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Alastair Campbell slams 'putrid' press at Leveson inquiry

The former Downing Street communications chief gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking today.

Alastair Campbell arrives at the Leveson Inquiry today
Alastair Campbell arrives at the Leveson Inquiry today
Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, TONY Blair’s former spin doctor, told a media ethics inquiry set up in the wake of the hacking scandal that a minority of journalists had turned the country’s press “putrid” and tarnished the whole industry.

Campbell said journalists such as those who hacked phones for the News of the World tabloid had “besmirched the name” of almost every other reporter in the country.

“A very, very small number of people have completely changed the newspaper industry,” said Campbell, who is credited with running a sophisticated — and manipulative — media operation when he worked for the then-prime minister at 10 Downing Street between 1997 and 2003.

“We have a press that has just become frankly putrid in many of its elements,” Campbell said, criticising the “inhumane treatment” meted out to celebrities and ordinary people alike by newspapers in relentless pursuit of exclusives.

(via telegraphtv)

Campbell was giving evidence to Judge Brian Leveson’s inquiry, which was established to examine media ethics and practices and recommend changes to Britain’s system of media self-regulation.

Cherie Blair

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry in response to the scandal that began with the exposure of illegal eavesdropping by the News of the World.

Murdoch shut down the tabloid in July after evidence emerged that it had accessed the mobile phone voice mails of celebrities, politicians and even crime victims in its search for scoops.

Campbell said police had told him details about him and his domestic partner were included in the notes of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who worked for the News of the World and was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking.

In a written witness statement, Campbell said he suspected the phone of Blair’s wife, Cherie, had been hacked — although he acknowledged he had no proof.

He said stories about her “often involved details of where Cherie was going, the kind of thing routinely discussed on phones when planning visits, private as well as public.”

He said phone hacking could explain how the Daily Mirror learned that Cherie Blair was pregnant in 1999.

Tip off

“As I recall it, at the time only a tiny number of people in Downing Street knew that she was pregnant,” Campbell said. “I have heard all sorts of stories as to how the information got out, but none of them strike me as credible.”

Campbell told the inquiry he had accused Cherie Blair’s adviser Carole Caplin of tipping off the press about Cherie Blair’s whereabouts. Caplin has since been told by police her phone may have been hacked.

Campbell said he had apologised to Caplin for blaming her.

More than a dozen current and former News of the World journalists and editors have been arrested, and two top London police officers and several senior Murdoch executives have resigned over the still-unfolding hacking scandal.

Police said they had made a new arrest, a 31-year-old woman detained in northern England on Wednesday.

Her name was not disclosed, although media including Sky News — which is 39 percent owned by Murdoch’s News Corp — identified her as a former News of the World reporter.

The only people charged with crimes so far are Mulcaire and former News of the World reporter Clive Goodman, who were jailed in 2007 for hacking into the voicemails of royal aides.

Read: TheJournal.ie‘s full coverage of the Leveson Inquiry

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