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Friday, May 11, 2012 

A liar or an idiot.

Apart from the new email showing further proof of the closeness between Jeremy Hunt and Fred Michel, the most crucial piece of evidence given by Rebekah Brooks today at the Leveson inquiry was that she didn't believe her publishing of the details of sex offenders in the News of the World in the aftermath of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Payne would lead to reprisals. There are only two conclusions you can draw from such apparent insouciance: either Brooks is a liar, or she's an idiot. Her entire campaign was designed to force politicians to do something, and she and her staff knew that the precise way to do that was to get into the public domain information that would almost certainly lead, if not to vigilante action, than at the very least abuse and protests against those named. She perhaps didn't anticipate a paediatrician being targeted by mistake, but she absolutely knew what she was doing.

It's through this prism that you have to view the rest of her evidence, which was mostly mind-numbing in the extreme. Despite the fact she has been close to the last three prime ministers, we're meant to believe that this was all down to sheer friendliness on her part. Yes, obviously they thought they could get something by almost drawing her into their inner circle, but never once did she compromise her position as a journalist and never once did they compromise their position as a politician through their relationship.

Thankfully, Robert Jay was on far better form today than he was against the stonewalling Andy Coulson yesterday. He also seemed far better briefed. Brooks had to deny, unconvincingly, that she had variously demanded that Downing Street order a reopening of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, else Theresa May would be appearing on the front page of the Sun every day until they did; that she did not, as widely reported, tell Andy Coulson that the Sun would not support the Conservatives until Dominic Grieve was moved from his job as shadow home secretary, having had the temerity to say to Brooks's face the Sun's coverage of crime and the Human Rights Act was hysterical; and that she did not in a phone call to Ed Balls demand the sacking of Sharon Shoesmith following the Baby Peter case, else they would "turn this thing on him".

Funny, isn't it, that there all these stories, all apparently untrue, about Brooks using her power and influence to demand things of politicians and yet she didn't believe there was anything inappropriate about the level of contact between the then editor of the biggest selling newspaper in the country and those making the law. She also didn't believe that politicians were trying to get to Rupert through contact with her, which is just about as obtuse as her evidence got. It was fascinating to learn though that David Cameron spoke to her repeatedly about the phone hacking accusations against the Screws, and yet he apparently never spoke to Andy Coulson about it. Very strange.

In spite then of how apparently little they discussed the BSkyB bid, which Brooks knew of two months before it was announced (it just so happens that it was almost in line with the Tories coming to power), it was mostly just Tories who commiserated with her when she was forced into resigning. It was done indirectly, naturally, and some of the reported words are not exact, but it is true that Cameron more or less said that he was sorry he couldn't show her the same loyalty she had shown him, as Ed Miliband had him on the run. He needn't have been concerned. Brooks today was loyalty personified. One suspects however that it won't save her from a short stretch in either Styal or Holloway.

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