Former News UK execs Will Lewis and Guto Harri join team Boris

Former News UK execs Will Lewis and Guto Harri join team Boris

Will Lewis and Guto Harri

Former Telegraph editor Will Lewis has reportedly joined a “brains trust” of new advisers to help UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Ex- Dow Jones chief executive Lewis (pictured, left) is one of two former News Corp staffers to join team Boris. Former News UK director of communications Guto Harri (right) is Johnson’s new director of communications.

Harri was briefly a presenter at GB News but was suspended, and then left the channel, after taking the knee live on air last July. GB News said it was an unacceptable breach of its standards.

Lewis last year launched The News Movement, designed to fight disinformation and deliver trustworthy information to mass audiences on social media, with ex-BBC News editorial director Kamal Ahmed.

A source told The Sunday Times: “Will has been providing advice but will not be taking a formal role.”

The timing of the news led to raised eyebrows among some Sun insiders and victims of Operation Elveden. It came in the same week that Johnson came under fire for saying in the Commons that when Labour leader Keir Starmer was director of public prosecutions he “spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”.

In 2011, Lewis was seconded from his role as general manager of News International to help run the News Corp Management and Standards Committee which decided to share confidential emails revealing journalistic sources to the Met Police.

This prompted police to launch Operation Elveden which saw some 34 journalists arrested and/or charged with many facing years on police bail. None were convicted at trial. More than 30 paid Sun and News of the World sources were convicted, with many sent to jail.

Many former and current Sun and News of the World journalists remain bitterly resentful of what they see as the company’s betrayal of journalistic ethics in order to avoid a corporate prosecution over payments made to public officials for stories.

Starmer was director of public prosecutions from 2008 to 2013 and apologised for the organisation’s failure to prosecute serial sex offender Jimmy Savile.

Starmer was DPP when the first 30 journalists were arrested under Operation Elveden, but he had moved on from his post before cases went to trial.

Quizzed about Elveden by Robert Peston in 2016, Starmer said: “Well most of the prosecutions took place when I ceased to be DPP, I’m not the DPP, I didn’t handle those cases and it’s really not for me to comment on them.

“I obviously have not had anything to do with those cases for three years now so I’m not in a position to comment one way or the other.”

When former Sun journalist Anthony France won his appeal against conviction former culture secretary John Whittingdale told The Sun: “It does seem extraordinary that prosecutions have gone on this length of time and at such a considerable cost, yet resulted in no convictions of journalists.”

Press Gazette asked the Met Police at the time whether it would be apologising over Operation Elveden.

A spokesperson said: “Elveden started as a result of documents voluntarily supplied by News International that revealed payments to police officers and public officials by some journalists.

“This followed revelations of phone-hacking during parliamentary committees and the Leveson Inquiry.

“News International chose to disclose its sources to the MPS and having received what appeared to be prima facie evidence that crimes had been committed, by public officials and potentially by those involved in paying them, we were duty bound to investigate and followed the evidence where it took us without fear or favour.

“Operation Elveden has resulted in 33 convictions, with evidence that over £300,000 was paid to public officials for confidential information they held.”

Right picture: Getty Images

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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette