Monday 18 December 2017

Alastair Campbell: Cherie Blair’s pregnancy could have been leaked by phone hacking

Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications and Strategy to Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives at the High Court in London to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry today. Photo: PA
Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications and Strategy to Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives at the High Court in London to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry today. Photo: PA
Cherie Blair. Photo: Getty Images

Ellen Branagh and Sam Marsden

ALASTAIR Campbell sent drafts of his Leveson Inquiry witness statement to lawyers, journalists and former political colleagues before it was leaked by a blogger, he said today.

Tony Blair's former communications director said the document published online by Paul Staines, who blogs under the name Guido Fawkes and is based in Dublin, was an early version.

Mr Campbell said he was confident that none of the people he copied the statement to would have passed it on to Mr Staines.

He told the inquiry into press standards: "I sent various drafts at various stages to different people who were helping me - lawyers, three people in the media and my former colleagues in politics...

"I have not yet been able to check to whom I sent the draft that has appeared.

"I am confident that none of the people that I sent it to would ever have given it to Mr Staines, or indeed to anybody else.

"But he got hold of an earlier draft, which is why I am pleased now to be able to publish the final version."

The leak of Mr Campbell's draft witness statement on Sunday prompted inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson to make an order banning advance publication of documents submitted to his team.

Lord Justice Leveson also summoned Mr Staines, who claimed to have obtained the statement by "legal means", to give evidence to the inquiry tomorrow about how he got hold of the document.

Responding to Mr Campbell's comments today, Mr Staines wrote on Twitter: "On weekend Alastair Campbell said he was 'shocked' that someone had leaked it... after he gave it to three journalists. Shocking, shocking."

The final draft of Mr Campbell's statement was posted on the Leveson Inquiry website today.

The former No 10 communications chief said he believed a story about Cherie Blair's pregnancy printed by the Daily Mirror in 1999 could have been obtained by phone hacking.

He admitted that he had "no evidence" that journalists intercepted the voicemails of either Mrs Blair or her lifestyle consultant Carole Caplin, but queried the source of a number of articles about the former prime minister's wife.

"I do not know if her (Ms Caplin's) phone was hacked, or if Cherie's was, but knowing what we do now about hacking and the extent of it, I think it is at least possible this is how the stories got out," he said in the statement.

"They often involved details of where Cherie was going, the kind of thing routinely discussed on phones when planning visits, private as well as public.

"I have also never understood how the Daily Mirror learned of Cherie's pregnancy. As I recall it, at the time only a tiny number of people in Downing Street knew that she was pregnant.

"I have heard all sorts of stories as to how the information got out, but none of them strike me as credible."

Mr Campbell said he became suspicious that his own phone might have been hacked following a meeting with former Labour culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

"We set up the meeting via mobile phone, rather than through our offices. When we arrived at my house, where we had arranged to meet, a photographer was outside," he said in the statement.

Mr Campbell said his medical records were kept at the home of his former GP rather than in the surgery because of fears that the media would try to obtain them.

On other occasions, his bank and telephone company informed him that someone pretending to be him had attempted to "blag" access to his accounts.

"I have no way of knowing if this was a journalist or private detective working for one," he said.

Mr Campbell added: "I am aware of private information about Gordon Brown which was revealed through blagging.

"I have a close friend, a public figure not in politics, whose medical records were secured by a journalist through blagging."

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