossier raises disturbing questions about the influence of 'people who know best'


PUBLISHED: 00:03, 16 November 2012 | UPDATED: 14:32, 16 November 2012

This has been an extraordinary week for the BBC as it tears itself apart over one of the most catastrophic journalistic errors of modern times.

False allegations of paedophilia against an elderly Tory Party grandee have led to the resignation of the Director-General, the possible demise of the flagship Newsnight programme, the paying out of substantial libel damages and, worst of all, perhaps a shattering blow to BBC News's reputation for integrity.

How could this happen? Why did no one carry out 'basic journalistic checking' of facts? Why weren't those 'facts' put to the other side - the first rule of journalism?[/size]

[PICTURE: Inquiry team: Lord Justice Leveson (centre) and the assessors of his inquiry into culture practices and ethics of the press (from left to right) George Jones, Shami Chakrabarti, David Bell, David Currie, Paul Scott-Lee and Elinor Goodman]

We don't know, but we do know that behind this farrago is the work of a self-regarding body which calls itself the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), the organisation that took their 'McAlpine exclusive' to the BBC and whose managing editor resigned after gleefully tweeting about being ready to out a politician who was a paedophile.

In its recent submission to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, the BIJ declared that its 'output and editorial processes' would 'be a masterclass, a gold standard for evidence-based journalism  … journalism of an outstanding kind.'

To describe this as hubris would be an understatement.

And at the centre of the story is an obscure but immensely well-connected member of Britain's liberal Establishment, Sir David Bell, one of five BIJ trustees.

As we shall see in this Special Mail Investigation, Bell's campaign, which began almost a decade ago, to control Britain's raucous popular press and, in the process, promote what he regards as ethical journalism, has had momentous consequences.

]Well-connected: Chief executive and founder of the charity Common Purpose Julia Middleton]

One evening in January 2005 at the central London headquarters of Pearson Group — owner of the Financial Times — an extraordinary working dinner took place.

The host was Julia Middleton, a friend of David Bell's and a brilliant networker, and the guests were a select group, drawn from the New-Labour-era Establishment. We know this thanks to an account of the event written for the left-of-centre New Statesman magazine by one of the attendees, the financial journalist Robert Peston, now the BBC's Business Editor.

Peston described 'a debate on media standards — with two editors, another BBC executive, an investment banker, a Bank of England luminary, academics and a bishop, inter alia — (which) was more practical than most. We'd been summoned to dinner … by Julia Middleton, the unrecognised toiler for the rehabilitation of the concerned, engaged citizen.

'One of Middleton's great skills is to persuade police constables, youth group organisers, permanent secretaries, FTSE chief executives and head teachers that they can learn from each other and could even cure some of society's ills. However, almost all her meetings end up with a collective wail about the irresponsibility and excessive power of the media.

'So she herded us into Pearson's art-deco palace on the Strand in the hope that we could find an answer or two. Something may come of the proposals that were offered. Meanwhile, the discovery of the evening for me was that Pearson's executive washroom is unisex, a la Ally McBeal. What is Marjorie Scardino, Pearson's personable chief executive, thinking of?'

Peston was unnervingly prescient about one thing.

Something has come of that soiree seven years ago.

That something is the Leveson Inquiry into Britain's beleaguered newspaper industry. Its conclusions, which are to be published imminently, could have huge implications for a press that has been free of government control for 300 years, and for freedom of speech itself.

Sir David Bell's certainly a very busy bee. A greying, dishevelled figure in an ill-fitting suit, he appears to have been by far the most assiduous of the six 'assessors' appointed by the government to advise Lord Justice Leveson and his Inquiry.

Bell is an ideological bedmate of the aforesaid Julia Middleton — another very busy bee who has been described as the best-connected woman you've never heard of.

There are serious questions about the impact Bell's had on the Inquiry's neutrality

But while some of the Leveson assessors have patchy attendance records at the Inquiry, Sir David — whose unbridled eagerness to join the judge in his private rooms when the sittings rise has been remarked upon by observers — seems to have barely missed a day of the public hearings that began almost a year ago.

Public-spirited you may say. Except that an investigation by the Daily Mail raises serious questions about the suitability of Bell as an assessor and the impact this may have had on the objectivity and neutrality of the Inquiry itself.

Bell is a trustee and a former chairman of a leadership training organisation called Common Purpose, whose thousands of 'graduates' have been described as the 'Left's answer to the old boys' network.' (though not all share the same political views). Their identities are well protected.

Founded by Ms Middleton and registered as a charity, Common Purpose boasts a 'considerable reach' throughout senior positions in public life. Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been spent on sending public servants on its courses.

Three of the six Leveson assessors have Common Purpose connections, either through direct participation or through senior colleagues within the organisations they lead or have led.

Bell and Middleton set up the Media Standards Trust, a lobby group which presented a huge amount of evidence to the Inquiry. The Media Standards Trust, whose chairman was Bell, gave its 'prestigious' Orwell Prize for political writing to a journalist who turned out to have made up parts of his 'award-winning' articles.

The Media Standards Trust established Hacked Off, the virulently anti-popular-press campaign group which has boasted of its role in significantly increasing the Inquiry's terms of reference. The Media Standards Trust shared the same headquarters address as Common Purpose. It then shared an address with Hacked Off, whose funding it controlled.

Many of those who provided the most hostile anti-press evidence to Leveson are linked to senior figures at the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off.

The Media Standards Trust has strong links with Ofcom, the statutory media regulator which, despite its denials, some suspect has ambitions to regulate Britain's free press. Ofcom's ex-chairman Lord Currie is a Leveson assessor.

Much of the financing of the Media Standards Trust comes from a charity of which Bell is a trustee — a practice that, while legal, would seem to many to be inappropriate.

Despite being formed by the Media Standards Trust, which is campaigning for 'transparency and accountability in the news', Hacked Off refuses to make explicit the sources of its own funding.

And, of course, Bell is a trustee of the now notorious Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has wreaked such damage on the BBC.

PICTURE: Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry has major implications for the press

Indeed, like some giant octopus, Common Purpose's tentacles appear to reach into every cranny of the inner sanctums of Westminster, Whitehall and academia — bodies that often view Britain's unruly, disruptive press with disdain and distrust.

Lord Justice Leveson has already said that he hoped his report would be based on 'unanimity' of thought between him and his half dozen assessors, none of whom have ever worked in the popular press.

It should be stressed that there is absolutely no suggestion that Leveson — who did not choose his assessors — has any connection to Common Purpose nor that he isn't a man of integrity who has conducted his inquiry with impartiality.

Like a giant octopus, its tentacles reach into every cranny of the Establishment

But imagine the public outcry if it emerged during a criminal trial that half of the jurors, and many of the witnesses, were linked to bodies that had 'wailed' about the defendant, against whom they had a powerful shared antipathy.

That is the case with the Leveson Inquiry, as we shall show in this investigation into the Bell and Middleton network of influence. We will also be raising questions about their charity's own behaviour. For we can reveal that …

Common Purpose almost certainly breached the Data Protection Act (which guards the confidentiality of digitally stored information), the very charge levelled by the Leveson Inquiry against virtually all newspapers.

Common Purpose is connected to some of Britain's most powerful lobby and PR groups, whose influence on British politics has provoked continuing controversy.

Common Purpose linked figures have a significant influence on the appointments process in Whitehall. Until last year, Common Purpose's David Bell sat on the committee that appointed Britain's 'Top 200' civil servants.

As we shall now show, Hacked Off, one of the lobby groups created by Sir David Bell (who stepped down as chairman of the Media Standards Trust only when he was appointed a Leveson assessor) and Julia Middleton's network played a significant role in creating and shaping the Leveson Inquiry, which will cost the taxpayer almost £6 million.

That is their campaign's proud boast. And, as we shall see in this investigation, it is hard to dispute.

In Julia Middleton's book Beyond Authority, which sets out Common Purpose's leadership philosophy, she describes how she was told by a 'group of peers' the way in which to 'force' issues on to the agenda at Westminster.

It required: 'A small committed and co-ordinated group of people producing pressure from the outside. Two or three determined fifth columnists on the inside. And the stamina from both groups to keep on and on and on putting them on the agenda until they eventually had to be discussed …'

In another passage she wrote: 'I spoke to a friend recently who described how she had set someone up. Using all her charm and flattery, she had drawn him in and then installed him as a convenient useful idiot … My friend's intention was to get him to produce a report which she knew full well would be a perfect smokescreen for her own activities …

'Have I ever done this? Yes … it was certainly useful to produce the distraction of creating a sub-committee, led by someone who did not really understand the big picture, to look into an issue in depth, with no timetable, so we could get on with what we saw as important issues.'

[size=14]At the heart of the matrix: Sir David Bell attends the Sadler's Wells Fundraising Gala at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London

In the past year, a firestorm has swept British journalism. The initial spark was the Guardian's revelations that individuals employed by the News of the World had illegally hacked the voicemail messages of mobile phones of hundreds of celebrities and people in the news, including murder victim Milly Dowler.

Phone hacking is illegal. Currently dozens of journalists are under arrest in relation to such offences or making illegal payments to public officials.

But it was the claim that the News of the World had deleted Milly's phone messages that provoked Prime Minister David Cameron — who against the advice of many had persisted in retaining former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his press spokesman — to set up an inquiry into the British press, led by the respected Lord Justice Leveson.

No matter that the Guardian's crucial allegation — that the News of the World had deleted voicemails from Milly's phone which caused her parents to have had false hopes that she was alive — turned out almost certainly not to be true.

By the time that terrible error was revealed last December, the News of the World had been closed and the Inquiry widened to envelop the whole of the British press.

That is the triumph of those who, like Bell, have striven for years towards restraining what they see as the 'excessive power' of the British press. Yet, far from representing the 'general public' and the 'people' — both terms which they frequently appropriate — those people who know best are drawn from a narrow and powerful section of the liberal Establishment that has come into increasing conflict with much of Britain's newspaper industry.

Significantly, among the leadership of Common Purpose, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off, vested interests intertwine. Many, but by no means all, of the most prominent activists are politically left of centre. Some are involved in the quangos that the New Labour project created.

As such, they are representative of a new elite.

Bodies such as the BBC, the London School of Economics and, as noted, Financial Times owner Pearson Group are conspicuously over-represented.

'Big money' in the form of senior executives from some multinational banks and financial institutions most culpable in the global financial crisis of 2008 (and the resulting multi-billion-pound public bailouts) is also a notable presence.

No friends of the popular press, which has savaged City greed, are these. And at the heart of this matrix stand David Bell and Julia Middleton.

Lib Dem donor and one-time SDP activist Bell is a former chairman of the Financial Times, at the time Fleet Street's most zealous supporter of the European Union. Bell is also a former director of the FT's parent company Pearson, which was a financial backer of New Labour.

Mother-of-five Middleton is the founder, chief executive and presiding guru of Common Purpose. She has been described as 'messianic' in her crusade to improve standards in corporate and public life.

The question, of course, is why do so many of her soirees end in 'a collective wail' about the irresponsibility of the media?

A clue can perhaps be found in a speech made to the LSE in 2004 by Geoff Mulgan, with whom Middleton had founded the New Labour think-tank Demos, described by the Pearson-owned Economist magazine — of which David Bell is still a non-executive director — as 'Britain's most influential think-tank'.

A Guardian report of the Mulgan speech was headlined 'The media's lies poison our system: The ethic of searching for truth has gone; now there's just cynicism.'

Mulgan, who with Peter Mandelson was an intellectual founding father of New Labour and later became Blair's Head of Policy at No 10, thundered:

'Problematic, however, is the lack of a strong ethic of searching for the truth in much of the media … For from Europe to migrants, there is a wide gap between what the public believes and the facts … For many [newspapers] it doesn't much matter whether what they print is true.

'The net result is that the public are left with systematically incorrect perspectives on the world, on issues ranging from Europe and migrants to public services … Journalists who used to dine with politicians now dine on them.'

It seemed what really concerned Mulgan — described as 'the ultimate New Labourite' — was the conservative press's antipathy to the EU, mass immigration and incompetent public services.

There can be little doubt that he was referring to newspapers like The Sun, Express, Mail and Telegraph — papers read by the majority. It is they who were the most critical of New Labour's policies on the EU and mass immigration.

It was they, we can surmise, who provoked Ms Middleton's wails.

Common Purpose has claimed more than 35,000 people have 'graduated' from its courses in the UK and across the world. As well as firms in the private sector, government departments, local authorities, quangos, charities and police forces have all sent staff on Common Purpose's leadership programmes. A week long '20:20' course in advanced leadership costs almost £5,000.

Common Purpose 'alumni' are encouraged to network and assist each other, though a full list of their identities is not publicly available.

They have a private website, which requires a password to log in. Members who disclose information from this site face expulsion. Meetings are held under the so-called Chatham House rules, under which no one can be quoted by name. So much for the 'transparency' in public life that is being called for by the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off lobbyists.

However, the public area of the Common Purpose website, Middleton's book Beyond Authority and other sources do reveal the identity of a number of prominent officials, 'graduates', course lecturers or those associates whom Middleton considers to be her 'inspirational leaders'.


Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: Special Investigation into a central figure in the McAlpine scandal and judicial inquiry into the press

Solved, the mystery of the money chest: How David Bell sits on the charity bankrolling his own campaign

State controls on Press would be a green light to tyrants, says top MP

Peer's revenge over Twitter slurs: McAlpine will sue internet gossips as BBC pays him £185,000 damages following Newsnight report

Adviser to Leveson press inquiry is a trustee of the self-styled investigative bureau behind McAlpine Newsnight fiasco

The people who know best: Dark arts and links with the Masters of Spin...

What a very small world: Why are so many figures in the Leveson Inquiry connected to New Labour's favourite media quango Ofcom?


The amazing symbiosis between bees and flowers:  

Tony Bennett

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Daily Mail dossier Part 2

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.11.12 0:31


Picture: No friend of the press: Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry at the High Court in London on July 23

Sir Bob Kerslake, the recently appointed head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, is a Common Purpose graduate, according to the organisation's website. Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, has a full-page profile on the Common Purpose International website's 'who we are' section.

Jon Williams, the BBC's World News Editor since 2006, is also a graduate of Common Purpose London.

Professor Richard Sambrook, who was the BBC's Head of News and director of the World Service, is quoted praising Common Purpose on the website. He spoke at a Common Purpose event but has denied being otherwise involved.

The BBC has told the Mail that, in a five-year period, it spent more than £126,000 on Common Purpose courses.

But it is Leveson assessor Lord Currie who (as we show later in fuller detail) illustrates the incestuous relationships that intertwine throughout this Inquiry.

He was the first chairman of the media regulator Ofcom, where former colleagues there included the ex-BBC executive Richard Hooper. Mr Hooper was a member of a review panel for Sir David Bell's Media Standards Trust, while fellow Ofcom board member Ian Hargreaves was another founder of Labour think-tank Demos along with Julia Middleton. Hargreaves is also now a Hacked Off supporter and Leveson witness.

Picture: Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers arrives at Parliament in London to give evidence

During Currie's tenure, Ofcom sent members of its staff on Common Purpose courses, although he is not personally a member of Common Purpose.

Another Common Purpose luminary is Chris Bryant MP — exposed by the press for posing in his underpants on internet dating sites. Bryant, who has led the charge against Rupert Murdoch in the Commons and was a Leveson witness, was Common Purpose's London manager for two years.

Among the senior police officers who are also Common Purpose graduates is Cressida Dick, who was savaged by the press for her leading role in the 2005 shooting of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in a London Underground carriage.

It was Assistant Commissioner Dick who personally chose Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers to head the investigation into phone hacking and payments to police at News International.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers was in charge of the child protection team in Islington when the Evening Standard exposed a long-standing paedophile sex ring in the borough's children's homes.

Ms Akers was also in charge of the Met's North West protection team in the months leading up to the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was tortured and murdered by her guardians. This episode, which again triggered a firestorm of media criticism and resulted in a public inquiry, led to her receiving 'words of advice' — the police equivalent of a reprimand. Neither episode figures prominently in her official profiles. Indeed, none of this was mentioned when Ms Akers told the Leveson Inquiry that News International's transgressions could not be defended as being in the public interest — a claim vigorously rebutted by News International's lawyers, who asked how Ms Akers was qualified to define the public interest.

Picture: Actor Hugh Grant attends a Hacked Off press conference with Lib Dem Dr Evan Harris (right) and journalist John Kamphner

In all, Ms Akers appeared before the Leveson inquiry three times — more than any other witness.

Lord Blair, Cressida Dick's boss at the Met, was another Leveson witness. Under Blair's leadership, the Met spent tens of thousands of pounds on Common Purpose courses. The Met reviewed its training requirements in 2009.

Since the year Blair stepped down (2008-09), the Met says, no money has been spent on Common Purpose courses.

This week, Lord Blair said: 'I support Common Purpose, as do the vast majority of leaders of major private and public organisations.'

One of the most lucrative connections between Common Purpose and the police involves the West Midlands force. Sir Paul Scott-Lee, the former West Midlands' Chief Constable — now a consultant — is a Leveson assessor.

Using Freedom of Information requests, the Mail has established that 27 West Midlands officers, including one Assistant Chief Constable, went on Common Purpose courses under Sir Paul's leadership.

It appears that the West Midlands expenditure on such courses during this period was significantly more than that of the far larger Metropolitan force.

For a number of years Common Purpose has attracted the obsessive attention of the more outré internet conspiracy theorists such as David Icke, as well as bloggers on the far Right. This has provided a convenient smokescreen against a more rational investigation.

But a number of credible parties have also sought to discover more about the charity's presence within public bodies. In 2007, for example, Tory MP Philip Davies — concerned at the then New Labour government's apparent close links with the organisation — lodged written questions to a number of secretaries of state about how much their departments had spent on sending civil servants on Common Purpose courses.

The answers, which weren't widely publicised but can be found on official parliamentary records, showed a total spend over a handful of years of more than £1 million.

Davies was told that the Department of Work and Pensions had spent almost £240,000 in five years, on courses which had 'helped foster valuable partnerships in the local community which can be used to improve the service offered to our customers'. The Ministry of Defence had spent more than £300,000 over the same period.

While Common Purpose could do little about this kind of scrutiny, we now come to perhaps the most serious charge against this body: the suppressing and smearing of individual citizens who had lodged Freedom of Information questions about its activities.

On the specious basis that FoI legislation was being abused, causing damage to the charity's reputation, Common Purpose compiled a 'blacklist' of the individuals concerned. Common Purpose officials sent private, personal details of these people to public bodies around the country, with the warning that new FoI requests about the charity from those listed should be treated as 'vexatious'.

In other words, Common Purpose tried to block the legal rights of those individuals and prevent their freedom of expression.

The privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), investigated the affair, following complaints by five of those on the blacklist.

Blunders over a child sex scandal and a police chief with no love for the press

In response to a Freedom of Information request from this newspaper, a spokeswoman for the ICO said: 'As far as we are aware, 18 individuals had their personal details disclosed by Common Purpose by way of the list provided to various public bodies.'

She said these details could 'contain their name, and if known, also their address and/or phone number'.

In late 2009, the ICO ruled that Common Purpose was 'unlikely to have complied with provisions in the Data Protection Act 1998 on processing data'. Their spokeswoman confirmed to the Mail: 'In this case, the Act was probably breached.'

The ICO decided not to take 'further action' against Common Purpose 'after the charity confirmed that it no longer distributed the list' and Julia Middleton issued a statement in which she said: 'As an organisation we made a genuine mistake in this instance. But it was in a very rapidly changing legal context …'

Now let's put this mitigation into the context of the Leveson Inquiry and those Common Purpose-linked organisations, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off.

Operation Motorman was a 2003 investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office into alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act by virtually all newspapers including the Mail and other media organisations, who had used a Hampshire private detective agency to obtain anything from addresses and phone numbers to, in some instances, licence plate owners and criminal records.

This was a time when the full implications of the Act were by no means clear. No journalist was ever prosecuted as a result of Motorman. [size]

Picture: Hacked Off played a significant role in creating and shaping the Leveson Inquiry, which will cost the taxpayer almost £6 million

But Hacked Off and the Media Standards Trust have pushed ever harder for the Motorman files to be made public, and individual journalists named.

One is minded of Middleton's explanation that Common Purpose had erred because of 'a very rapidly changing legal context'. Yet the charity's own data protection breaches were committed a full five years after Operation Motorman.

This episode provides a telling insight into the 'don't do as we do but do as we say' mindset of Common Purpose's leadership.

And yet who is the ultra-busy assessor helping Lord Justice Leveson write his report that could shape the future of the hitherto free press and the right to freedom of expression? Common Purpose trustee and former chairman Sir David Bell, creator of the Media Standards Trust and supporter of Hacked Off.

In his declaration of interests to the Inquiry, Bell explains away the blacklist episode like this: 'Common Purpose has had several dealings in the past few years with the ICO in connection with comments that have been made repeatedly about it on the web without, in Common Purpose's view, any foundation at all.'

With what can only be described as rank disingenuousness, there is no mention of breaching the law. When Bell's participation as a Leveson assessor was announced last year, a Michael White, who had been on Common Purpose's Freedom of Information blacklist, pointed out the contradiction.

Mr White, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, was reported in the Sunday Telegraph as saying of Common Purpose: 'My private address was in their blacklist and I was described as a vexatious and harassing individual.

'I felt sick to think that Common Purpose had passed this around half the public authorities in the country. They got this data from their contacts in councils. The hypocrisy is stunning. These people quite rightly condemn invasions of privacy by the press while invading people's privacy themselves.

'They demand transparency for other people and fight it for themselves.'

Critics of Common Purpose can also be found among public figures who have had first-hand experience of its methods and networking.

David Gilbertson, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Assistant Inspector of HM Constabulary, told us: 'I was invited to join Common Purpose some years ago. I went to six or eight training sessions. I had just been promoted to Commander …

'I dropped out half way through the course. I thought it was a waste of my time and public money. The fees were being paid by the Met.

'Some there clearly wanted to network … I know people use Common Purpose to do deals, because one person on the course turned up at my office in Scotland Yard with someone else pitching for an IT contract. I said I didn't do contracts. It certainly wasn't an application through the normal system.

'People do see it as a way of getting on. On promotion forms, police officers are giving membership of Common Purpose as evidence of their ability to “negotiate”. Or their competence.

'When I dropped out, I got a hard time from them. I was phoned by an organiser who told me I couldn't call myself a Common Purpose graduate if I left. “You've got to finish,” he warned me.'

We need transparency - not this modern version of a freemason's handshake

Perhaps the final word on Common Purpose should go to Demetrious Panton, 44, an employment law advisor who has worked as an equalities consultant for many local authorities and national government bodies including John Prescott's Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, for which he co-authored a report on race.

'It's a new old boys' network,' he explains 'but the Left's version of it — and I don't like secretive deal-making and “group think” of any kind.

'What is interesting is that the same people appear in the same jobs, in different places, as if through a revolving door. They work for local authorities, leave, then come back as freelance “consultants” with huge, inflated fees. They are often mediocre and there is no evidence of how or why they were chosen.

'They can leave a council with a terrible reputation yet pop up next minute as head of a regulatory body and as a trustee of numerous bodies. It is a real money-spinner.

'I got a visit from a Common Purpose group in 1998. I then worked for Coventry Council as Area Co-ordinator for all its services in North Coventry, a very poor area. My boss David Galliers organised the visit. He was openly a member of Common Purpose.

'Common Purpose was a big thing at Coventry Council, it was the thing to be. About 20 members of Common Purpose locally visited my office as part of their training and I was required to talk to them about my work. They also went on a tour of the very poor estates I served, and met top local government officers. The area I worked for was very deprived, yet I had to put on a spread for these people. They came and they ate and they drank and they looked at the poor people.

'I had an office that over-looked a particularly poor estate, and they looked at it through my windows and briefly visited it and I remember thinking that it was like a jamboree, an outing. I felt embarrassed by it, and uncomfortable for the residents that they were coming to look at. I didn't want to be part of it.

'It was like the visit at Christmas from the aunt that no one wanted. None of the individuals seemed to understand the real issues facing poor, working-class areas. I felt they were patronising and superficial, and that they were doing this to be in the fashion, rather than because they were really interested.

'People in employment interviews should ask: “What networks do you belong to?” If you apply now for a job in local government, you have to state your relationship to any local politicians. So why not also to Common Purpose?

'We need transparency in local government, not this modern version of the freemasons' handshake.'

A prestige award for a liar and the McAlpine debacle

The Orwell Prize, which advertises itself as 'Britain's most prestigious prize for political writing', was first awarded in 1994.

In 2007, the Common Purpose offshoot, the Media Standards Trust (MST), became the lead partner in running the prize. The Orwell no doubt chimed with the Leftish political leanings of the MST's founders and would be a beacon for the journalistic excellence and integrity that they espoused.

For the 2008 prize — the first to be awarded under David Bell's MST's auspices — the three judges were Annalena McAfee, novelist and formerly a journalist on the Financial Times and The Guardian, former BBC executive Sir John Tusa and Albert Scardino, Guardian journalist, MST trustee and husband of Marjorie Scardino, boss of the Labour-donating Pearson Group, friend of Common Purpose's founder Julia Middleton and financial backer of the Media Standards Trust.

Picture: Compromised: Johann Hari, who returned his Orwell Prize

Their award of the prize to Independent journalist Johann Hari was the start of a farce that was to badly compromise both the MST and Britain's most high-minded paper.

A youthful, Left-wing polemicist with a taste for grandstanding, Hari was seemingly the perfect fit for the MST's first foray into journalism awards. (Hari's admiring boss Simon Kelner would be invited by the MST to join its 'non-partisan' review panel later that year.)

Hari's award was given in spite of serious and long-standing concerns about the integrity of his work. Private Eye ran a long piece in early 2003, which identified several Hari reportage pieces for The Guardian and Independent in which he had simply invented his eyewitness accounts.

But Hari's offences against journalism were much wider than simply making up 'facts'.

Plagiarism, the use of old quotes as if they were new in interviews, alteration of Wikipedia biographies of enemies and 'sock puppetry' — the use of false identities to attack people on the internet — were also part of his modus operandi.

By June 2011 the evidence against him became so overwhelming, that the MST had to act and instructed the Orwell Prize council to launch an inquiry into the allegations.

Within a month the Orwell Prize issued a statement, in which it said: 'No allegations have been made against Johann Hari's 2008 Orwell Prize-winning pieces.'

Given the clear evidence of Hari's dishonesty, this was disingenuous. In any event, both Private Eye and the Telegraph brought new allegations that Hari had made up parts of one of the Orwell Prize-winning pieces, about atrocities in the Congo.

Picture: Former BIJ managing editor Iain Overton has stepped down this week as a result of the scandal

In September 2011, Johann Hari announced that, though he stood by the articles which had won the Orwell Prize, he would be returning it as an act of contrition for the errors he had made elsewhere.

The Council later confirmed that he would have been stripped of the prize because of evidence of wrongdoing in one of his articles. The result? A bitter blow to the journalistic integrity of Britain's so-called quality Press. But also to the credibility of the organisation which has given itself the role of determining the way the free Press is regulated.

Worse, much worse, was to follow with another of Sir David Bell's journalism-improving projects.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism was launched in 2010, funded by a £2 million grant from Psion computer millionaire and Labour donor David Potter and his David and Elaine Potter Foundation. Sir David Bell, champion of what he regards as an ethical Press, became a trustee. The BIJ was run out of London's City University, which three years earlier had awarded Sir David an honorary degree.

As we have reported, the BIJ proclaimed itself as the 'gold standard' by which other journalism could be measured. Its output and reportage 'should be as close to incontrovertible as is possible'.

There were a number of experienced journalists with good track records on board. But while the BIJ won acclaim in some quarters, there was also criticism.

Six months after launch, the BIJ was working with The Guardian and other news organisations in preparing the WikiLeaks release of classified American military documents. But in giving an interview to an American magazine, BIJ managing editor Iain Overton leaked 'major details' which, The Guardian said this weekend, 'put the entire project in jeopardy'.

An investigation of the Help for Heroes charity was also described by its subject as 'misleading'.
Earlier this year, one of the Bureau's staff confided that the original seed money had almost run out and the BIJ needed to secure new revenue sources. They have even turned to very unlikely benefactors such as Oxfam. But there was an ever greater need to find paid work at relatively wealthy channels such as the BBC.

Which is how they came to be working with Newsnight on a child abuse investigation.
The subsequent disaster was heralded by Overton's now infamous tweet: 'If all goes well, we've got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile.'

On Tuesday, Bell and his fellow BIJ trustees had a letter published in The Times. The tone was defiant rather than chastened.

'The BBC required and had full editorial control throughout the production of the Newsnight programme,' they said.

And they further qualified the Bureau's role in the scandal: 'We regret that a tweet by the Bureau's managing editor in advance of the programme helped to feed inaccurate speculation about the identity of a political figure.'

The letter ended: 'The Bureau's work has won awards by disclosing important information in the public interest and, with only this recent exception, by maintaining high standards of journalism. The Bureau remains absolutely committed to that aim.'

Whether the Bureau — of which Leveson assessor Bell is a trustee — will survive to maintain those 'high standards' is a matter of some considerable doubt.

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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.11.12 0:34




The people who know best: Dark arts and links with the Masters of Spin...

By Richard Pendlebury

PUBLISHED: 00:37, 16 November 2012 | UPDATED: 08:09, 16 November 2012

Comments (9)

Beyond Authority, the book written by Common Purpose and Media Standard Trust founder Julia Middleton setting out her leadership ethos, contains several instructive passages about the 'long games' and other strategies she advocates for success.

In a chapter which begins 'So what of conspiring? The "dark arts"?', Middleton quotes approvingly and at length one Doug Miller.

He tells her: 'You start with clear and defined objectives … Then you establish what the obstacles are … they are usually people. So you have to establish what motivates them, and then decide if you can win them over by the power of the idea …

PICTURE: Spin king: FIA boss Max Mosley is at the centre of a complex relationship between lobbyists and the Hacked Off campaign

'Sometimes, if it gets messy, you might have to run over them, undermine them, go around them or discredit them. As a last resort, you consider bullying them, or buying them off.'

Middleton and Sir David Bell, respectively chief executive and a trustee and former chairman of Common Purpose, state they are simply striving for a more accountable press.

More transparency. More truth.

At the launch of Hacked Off, its co-founder Dr Martin Moore, also director of Middleton and Bell's Media Standards Trust, said that without a public inquiry the extent of the so-called 'dark arts' of newspapers would not come to light.And yet, as we shall show, Common Purpose, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off are all closely linked to or employ lobby PR firms which the free press have frequently exposed as being practitioners of such 'dark arts' as secretive lobbying and spin.

Take Sovereign Strategy, described by The Guardian as 'Labour's favourite lobbyists', which has close links to party grandees David Miliband, Peter Mandelson and Lord Cunningham. It has reportedly donated more than £150,000 to Labour in the past decade.

Lord (Jack) Cunningham, a Sovereign Strategy board member from 2002-07, chaired the inaugural meeting of Hacked Off when it was launched at the House of Lords.

Horatio Mortimer works as a 'strategic consultant' for Sovereign Strategy and has provided free support to the victims of phone hacking and their families.

PICTURE: (From the left) Steve Coogan, Hugh Grant and Max Mosley give evidence to the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions at Portcullis House

Mortimer is a childhood friend of former Formula One chief Max Mosley's late son Alex. Max Mosley is a leading light in Hacked Off and a client of Sovereign Strategy.

Another client of Sovereign was Formula One's Bernie Ecclestone, whose £1 million donation to Labour was subsequently returned because of the controversy surrounding sponsorship of the sport by the tobacco industry.

The 'international communications agency', as it calls itself, was founded and is owned by Alan Donnelly, a former chief steward of Formula One. The HQ has the same Trafalgar Square address as Mosley's charitable arm, the FIA Foundation.

Donnelly lives with Peter Power, an ex-spokesman for and close associate of the former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

Media Standards Trust boss Martin Moore said last year: 'We met with Lord Cunningham and others, including Alan Donnelly, who said they could help us however we liked.'

Sovereign Strategy has been investigated on a number of occasions by all sections of the press.

In a June 2004 piece about New Labour ministers and corporate consultancies, The Guardian noted: 'One-time Cabinet enforcer Jack Cunningham, the loyalists' loyalist, records three remunerated directorships — Brinkburn Associates, Anderson MacGraw and Sovereign Strategy.'

No wonder those behind Sovereign Strategy are no admirers of the press and eager to help rein it in

In 2005, The Mail on Sunday reported that the former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn had received a payment of up to £10,000, after ceasing to be a Minister, registered in 2004 from 'Sovereign Strategy, a corporate consultancy firm on Tyneside, of which Labour MP "Junket" Jack Cunningham is an associate director — for a speech and follow-up internal round table'.

In May 2005, The Guardian confirmed this when it returned to the subject of former ministers working for lobby companies.

It reported that both Milburn and Lewis Moonie, the former Defence Minister, had been 'fast-tracked by a government appointments watchdog to take up work with a Labour-donating lobbying company which ignores a voluntary code of conduct not to pay or employ politicians'.

The Guardian reported that Sovereign Strategy 'is unusual in not belonging to the lobbyists' professional body, the Association of Professional Political Consultants, which has a code of conduct not to employ or pay any MP, peer or MEP'.

The company confirmed it was not a member of the APPC, but said it insisted all paid advice by public officials had to be declared in the relevant registers. (It later claimed to have stopped paying serving politicians in 2007.)

No wonder those behind Sovereign Strategy are no admirers of the press and eager to help rein it in.

Mark Linder is a Common Purpose trustee. He is also an executive at the leading lobby and PR firm Bell Pottinger. Linder's responsibility is 'sector reputation'. Common Purpose CEO Julia Middleton blogged about a Common Purpose meeting at which Linder had spoken, eulogising: 'Mark was … a man who knows his stuff and knows how to communicate it. It was a privilege to be there. A reminder of what drivel — what amateur drivel — we all talk most of the time.'

The people at Bell Pottinger are the supreme international lobbyists and image makers. In the past, they have worked for supporters of the Chilean tyrant General Pinochet, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus (known as 'Europe's last dictator') and the protest-unfriendly leadership of Bahrain. They even 'advised' Asma Assad, Syrian's first lady. Such activity, one would have thought, hardly fits in with the Bell/Middleton ethical approach to business activity.

PICTURE: Well-connected: Chief executive and founder of the charity Common Purpose Julia Middleton

Sue Stapely is a trustee of the Media Standards Trust (MST) and appears on the Common Purpose website. She appeared on the panel of an MST-organised debate on the media as someone who 'represents the general public'.

In fact, she worked closely with the London lobbying firm Quiller Consultants. As such, she was the spin doctor brought in at great cost by Newcastle Council to handle public relations following a home care scandal. Here is how the local newspaper reported this in 2006:

Council chiefs were involved in a new row today over using taxpayers' money to recruit image consultants. Crisis management expert Sue Stapely has helped Newcastle City Council on three occasions in the past 18 months …

Last year a row erupted after Ms Stapely, working with London-based Quiller Consultants, was recruited to advise council officers on dealing with the media at a cost of nearly £23,000 following an independent inquiry into the killing of Olive Garvie, 93, in a Newcastle care home by fellow resident May Thrower, 83 …

Deputy Labour leader, Councillor Nick Forbes, who quizzed the Lib Dems about the use of Ms Stapely and Quiller Consultants, said: 'If something has gone wrong, why do the Lib Dems think it is more important to spin a positive reputation for the council than identify the problem and put it right? That is a serious misjudgment.'

But the Lib Dems say the council's former Labour administration also used Quiller Consultants and paid the firm more than £70,000 for advice following a legal case.

In response to questions about her working for large corporations, Sue Stapely said: 'I have always undertaken some work on an unpaid basis for ordinary members of the public who either cannot access or afford professional assistance.

'I have also sat on a number of boards as a non-executive director, usually unremunerated, and have always attempted to represent the views of typical consumers.'

She said of the Newcastle affair: 'It was some time ago. I do not think it would serve any useful purpose to revisit this issue. I do recall the council was strongly divided.'

On its website, Quiller boasts: 'We believe our team has an unrivalled insight into the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and the inner workings of the Coalition Government.'

Quite. One might find irony in the fact that those lobby groups whose dark arts undermine the democratic process are closely connected to the Media Standards Trust/Hacked Off campaign for further regulation of the press.

FOOTNOTE: One of the recommendations of Common Purpose's Media Standards Trust is that any new press regulation body should consider co-ordinated 'third party' complaints. Reluctant to become embroiled in political, ideological or commercial disputes, the PCC usually only dealt with complaints by individuals — not third party organisations. The Media Standards Trust recommendation would, if acted upon, clearly be a huge boost to the lobbyists and 'dark arts' practitioners.

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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.11.12 0:36


Senior Leveson adviser faces questions over links to press reform lobby

Sir David Bell, a senior adviser to the Leveson Inquiry, is facing questions about potential conflicts of interest over his links to a lobby group demanding press reform.

Sir David Bell Photo: GETTY

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter
4:38PM GMT 16 Nov 2012

Sir David is a co-founder of the Media Standards Trust, the group behind the Hacked Off campaign which has been fronted by the actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan.

He is also a trustee and former chairman of Common Purpose, a charity which runs leadership courses and encourages networking among its graduates, including the Scotland Yard commissioner Cressida Dick, who appointed Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers to head the phone-hacking investigation.

Earlier this week, Sir David’s name was linked to the notorious Newsnight report which led to the smearing of Lord McAlpine, as he is a trustee of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the not-for-profit group behind the Newsnight film.

The BIJ gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in which it proposed a levy on media organisations to fund groups like itself, which, it boasted, produced a “gold standard” in journalism.

The BIJ is now being sued by Lord McAlpine and its future is in doubt after it failed to carry out basic checks on its report for Newsnight.

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Sir David’s links to organisations whose members gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry were examined by The Daily Mail, which said they raised questions about the “impact this may have had on the objectivity and neutrality of the inquiry itself”.

There is no suggestion that Lord Justice Leveson has any links to any of the organisations or that he has been anything other than impartial.

In 2006 Sir David, the former chairman of the Financial Times, and his friend Julia Middleton founded the Media Standards Trust, a charity which campaigns for “quality, transparency and accountability in news”.

It spawned Hacked Off, the lobby group leading the campaign against phone-hacking, which successfully argued for a widening of the remit of the Leveson Inquiry to include the conduct of politicians, the police and mobile phone companies.

Hacked Off also successfully lobbied for the Leveson Inquiry to investigate failures of Data Protection laws.

Ironically, in 2009 the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that Common Purpose, formerly chaired by Sir David and founded by Miss Middleton, was “unlikely to have complied with provisions in the Data Protection Act 1998 on processing data”.

It had circulated a list of 18 people to public bodies around the country warning that the people named should be treated as “vexatious” because they had lodged Freedom of Information Act requests about Common Purpose’s activities, in particular the amount government departments were spending on its courses.

Because the list circulated by Common Purpose could “contain their name, and if known, also their address and/or phone number”, Common Purpose had “probably breached” the Data Protection Act, the ICO said.

Common Purpose clients include Government departments, which spent more than £1 million sending people on its courses over a few years, the BBC, which spent £126,000 over five years, and police forces.

Two other Leveson assessors, the former Ofcom chairman Lord Currie and the former West Midlands Police chief constable Sir Paul Scott-Lee, have indirect links to Common Purpose.

During Lord Currie’s time at Ofcom, the regulator sent staff on Common Purpose courses. Two of the people who served on the board of directors with him have also been involved with either Hacked Off or the Media Standards Trust.

West Midlands Police sent 27 officers on Common Purpose courses under Sir Paul’s leadership.

Common Purpose says its courses give participants “the inspiration, knowledge and connections to help them become more active and engaged in society”.

Critics have described it as a “modern version of the freemasons’ handshake” and “the Left’s version of the old boys’ network”.

Philip Davies MP, a member of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said Sir David’s connections “raise questions about his suitability to be on the [Leveson] panel and whether he can be relied upon to give an objective analysis and recommendations”.

Lord Justice Leveson is due to publish his report into media standards at the end of this month or early next month.

A spokesman for the Leveson Inquiry said all six assessors had been asked to declare any potential conflicts of interest before they were appointed and discussed their answers with Lord Justice Leveson.

“He was satisfied that there was nothing in their disclosures which caused him concern or justified any of them not taking up their role,” the spokesman added.

Sir David was unavailable for comment.

· Scotland Yard investigating 142 complaints of computer hacking, Leveson Inquiry told

16 Nov 2012

· Bureau Editor expected to stand down over Newsnight scandal

12 Nov 2012

· Press chief: bolster rules, but keep MPs out of regulation

12 Nov 2012

· A free press is in the public interest

09 Nov 2012

· Media regulator 'must be independent'

09 Nov 2012


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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.11.12 0:38


Daily Mail 'dossier' isn't all dross

Exposing the networks, motives and activities of the ruling elite is a worthy thing, but that must include the media as well

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Michael White, Friday 16 November 2012 12.23 GMT

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Picture: Lord Justice Leveson (right) and Sir David Bell, who is at the heart of the Daily Mail investigation. Photograph: Getty Images

Let me invite you to share an intriguing tactical dilemma. As Lord Justice Leveson prepares to unveil his proposals for dragging Britain's boisterous press out of the last chance saloon should we follow the conciliatory instincts of Rupert Murdoch, or the more combative instincts of Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Dail Mail?

In reading Friday's vintage edition of the Mail my instinct was to recoil from such carnage as Dacre has unleashed against what he detects to be a clandestine plot by a network of sinister lefties to undermine the free press, all orchestrated by a woman I've never heard of. Is that wise, I wondered ? Will it make Leveson even more judgmental?

In contrast, according to Private Eye, which is usually pretty accurate about Fleet Street newspapers (including, alas, my own), Murdoch has let it be known that he doesn't want to provoke Leveson at this stage, knowing that News International is in for an unavoidable caning over the phone-hacking saga.

Far from beating up the BBC over the Jimmy Savile (and later Lord McAlpine) fiasco, Times journalists were, says the Eye, told by their suits to go easy on the corporation. If true, that is remarkable, as all Murdoch outlets have battered the Beeb on any excuse for as long as I can remember. Murdoch considers it to be a flabby, lefty monopoly which has an unfair advantage by way of the licence fee. It is not that his record suggests hostility to exploitative monopoly, only other people's.

I read the Mail's onslaught in full – page one and 10 pages inside – and pondered. The ostensible main target is Sir David Bell, a media grandee from Pearsons (publishers of the FT, the Economist and much else) of whom you are unlikely to have heard – here's his CV on Wikipedia. Bell is one of Leveson's press advisers, but is also central to the wider network in the Mail's sights.

It's a good read, all about the networking activities of Julia Middleton, founder of a high-minded body called Common Purpose – and a stream of other bodies, including the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off – in the context of the Leveson inquiry. All the same I couldn't help thinking as I read it that the analysis itself is a bit of a conspiracy. Delete "Common Purpose" throughout and insert "Jew", "Etonian" or "Freemason" and you'd rightly feel uneasy.

This is what it boils down to. Common Purpose is a leadership development organisation with global reach and, I don't doubt, oozing with good intentions. It gives training and insights to all sorts of people in the public service – from local authorities to the police and BBC executives. It's a non-profit organisation (aren't they all) but charges serious money, much of which comes from the taxpayer.

The Media Standards Trust (MST) is also high-minded and devoted to raising the ethical and other aspects of the British media's often baleful performance. Hacked Off is an MST offshoot which campaigns on phone hacking. There are links with OfCom, the statutory media (mostly TV) regulator, and – via Bell who is a trustee – with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BiJ) which helped Newsnight libel McAlpine.

Here's an account of Common Purpose's inception from Robert Peston, BBC News's business editor, writing in the New Statesman in 2005. And here's a Peston video, questioning who really rules Britain. Peston is an interesting case in this context. He is the son of a Labour peer, very well-connected, but doing his best via a campaign to broaden access to the world of Oxbridge via lectures and talks in state schools.

The way the Mail puts it, this amounts to a "giant octopus" whose tentacles reach into every cranny of establishment life – a leftwing counterpoint to the traditional Tory establishment, the kind of network which saw the Etonian David Cameron put the Etonian Justin Welby into Lambeth Palace as archbishop last week.

You may think the old establishment deserves a counterweight. So would I, though the old establishment is not what it was, even 50 years ago. I was struck when Tony Blair came to power in 1997 how obvious it was that he didn't know much about the levers of power, who exercised them or how. Peter Mandelson – who features in the Mail's giant octopus – is a natural networker who probably feels the Cameroons should be making a much better job of government than they are, given the social advantages they started with.

Lefties always feel left out. They're always trying to overthrow the establishment, real or imagined, but never succeed. The definition of a successful revolution? "When the Etonians change sides."

Bell is a good Mail target because he's highly visible in the octopus as a former Social Democrat party member and ex-chairman of Pearsons with links to other quango-crats named by the paper. He and Middleton helped set up the MST and he's embarrassed by the BiJ's failure – it's located at City University whose journalism school is close to these kind of networks. The London School of Economics, the BBC, the Met police can all boast Common Purpose "alumni" – the 35,000 people who have done its courses.

I must say I knew little or nothing about this and was uneasy about it. But where the Mail's investigator Richard Pendelbury got my attention was over the way Common Purpose responded to inquiries about its operation and specifically to Freedom of Information requests about Whitehall's expenditure (£1m over several years) on its courses.

Common Purpose sent a "blacklist" around the system warning public bodies to treat such inquirers as "vexatious", according to the Mail. In doing so they breached information commissioner rules on data protection by revealing the private addresses and phone numbers of the individuals concerned (including a chap called Michael White, who is not me). It was a "genuine mistake", Common Purpose later conceded.

I don't know the full facts. The Mail is pretty thorough on jobs like this but makes errors like everyone else. It can also be pretty mendacious towards public figures it doesn't like – Tory as well as Labour, bankers as well as trade unionists, I hasten to stress. Dacre is rich and powerful, but sees himself as an outsider from the provinces (that's why he persisted in liking Gordon Brown).

What I do know is that anti-establishment bodies should be as much fair game for accountability as those of the old establishment, which have been targeted by reformers for decades. In her book Beyond Authority, Middleton – as quoted by the Mail – writes cheerfully of using "charm and flattery" to place a "conventional useful idiot" into a job which would be a "perfect smokescreen" for a chum's agenda. Such tactics need watching.

Will Leveson think so too? I hope so. I thought his advisory panel was unwisely chosen at the time – no tabloid representation for one thing – but I did not know about its Common Purpose links. Here's hoping he will take note, though establishments – old or new – don't seem to have much trouble making a mess of life's hard choices.

Two thousands years ago the Roman historian Juvenal posed the eternal question: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?". Who will guard the Guardians? Good question. It applies to Leveson and Common Purpose – but also to the Mail.


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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Bob Southgate on 17.11.12 0:52

Anything published in the Daily Heil should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Their accuracy is questionable at the best of times.
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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.11.12 1:02

@Bob Southgate wrote:Anything published in the Daily Heil should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Their accuracy is questionable at the best of times.
I probably take rather a different point of view from you, Bob, on the Daily Mail, which contrary to all other British newspapers has mostly been able to increase its circulation over the past few years, and has often won the 'Newspaper of the Year' award. It's sometimes forgotten that the Daily Mail led the campaign to ensure that the killers of Stephen Lawrence were convicted and punished - and that Daily Mail readers raised enough money (I was one of the contributors) for a private prosecution to be brought against the evil Omagh bombers.

But I concede it doesn't always get things right.

But, Bob, leaving all that aside, and unlike David Rose who also writes for the Mail, Richard Pendlebury who wrote these dossiers is an esteemed investigative journalist who has won a number of awards for his craft, and can be trusted.

And what we read in these dossiers is material we should all be aware of.


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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Bob Southgate on 17.11.12 1:11


I have seen them get it worng more often than they get it right. Their reports attacking the police service, especially in relation to the pay freezes, theft of pensions and other changes in service conditions have been disgraceful and I am of the opinion they have been used by Cameron and May to deliberately try and undermine the service to weaken the negotiating position of the Police Federation by publishing news stories of questionable accuracy.My wife works for the NHS and has seen a similar trend there.
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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Ribisl on 17.11.12 9:58

@Tony Bennett wrote:
@Bob Southgate wrote:Anything published in the Daily Heil should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Their accuracy is questionable at the best of times.
I probably take rather a different point of view from you, Bob, on the Daily Mail, which contrary to all other British newspapers has mostly been able to increase its circulation over the past few years, and has often won the 'Newspaper of the Year' award. It's sometimes forgotten that the Daily Mail led the campaign to ensure that the killers of Stephen Lawrence were convicted and punished - and that Daily Mail readers raised enough money (I was one of the contributors) for a private prosecution to be brought against the evil Omagh bombers.

But I concede it doesn't always get things right.

But, Bob, leaving all that aside, and unlike David Rose who also writes for the Mail, Richard Pendlebury who wrote these dossiers is an esteemed investigative journalist who has won a number of awards for his craft, and can be trusted.

And what we read in these dossiers is material we should all be aware of.
Thank you for collating these articles here, Tony. It's very interesting indeed as we wait for Leveson report to come out. I am no fan of the Mail or Dacre either, but Richard Pendlebury in one of the best we have in the field of investigative journalism and I tend to trust his findings. Rather predictably, the name BP keeps cropping up everywhere, doesn't it?

BTW I remember Hari from the early days of The Independent. I always used to skip his article because I found him both arrogant and vain.

There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies... Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad


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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by Guest on 17.11.12 11:14

If the Mail wants press freedom, it must stop waging war on journalism

The Daily Mail wants to crush the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. But who has taken the flak for its own lapses?

The Mail has done its best to portray the bureau, which has Leveson adviser Sir David Bell (left with Lord Justice Leveson) as one of its trustees, as part of a masonic-style, leftwing, entryist conspiracy to destroy the British press. Photograph: Getty Images

The Daily Mail tells us that it believes in press freedom. A free press, it says, is vital in holding the powerful to account. Anything that restricted the ability of the press to do that job would be bad. Hear hear.

But does the Mail believe in journalism? You have to wonder. It is currently pausing for breath in a campaign whose aim appears to be to curb, shrink and humble the BBC and to shut down Newsnight altogether. And while it pauses it is clearly trying to crush the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Reporting the aftermath of the McAlpine affair, the Mail has made the absolute most of the Bureau's difficulties, and has given particular prominence to a call from a Tory backbencher for funders to withdraw support from it. The paper has also done its best to portray the bureau, which has Leveson adviser Sir David Bell as one of its trustees, as part of a masonic-style, leftwing, entryist conspiracy to destroy the British press.

The bureau is in fact a tiny outfit housed in two or three rooms on the edge of London's City University. It is a brave and innovative attempt to breathe life into investigative journalism in Britain at a time when many newspapers and broadcasters have cut back on it. Investigative journalism is expensive and even some of the very profitable national papers begrudge the cost, but it's also the case that only investigative journalism, only the long-term, slow and complicated stuff, can really get to the well-hidden secrets of the powerful.

Not only does the bureau do this work (look for example what it has done on the covert US drone war in Pakistan and Afghanistan) but it is also a nursery for young reporters. It routinely gives journalism students not only at City University but also at others a taste of this challenging work.

But the Mail clearly wants to close it down. For the past few days, as the BBC scandal has calmed, it has piled in on the bureau with all the contempt and aggression it can muster. It is well known that the bureau's funding is fragile and a campaign of this kind, the Mail is well aware, could be ruinous. And if the bureau goes out of business, who benefits? Well, in the past it has targeted corrupt lobbyists, parliamentarians, local authorities, quangos, dictatorial regimes, corporations, EU officials and other institutions. They will benefit.

The Mail is after the bureau because it made an awful mistake, in association with Newsnight – a mistake it has investigated, for which it apologised, and for which the boss and a reporter have lost their jobs. That mistake was a very grave libel against an innocent man.

All journalists make mistakes. It is inevitable. All we can do is try very hard to avoid them and when they occur own up and do the right thing. The right thing means taking responsibility, being open and doing everything possible to ensure it does not happen again. That's what the BBC did, and that is what the bureau is doing.

It is not, apparently, what happens at the Daily Mail. To take one notable sequence, the Daily Mail in 2006 was one of the papers that libelled Robert Murat in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Murat's lawyer said papers had shown a "reckless disregard for truth". Nobody resigned from the Mail, there was no transparent investigation into what went wrong, and no lessons were learned. Likewise, the Mail libelled Christopher Jefferies, the Bristol teacher wrongly arrested in the Joanna Yeates. No resignations, no investigation, no lessons.

Only last month the Mail was in trouble again, fined after being successfully prosecuted by the attorney-general alongside the Daily Mirror for contempt of court in a case which caused a judge to dismiss a jury as it was considering a child abduction verdict. We have yet to hear of resignations, transparent investigations or lessons learned.

The Mail wants others to take responsibility, but is that what the Mail does? It wants press freedom, but it also seems to be trying to kill off journalistic outlets that are important to our democracy.

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Re: Disturbing questions over Leveson's key adviser: 2. DAILY MAIL dossier PARTS 1, 2 & 3 and commentary in Telegraph and Guardian

Post by ShuBob on 17.11.12 13:08

Thanks Candyfloss.

I think that's a pretty decent article. It's a shame that someone writing about the accuracy or otherwise about another publication cannot himself get his facts right. It was in 2007 not 2006 that the Mail and others started their defamation of Murat.


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