Levy leaks are a wash out - Press Gazette

Levy leaks are a wash out

Lord Levy is not the only one angry about the constant “leaks” to the media which dominated the cash-for-honours affair for 16 months. After the Crown Prosecution Service announced on 20 July that not a single person would face charges, some Fleet Street executives are positively seething.

For months, their hacks had pedalled stories from an array of alleged “sources” within the CPS, the police and Whitehall who appeared only too happy to finger the likely suspects ‒ all of whom had protested their innocence. Axegrinder feels duty-bound to recall some of their frenzied tales ‒ with a gentle suggestion they might want to find some alternative sources in future.

8 JULY: Just days before the CPS decision not to haul anyone into court, the Independent on Sunday’s political editor Marie Woolf reveals that “close aides of Tony Blair” have confided that Lord Levy “will be charged”.

8 JULY: Tony Blair will be exonerated, but “three others will end up in the dock”, according to News of the World political editor Ian Kirby. He predicts that No 10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell, government relations boss Ruth Turner and political secretary John McTernan will be charged, but only Turner “will face trial”.

The story is a major U-turn on Kirby’s revelation of 3 June when he assured readers that Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken MacDonald “privately thinks” the police case against Powell and McTernan is “too weak to press charges”.

Confusingly, that story was a U-turn on Kirby’s verdict on 22 April when Kirby discloses that Powell “could face jail” because he is “one of FIVE people police have recommended for prosecution”.

7 JULY: Prosecutors are on the brink of bringing charges, says the Daily Mail’s Kirsty Walker. This means “some of Tony Blair’s closest former aides could face court proceedings within weeks”.

30 JUNE: The Mail has an exclusive from political hack Jane Merrick: “Two of Tony Blair’s most trusted former aides (Lord Levy and Ruth Turner) are set to be charged over the cash-for-honours affair, it can be revealed today.”

15 JUNE: A complex twist emerges via the Mail on Sunday. Apparently, Ruth Turner “is expected to be compelled to testify against Lord Levy, but “only if he is charged”.

23 APRIL: The Evening Standard reveals that “speculation is already rife that the Met’s file contains sufficient evidence to support the prosecution of Lord Levy and Ms Turner”. The paper’s “source” is quoted with the breaking news that charges are imminent. “It will be six weeks topside,” discloses the badly misinformed mole.

22 APRIL: The Sunday Times’s pairing of Robert Winnett and David Leppard appears to have a belter: “Scotland Yard detectives believe they have amassed sufficient evidence for Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister’s most senior aide, to be charged over an alleged cover-up in the cash for honours scandal.”

The “potentially disastrous” revelation, according to the intrepid duo, comes from “well-placed Whitehall sources”. It would appear that even finding two sources with the same info is no guarantee of accuracy. Still, that doesn’t stop The Sun’s political team and The Daily Mirror’s deputy political editor Bob Roberts running the story the next day.

21 APRIL: “A file demanding the prosecution of Labour fundraiser Lord Levy, Downing Street aide Ruth Turner and millionaire Sir Christopher Evans was handed to the Crown Prosecution Service,” reveals the Daily Mail’s crime writer Stephen Wright.

12 MARCH: The Evening Standard’s deputy political editor Paul Waugh is another with a nark who is far from a know-it-all. The “complete police file on the cash for peerages affair is to be passed to prosecutors within days”, affirms Waugh. The plan is to give the CPS “the chance to lay charges as soon as possible”. Waugh’s ill-informed source says: “We want a quick turnaround.” In fact, it is more than four months before the CPS makes a decision.

7 MARCH: At the Daily Telegraph, an excited Andrew Pierce appears to have resorted to the style of an airport thriller as shares his knowledge of the affair: “On Saturday evening a man and a woman in trench coats were spotted at the head of the queue waiting for the Sunday newspapers to arrive. Were they ministers’ protection officers? Or undercover police officers waiting to see if their latest leaks had made the press?”

6 FEBRUARY: Rajeev Syal, Peter Riddell and Philip Webster at The Times are confident charges are on the way ‒ or so they are told by a top source: “According to a senior source, police believe that they now have evidence to recommend charges against three people and have sent files to the CPS.”