A former head of the Metropolitan Police believes David Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry to take the “heat” away from himself and the Government.
Sir Paul Stephenson is quoted in the latest extract of Call Me Dave, a biography of David Cameron which is being serialised in the Daily Mail.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up by Cameron in July 2011 following the closure of the News of the World and public outrage over the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone.
Cameron was under intense pressure at the time over his decision to employ former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his spokesman and over his close links to News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.
Stephenson resigned from his post at the Met on 18 July as a result of questions raised over the Met’s links with News International.
Stephenson is quoted today in the Daily Mail talking of the decision to set up the Leveson Inquiry.
He says: "I think they deliberately spread it wider to try to take the flak away from the decision to employ Coulson. I think there was a very strong agenda there to spread the heat around.”
The Leveson Report was published in November 2012 and called for a system of press regulation underpinned by statute.
Politicians agreed to impose this system via a Royal Charter, and supporting legislation, in March 2013.
That system is now in place and means that publishers who are not members of a regulator which is approved by the Royal Charter-backed Press Recognition Panel could face paying both sides costs in libel and privacy court cases even if they win.
According to the Daily Mail, authors Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott believe Cameron was inspired to set up the Leveson Inquiry by Rebekah Brooks:
The authors suggest the PM may have got the idea for holding a wide-ranging inquiry into the entire media from Mrs Brooks, who was urging fellow newspaper executives to join a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’
She was said by one newspaper insider to be ‘desperate to have anything that would spread the NoTW virus into the whole of the rest of the industry.
The idea was dismissed out of hand by other newspaper editors and executives – most of whose publications had nothing to do with phone hacking.
But the book, based on hundreds of interviews with senior figures, says: ‘One person at least appeared to take inspiration from it: David Cameron.
‘Under constant attack for employing former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications director, the Prime Minister – as he privately admitted later – felt that Labour had him “on the run”.
He desperately needed to regain the initiative, and Brooks’ “truth and reconciliation commission” seemed the ideal device.
The Mail notes that after the Leveson Report was published after cabinet minister Oliver Letwin was given the job of acting on it and brokering a deal on a new system of press regulation.
He reportedly told a room full of editors: “I don’t why I am doing this. I hate journalists, I hate all journalists.”