Kelvin MacKenzie address in full to Leveson Inquiry, 12 October, 2011, followed by analysis on the Roy Greenslade Guardian blog.


So where is David Cameron today? Where is our great Prime Minister who ordered this ludicrous inquiry?

After all, the only reason we are all here is due to one man's action; Cameron's obsessive arse kissing over the years of Rupert MurdochTony Blair was pretty good, as was Brown. But Cameron was the Daddy.

Such was his obsession with what newspapers said about him (and Rupert had three market leaders) that as party leader he issued all his senior colleagues, especiallyMichael Gove, with knee pads in order to protect their blue trousers when they genuflected in front of the Special Sun.

Cameron wanted Rupert onside as he believed, quite wrongly in my view, that The Sun's endorsement would help him to victory (when the paper did come out for Cameron the Sun's sale fell by 40,000 copies that day).

There was never a party, a breakfast, a lunch, a cuppa or a drink that Cameron&Co would not turn up to in force if The Great Man or his handmaiden Rebekah Brookswas there. There was always a queue to kiss their rings. It was gut wrenching.

An American with a disdain for Britain, running a declining industry in terms of sales, profitability and influence, was considered more important than a meeting with any captain of industry no matter how big their workforce or balance sheet.

Cameron had clearly gone quite potty. And the final proof that he was certifiable was his hiring of my friend Andy Coulson.

I remember telling anybody who would listen that if I were Brown, every time Cameron stood up in the Commons he should arrange for mobile phones to ring on his side of the House.

It would have killed Cameron. Nobody took me seriously. And then the phone hacking scandal erupted. Not a scandal of Rupert's making but the order went out from Cameron: stop the arse kissing and start the arse kicking.

Not a backward glance from Cameron to a bloke he had so assiduously wooed for almost a decade. Simply, how can I - a ho-hum Tory leader who couldn't even win a general election in a recession against a turnip like Brown - avoid any fallout from the phone hacking?

And the answer is this bloody inquiry chaired by Lord Leveson.

God help me that free speech comes down to the thought process of a judge who couldn't win when prosecuting counsel against Ken Dodd for tax evasion and more recently robbing the Christmas Island veterans of a substantial pay-off for being told to simply turn away from nuclear test blasts in the Fifties. It's that bad.

I have been forced by what sounds like the threat of a jail term to give a witness statement to this inquiry.

The questions not only made me laugh through their ignorance but also that a subject as serious as free speech should be dealt with in this manner.

Question seven basically wanted to know if an editor knew the sources of many of the stories. To be frank, I didn't bother during my 13 years with one important exception. With this particular story I got in the news editor, the legal director, the two reporters covering it and the source himself on a Friday afternoon.

We spent two hours going through the story and I decided that it was true and we should publish it on Monday. It caused a worldwide sensation. And four months later The Sun was forced to pay out a record £1million libel damages to Elton John for wholly untrue rent boy allegations. So much for checking a story. I never did it again. Basically my view was that if it sounded right it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in.

How will this inquiry change that? Question six also deals with sources and I disclosed another story that happened during my 13 years as editor of The Sun. That morning we had led on a Ministry of Defence story revealing some kind of secret we felt our readers should know.

The reporter concerned came in and said there was problem. No10 had gone nuts and an official inquiry was starting into who had leaked the story with a colonel from MI6 being drafted in to head it. The reporter told me the MoD were determined to get to the bottom of it but it was not all bad news. Why was that I asked.

Because the colonel heading the inquiry was the bloke who gave us the story in the first place. How will this inquiry change that? Yes there was criminal cancer at the News of The World. Yes, there were editorial and management errors as the extent of the cancer began to be revealed. But why do we need an inquiry of this kind?

There are plenty of laws to cover what went on. After all, 16 people have already been arrested and my bet is that the number may well go to 30 once police officers are rounded up. Almost certainly they will face conspiracy laws, corruption laws, false accounting laws. There are plenty of laws that may have been broken. Lord Leveson knows them all by heart.

Supposing these arrests didn't come from the newspaper business. Supposing they were baggage handlers atHeathrow nicking from luggage, or staff at Primark carrying out a VAT swindle, or more likely, a bunch or lawyers involved in a mortgage fraud. Would such an inquiry have ever been set up? Of course not.

This is the way in which our Prime Minister is hopeful he can escape his own personal lack of judgment. He knows, and Andy knows, that he should never have been hired into the heart of government. I don't blame Andy for taking the job. I do blame Cameron for offering it.

It was clearly a gesture of political friendship aimed over Andy's head to Rupert Murdoch. If it wasn't that then Cameron is a bloody idiot. A couple of phone calls from Central Office people would have told him that there was a bad smell hanging around the News of the World.

Rupert told me an incredible story. He was in his New York office on the day that The Sun decided to endorse Cameron for the next election. That day was important to Brown as his speech to the party faithful at the Labour Party conference would have been heavily reported in the papers.

Of course the endorsement blew Brown's speech off the front page. That night a furious Brown called Murdoch and in Rupert's words: "Roared at me for 20 minutes." At the end Brown said: "You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company." That endorsement on that day was a terrible error.

I can't believe it was Rupert's idea. Strangely, he is quite a cautious man. Whoever made that decision should hang their head in shame. I point the finger at a management mixture of Rebekah and James Murdoch.

The point of my anecdotes is to show that this inquiry should decide there is nothing wrong with the press, that we should enshrine free speech in Cameron's planned Bill of Rights and accept the scandal was simply a moment in time when low-grade criminality took over a newspaper.

If anything, the only recommendation that should be put forward by Leveson is one banning by law over- ambitious and under-talented politicians from giving house room to proprietors who are seeking commercial gain from their contacts. In tabloid terms, arse kissing will be illegal. Should have an interesting passage through Parliament.

Do that and you will have my blessing - and I suspect the blessing from Rupert Murdoch, too.

Roy Greenslade blog 1:

(Mackenzie) does not only believe in free speech as some kind of intellectual notion. He lives it, breathes it and loves nothing better than to exercise it to the full.

He has been doing that ever since I first met him in 1981, when he hired me as his assistant editor at The Sun. He went on doing it through our five years as colleagues and he has done it ever since.

MacKenzie is something of a one-off, someone who is prepared to tell truth to power without any regard for the sensibilities of those he disregards.

He proved that in spades with his rumbustious contribution to theLeveson inquiry seminar, using the platform in order to pour scorn on the prime minister and the man heading the inquiry itself, Lord Justice Leveson.

He threw a bomb into the inquiry, questioning its very existence and providing some typically forthright character readings of politicians, his particular bêtes noire.

Yes, he is something of a court jester, the media's rogue elephant. But there was a clear, logical theme to his knockabout speech.

He cannot see how the News of the World's misbehaviour, though gross and indefensible, should have led to the need for a judicial inquiry.

In so doing, he was echoing the man who now employs him as a columnist, the Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.

But MacKenzie was far ruder than Dacre, calling into question Leveson's legal skills while condemning David Cameron for having demanded the setting up of the inquiry.

Famously, MacKenzie once told another Tory prime minister, John Major, that he was about to tip a bucket of shit over his head.

Cameron got several buckets full, from the opening moment of MacKenzie's speech and on throughout a lengthy diatribe, replete with eye-popping anecdotes.

He had the attention of the audience from his opening statement: "Where is our great prime minister who ordered this ludicrous inquiry?"

In time-honoured Kelvin fashion, he didn't hold back, talking of "Cameron's obsessive arse-kissing" of Rupert Murdoch.

Along the way, he showed a lack of love for Rebekah Brooks, the recently departed News International chief executive who was once his boss when he wrote a column for The Sun.

He described her as Murdoch's handmaiden, and there are few people within Wapping who would disagree with that. No-one else, however, has said it in public.

But she was treated only to a sideswipe. His main target was Cameron, saying he had gone potty, proved by his hiring against advice of Andy Coulson.

That prompted an anecdote about having suggested that Gordon Brownshould have discombobulated Cameron by attacking him over the phone hacking scandal.

He turned briefly on Leveson, calling into question his abilities as a barrister before returning to Cameron's decision to hire Coulson, calling the prime minister "a bloody idiot" for doing so.

Then came yet another astonishing MacKenzie anecdote, related to him by Murdoch:

"Rupert... was in his New York office on the day that The Sun decided to endorse Cameron for the next election.

That day was important to Brown as his speech to the party faithful at the Labour party conference would have been heavily reported in the papers.

Of course the endorsement blew Brown's speech off the front page. That night a furious Brown called Murdoch and in Rupert's words, 'roared at me for 20 minutes.'

At the end Brown said, 'You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company.' That endorsement on that day was a terrible error."

I have a feeling we'll hear more about that. But I just wonder whether the Leveson inquiry will dare to hear from Kelvin again.

If they call him again, they'll need to be wearing hats. He has plenty more buckets where today's came from. 

Roy Greenslade blog 2: 

Paul Dacre, it transpires, may only be the warm-up act today for Kelvin MacKenzie. The Daily Mail columnist and former Sun editor launched a full-frontal assault on both the Leveson inquiry and David Cameron.

According to a final draft of his speech released this afternoon to the Evening Standard, he will begin by asking: "Where is our great prime minister who ordered this ludicrous inquiry?"

He says: "The only reason we are all here is due to one man's action – Cameron's obsessive arse-kissing over the years of Rupert Murdoch. Tony Blair was pretty good, as was [Gordon] Brown. But Cameron was the daddy."

After sarcastically accusing Cameron and his colleagues, "especially Michael Gove", of genuflecting before Murdoch, he turns on Rebekah Brooks.

He makes it clear he had little time for the recently departed News International chief executive, and his former colleague, who he describes as Murdoch's handmaiden.

He says: "Cameron had clearly gone quite potty. And the final proof that he was certifiable was his hiring of my friend Andy Coulson."

That is followed by an amazing anecdote:

"I remember telling anybody who would listen that if I were Brown, every time Cameron stood up in the Commons he should arrange for mobile phones to ring on his side of the House.

It would have killed Cameron. Nobody took me seriously. And then the phone-hacking scandal erupted. Not a scandal of Rupert's making but the order went out from Cameron: stop the arse kissing and start the arse kicking."

MacKenzie, warming to his theme, claims that Cameron had since distanced himself from Murdoch, "a bloke he had so assiduously wooed for almost a decade".

Now, he said, we have "this bloody inquiry chaired by Lord Leveson". And then it is Leveson's turn to feel what it's like to be on the end of a MacKenzie diatribe. He says:

"God help me that free speech comes down to the thought process of a judge who couldn't win when prosecuting counsel against Ken Dodd for tax evasion and more recently robbing the Christmas Island veterans of a substantial pay-off for being told to simply turn away from nuclear test blasts in the 50s. It's that bad."

He claims: "I have been forced by what sounds like the threat of a jail term to give a witness statement to this inquiry.

"The questions not only made me laugh through their ignorance but also that a subject as serious as free speech should be dealt with in this manner."

He says one question wanted to know if an editor knew the sources of the stories he published and relayed an anecdote about the occasion when he ran a scoop – which turned out to be false – about Elton John. He says:

"With this particular story I got in the news editor, the legal director, the two reporters covering it and the source himself on a Friday afternoon.

We spent two hours going through the story and I decided that it was true and we should publish it on Monday. It caused a worldwide sensation.

And four months later the Sun was forced to pay out record £1m libel damages to Elton John for wholly untrue rent-boy allegations.

So much for checking a story. I never did it again. Basically my view was that if it sounded right it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in."

He concedes that "there was criminal cancer at the News of The World" along with editorial and management errors, but says he does not think the Leveson inquiry is necessary.

"There are plenty of laws to cover what went on," he says. "After all, 16 people have already been arrested."

He says he views the inquiry as a way for Cameron to escape his own personal lack of judgment in hiring Coulson.

"It was clearly a gesture of political friendship aimed over Andy's head to Rupert Murdoch," MacKenzie says. "If it wasn't that then Cameron is a bloody idiot. A couple of phone calls from Central Office people would have told him that there was a bad smell hanging around the News of the World."

Then comes yet another astonishing anecdote:

"Rupert told me an incredible story. He was in his New York office on the day that The Sun decided to endorse Cameron for the next election.

That day was important to Brown as his speech to the party faithful at the Labour party conference would have been heavily reported in the papers.

Of course the endorsement blew Brown's speech off the front page. That night a furious Brown called Murdoch and in Rupert's words, 'roared at me for 20 minutes'.

At the end Brown said, 'You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company.' That endorsement on that day was a terrible error."

He says: "The point of my anecdotes is to show that this inquiry should decide there is nothing wrong with the press, that we should enshrine free speech in Cameron's planned bill of rights and accept that the scandal was simply a moment in time when low-grade criminality took over a newspaper."

And he concludes:

"If anything, the only recommendation that should be put forward by Leveson is one banning by law over-ambitious and under-talented politicians from giving house room to proprietors who are seeking commercial gain from their contacts.

In tabloid terms, arse-kissing will be illegal. Should have an interesting passage through parliament.

Do that and you will have my blessing – and I suspect the blessing from Rupert Murdoch, too." 

johnkdale@msn.com