Carriegate: The Whittingdale Scandal and Press Cover-Up – Byline Times


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Six years prior to now James Cusick revealed how 4 newspaper groups had spiked a scandal involving the then Culture Minister, John Whittingdale. His explicit advisor dealing with the press is now on the centre of 1 different scandal

Carriegate The Whittingdale Scandal and Press Cover Up – Byline Times

Introduction by Peter Jukes

In the sunshine of the weird disappearance of a Sunday Times distinctive by Simon Walters alleging that Boris Johnson, as Foreign Secretary, tried to place in his then-girlfriend Carrie Symonds as his chief of staff in a £100,000 a yr authorities publish, James Cusick’s revelations on the distinctive crowdfunding web six years prior to now regarding the spiking of 4 tales regarding the then Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, have a renewed relevance.

Not solely did this story launch Byline’s mission to indicate the private pursuits of the press after they try and cowl tales from most people, nonetheless Whittingdale’s explicit advisor on the time was moreover Carrie Symonds, now Mrs Johnson. As John Sweeney outlined two years prior to now on Byline Times, she was the official who formulated the evasive eventual press assertion about Whittingdale’s relationship with a dominatrix and spoke to Craig Oliver, head of communications at Number 10, as Oliver reveals in his e-book Unleashing Demons. Once this revelation was lastly out inside the press, a spate of various tales about Whittingdale’s private life emerged – along with allegations he dated the daughter of a former Soviet navy officer.

As I said on the time, the private lifetime of ministers is their very personal affair, till it impinges on their spending of public money, or represents a battle of curiosity. Meanwhile, six years on, the ‘Crisis in British Journalism‘, the systematic corruption and failure of our press to follow the public interest, and the almost complete convergence between the media and political class in Boris Johnson’s administration, stays a clear and present hazard to us all

The Real Whittingdale ScandalCover Up by the Press

By James Cusick. Published on on 10 April 2016

Along with totally different journalists on the Independent newspaper, political correspondent James Cusick spent 5 months investigating why totally different newspapers had shut down a story regarding the custom minister, solely to see his editor shut the investigation down too

The promotion of the earlier chair of the DCMS select committee to Culture Secretary remaining yr signifies that John Whittingdale’s extended relationship with an skilled dominatrix and fetish escort– recognized to predominant nationwide newspaper groups who held once more from publishing any aspect – left him extra and extra open to potential blackmail.

Although there isn’t a suggestion that Whittingdale was explicitly coerced by any of Britain’s newspaper bosses, questions inevitably come up as as as to if issues about publication of components of his private life about influenced his protection choices contained within the Culture division.

As custom secretary, with a brief that options media protection, Whittingdale has a robust have an effect on over press regulation, the mooted privatisation of Channel 4 and above all the long term funds of the BBC.

Whittingdale, in response to 1 Whitehall provide, grew to turn out to be “The culture secretary Rupert Murdoch dreamt of, and the cabinet insider those who fought Brian Leveson’s recommendations prayed they would get.” 

Keeping Whittingdale correct the place he’s, reasonably than ousting him, utterly matches these in Fleet Street who view Leveson as a industrial threat to business-as-usual.

John Whittingdale, MP for MaldonSources in Downing Street say the Prime Minister initially offered the job of Culture Secretary to Boris Johnson. But after the London mayor refused, Cameron, who initially doubted Whittingdale’s suitability, decided as a substitute for current him the job after taking little or no counsel.

More than a yr sooner than the May 2015 election, Number 10, in response to Westminster advisers, knew plenty of the raw aspect newspapers held on Whittingdale’s private life.

This should have rung alarm bells when the prospect of a cabinet job was mooted inside the quick election aftermath. Instead, the hazard was dismissed.

Number 10 was requested this week if Mr Cameron knew his custom secretary had engaged in a relationship with a prostitute, or if John Whittingdale had been open about it to the Prime Minister sooner than he was appointed to the cabinet. 

Whittingdale, in response to 1 Whitehall provide, grew to turn out to be “The culture secretary Rupert Murdoch dreamt of”  

Downing Street said they could be making no contact upon the matter, and as a result of it related to Mr Whittingdale’s private life, it was as a lot as him to comment.

The comparable sequence of detailed questions was put to Mr Whittingdale and his advisers. There was no response.

With Cameron’s fame on the highway over Panama and off-shore funds, and the results of the referendum on Europe wanting faraway from clear, the political risk the PM took in appointing Whittingdale now seems like one different extreme misjudgment.

How Whittingdale reached the place he holds and manages to take care of it, is an uncomfortable chapter that does little for the celebrity of Britain’s press, purported to have cleaned up its act inside the fallout from hacking.

The actuality? The remaining likelihood saloon of press self-regulation, as famously described by David Mellor, has been given a useful make-over on Whittingdale’s supplicant watch.

During a five-month-long investigation at The Independent remaining yr, it was discovered that plenty of newspapers had obtained wind of Whittingdale’s relationship with a dominatrix referred to as Olivia King. There have been rumours that she had connections to the felony underworld, nonetheless they proceed to be as however unsubstantiated.

The paper which mounted the first extreme investigation, and put what sources they’d into uncovering what was thought-about a primary tabloid story, was the Mirror Group’s Sunday People.

In November 2013, the People’s info editor, James Saville, was contacted by a lady who was an on a regular basis provide of profile tales. She offered particulars of Ms King’s widespread job at a London intercourse membership near Earls Court, the London Retreat, the place she was alleged to utilize the title “Mistress Kate”. The paper was suggested Whittingdale and King consider to attend the 2013 MTV Europe Awards collectively on the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam that month. MTV have been said to have paid all the journey and lodge costs with Whittingdale invited on account of he was chair of the DCMS select committee.

A Mirror Group newspaper exposing Whittingdale in 2013 subsequently carried a risk that he would possibly retaliate by way of his committee and start an Inquiry into Mirror Group Online Newspapers

A broadly identified famous person photographer is alleged to have organised a surveillance operation of the couple in Amsterdam and to have subsequently tried to advertise a folio of photos. He initially denied understanding one thing about this. However, he later revised his rationalization, saying the couple may have been adopted, nonetheless that he had nothing to do with it.

Two weeks later the picture desk on the People used Matt Sprake, a photographer working for a day by day shift cost on the paper, to take photographs at a sports activities actions awards ceremony that Whittingdale and King have been anticipated to attend collectively. The main customer on the SportsAid Ball was the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. 

Pictures of Whittingdale and King arriving and leaving collectively, hugging each other as they walked, travelling home on the tube, have been taken. Ms King was moreover adopted the next day, with photographs secretly taken of her exterior the Earls Court membership. A youthful reporter was suggested to research and dig up what he would possibly. Although Saville has subsequently downplayed the significance of Whittingdale as a tabloid aim, the MP was no weird backbencher. He had been Margaret Thatcher’s political secretary and a specific adviser to Norman Tebbit and Leon Brittan.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Department of Culture Media and Sport committee, which Whittingdale chaired, carried out an inquiry into the way in which ahead for the BBC, carried out a chronic and high-profile investigation into phone hacking at Online News International. The committee launched James and Rupert Murdoch to Westminster to answer MP’s questions at a listening to which led to worldwide info safety.  The furore throughout the phone-hacking scandal led to the year-long Leveson Inquiry into the custom, practices and ethics of the press, which concluded in a report by Lord Justice Brian Leveson which helpful unbiased oversight of any new regulator which modified the discredited Press Complaints Commission(PCC). A cross-party settlement, signed by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, endorsed every by a Royal charter-based system, and a set of incentives handed by Parliament. 

However, by October 2013 senior press figures had begun to resist any precise change, stating they won’t be a part of and branded the proposed unbiased Charter oversight of self-regulation “state interference.” Although Whittingdale initially backed the structure and its costs-incentives, his place, on the time the People have been probing his private life, was altering In the Commons that month, he warned the then custom secretary, Maria Miller, that it may very well be “infinitely preferable” to comprehend a system of press regulation that delivered the “objectives” of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, nonetheless which moreover “commanded the support of as many newspapers as possible, rather than none of them”.  Although phone hacking turned out to have been deep and widespread inside Mirror Group Online Newspapers, in October 2013, a yr after civil claims have been first launched, the company was nonetheless vehemently denying in public that there was any disadvantage. It was solely in September 2014 that MGN formally accepted obligation for hacking and commenced paying any compensation to victims. 

Although Whittingdale initially backed the structure and its costs-incentives, his place, on the time the People have been probing his private life, was altering

A Mirror Group newspaper exposing Whittingdale in 2013 subsequently carried a risk that he would possibly retaliate by way of his committee and start an Inquiry into MGN train as they’d completed for Online News Group. That may need proved damaging, embarrasing and expensive for MGN executives. The People, as part of their investigation, did gather potential response to their story. One senior Labour MP says that he was approached by the paper for his views on the allegations nonetheless was “not surprised” to see nothing was printed. Saville said MGN’s authorized professionals did check out the evolving story. But he didn’t understand how extreme up inside the company the implications of the Whittingdale investigation have been talked about. He moreover said he didn’t know for sure if the story had been explored by totally different MGN titles. The remaining end result?  No Mirror paper printed one thing. Paul Vickers 

At the very best of MGN’s licensed chain was Paul Vickers. In 2012 Vickers grew to turn out to be head of the press {{industry}} group that produced proposals to sideline Leveson and lobbied MPs and the federal authorities in opposition to the model new structure. He later chaired the Regulatory Funding Company, the physique that went on to fund and administration the Independent Press Standards Organisation(IPSO).  Those anticipating that the People’s expose would indicate huge bucks for his or her information have been left dissatisfied.

The photographs of Whittingdale and King have been nonetheless onerous foreign exchange inside the tabloid village. Sprake, with Saville and his provide’s permission, now had an firm, FameFlynet, which put the photographs out there in the marketplace. He took them to Fleet Street’s biggest deal-maker, Max Clifford, the now-jailed former king of kiss n’ inform. Conference calls involving the Sun and the Mail on Sunday are alleged to have quickly been organized. 

A doable care for the Sun was explored. The photographs have been confirmed to Dominic Mohan, then the Sun’s editor. No money is alleged to have modified arms. And nothing was printed. Two – most likely three, if the People was not the first – UK nationwide newspapers now had the Whittingdale story and entry to the photographs, within the occasion that they wished them. It was immediate that £20,000 was the value tag. But nonetheless nothing was printed.

In late 2013 Whittingdale was persevering together with his assaults on the BBC, warning the corporate that revelations about six-figure payoffs given the issue of a recent inquiry “more urgency”.  He suggested the Financial Times his committee may very well be every aspect of the BBC, its development, the place of the BBC Trust, and the way in which the corporate was funded. If the threats sounded acquainted, that’s on account of they’d been said sooner than – normally by James Murdoch.

Whittingdale suggested Mosley: “You are a public figure and you know the British press. You know the appetite of the British press for stories of this kind.”

The implied promise that the BBC would have its authority and vitality cut back, was delivered shortly after the Conservative victory on the widespread election. Cameron’s first meeting alongside together with his new custom secretary had one merchandise on the agenda – the BBC. A few MPs who know Whittingdale properly, said he was at events comparatively open about his relationship with Olivia King, nonetheless not open about what she did. He is alleged to have taken her to the river terrace of the Palace of Westminster to look at the 2014 New Year fireworks over the Thames.

Whittingdale had given Max Mosley an moral lecture in 2009 all through a Commons listening to of his select committee. He suggested Mosley: “You are a public figure and you know the British press. You know the appetite of the British press for stories of this kind. Had you not always felt this was a time bomb that sooner or later was going to go off?”  This was notion and suggestion he appeared incapable of using when it obtained right here to his private life.


New information was given to the Mail on Sunday in February 2014 prompted an editorial rethink about how crucial the Whittingdale story was.

A small group of reporters, along with some specialist correspondents, was put collectively by the paper’s editor, Geordie Greig.  According to Mail on Sunday staff, Greig made a transferring speech to the gathered group, saying this was the type of political story that outlined good newspapers, and if the MoS backed off, it had no correct to call itself a newspaper. 

Reporters have been despatched to the village in Essex the place Ms King lives. Neighbours have been spoken to, the ‘Dungeon’ membership in Earls Court was visited, totally different addresses she used have been checked.  The Mail on Sunday operation was described by one journalist as “serious – no holds barred.” Another journalist involved said Whittingdale (or his shut advisers) have been suggested regarding the likelihood of publication and that Downing St had moreover been contacted. No formal response was obtained.

Greig made a transferring speech [and said] if the Mail on Sunday backed off, it had no correct to call itself a newspaper.

Months later, a great buddy of Ms King said Whittingdale had offered his affiliate an assurance that nothing may very well be printed and all she wanted to do was principally “sit tight” and do one crucial issue. He steered that she contact the press watchdog on the prime, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), and demand that the Mail on Sunday disclose what they’d ahead of publication.

The Mail on Sunday authorized professionals obtained a reputation that was, inside the circumstances, unusual. The PCC, led on the time by Tory peer David Hunt, didn’t typically get entangled in tales till after publication. It had no vitality to intervene sooner than tales have been printed, and will solely question news-gathering methods. During the Leveson Inquiry, the press made loads of the need to make it possible for no regulator would possibly impose “prior restraint”. Sir Brian agreed. So this was a marked break with routine protocol. 

Close to the Saturday deadline, with the Whittingdale-King story scheduled as a result of the doorway internet web page, an all-out effort was made to bypass this licensed hurdle: they wished to hunt out King and secure a comment. To Greig’s frustration, she couldn’t be found, and the story was pulled with a promise that the operation would resume the following Tuesday – the first working day of the next week.

Greig merely suggested them the investigation was to stop. No extra rationalization was offered.  

When the small group of journalists returned to the Mail’s Kensington headquarters on the Tuesday they anticipated to redouble their efforts to hint down King. Instead, Greig merely suggested them the investigation was to stop. No extra rationalization was offered.

Over the following couple of days, some Mail on Sunday journalists claimed Greig had been suggested to once more off by Associated Online Newspapers’ editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre. Others said Dacre didn’t need to put down the regulation, that what he wished was embedded inside the DNA of the Mail Group. Another said Greig was merely suggested to drop the Whittingdale investigation by an govt elevated up the Associated Online Newspapers chain. Two years on, nothing important has been printed on Whittingdale’s private life in any Mail title. When The Independent’s editor, Amol Rajan, made a equally abrupt halt to his paper’s private Whittingdale investigation, he too offered no rationalization. It was left to a senior editor at The Independent to say: “We’ve got no choice. We can’t take an asset away from the Mail.”

Throughout 2014 Whittingdale continued to assault the BBC, branding the licence value “worse than the poll tax.” He referred to as the value “unsustainable” and claimed it hit the poor hardest. 

By September 2014 Whittingdale was treating the industry-backed regulator, IPSO, with a extreme diploma of respect. He referred to as one powerful story a “test” of IPSO’s credibility, saying “we need to give IPSO a chance.” By February 2015 the BBC was once more inside the cross-hairs.

A DCMS report questioned the scale and remit of the corporate, suggesting it should be decrease and requested: “What is it [the BBC] there to do?” It objected to the idea of BBC One +1 channel on account of iPlayer was already a catch-up service.  Three months sooner than the election, Whittingdale moreover appeared to know additional regarding the inside workings of press regulatory our our bodies than IPSO’s chairman, Sir Alan Moses. He suggested one committee listening to that he knew Paul Vickers was standing down as chair of IPSO’s industry-funding physique weeks sooner than it was formally launched. Sir Alan responded to Mr Whittingdale’s notion saying “You have news that I do not.” 

One Senior Independent editor said “Whittingdale is the Mail’s asset – we can’t take that away from them.”

By the time The Independent began investigating the the rationale why the Whittingdale-King story had under no circumstances been printed, no matter being recognized to a minimum of three nationwide newspaper groups, the connection had ended and Whittingdale was now inside the cabinet. Key components of the story however required affirmation. Did Whittingdale take Olivia King to Amsterdam and accept the hospitality of MTV? Matt Baker at Viacom International Media Networks [the parent company], confirmed in an e-mail that return flights and lodge lodging had definitely been paid by MTV and that Olivia King had travelled with the then chair of the DCMS select committee. 1655728280 532 Carriegate The Whittingdale Scandal and Press Cover Up – Byline Times

(In subsequent emails Matt Baker confirmed “And yes, the invitation was +1.”) 1655728280 950 Carriegate The Whittingdale Scandal and Press Cover Up – Byline Times1655728280 681 Carriegate The Whittingdale Scandal and Press Cover Up – Byline Times Whittingdale didn’t declare the journey inside the Register of Members Interests. Under the Commons pointers for MPs, if the journey’s costs have been decrease than one % of a gift parliamentary wage (£66,300) he didn’t should. Flights for two from London to Amsterdam, and an in a single day in a glossy lodge might definitely come beneath the £600 mark. But the important rule, notably for members – to not point out the chair – of a extreme profile select committee, is prepared out clearly. It states: “If in doubt, declare it.”  

Asked to elucidate why he didn’t disclose one thing regarding the MTV-Amsterdam go to with Olivia King, Whittingdale has remained silent. There was moreover a clear public curiosity in investigating a politician who was a member of the Cornerstone Group, a bunch of typical conservatives with the motto “Faith, Flag and Family”. That doesn’t sit merely with an MP who liked a relationship with a dominatrix allegedly selling sadomasochistic corporations.

Whittingdale’s file inside the Commons on factors referring to Britain’s intercourse authorized pointers, along with age of consent, sexual offences or prostitution, moreover seen him repeatedly voting in opposition to any higher liberalisation, this whatever the secrets and techniques and strategies of his private non-public life. 

By deciding in opposition to changing into a member of IPSO, along with the Guardian and the Financial Times, The Independent had no obvious motive to help keep Whittingdale as Culture Secretary. Just as a result of it did over phone hacking at Online News International and the Mirror Group, The Independent had always reported exactly any misuse of authority, along with the subservience of the Chancellor, George Osborne, who met Rupert Murdoch in Downing Street sooner than the BBC was suggested it confronted excessive value vary cut-backs.

But as a result of the investigation superior nearer to publication, with the paper’s authorized professionals backing the investigation’s cope with a wider political and industrial cover-up reasonably than merely the aspect of Mr Whittingdale’s non-public liaisons with a prostitute, it grew to turn out to be clear the editor, Amol Rajan, had a problem.  The Independent newspaper, sooner than it was shut down, was housed inside the Mail’s Derry St setting up. It was a tenant of Associated Online Newspapers, relying on their IT corporations, canteen, security, setting up corporations, and totally different capabilities. The on-line mannequin of the paper continues to be run from there. 

In one meeting which talked about the investigation’s progress, it was immediate we might write the story with out naming the Mail on Sunday, or that perhaps the Guardian or the New York Times could be given the story, and a deal organized to verify they went easy on The Independent backing off. One senior editor immediate that wasn’t an environment friendly decision on account of “The Mail know we are doing this and they’ll know we leaked it.” There was no suggestion that the story itself was one factor the paper had moral difficulties with, or was a problem The Independent shouldn’t be shedding time on. The plan to dump it to Guardian or the New York Times immediate type wasn’t an issue and that plenty of public curiosity components – notably Whittingdale’s contradictory moral stance, his voting file inside the Commons, the Mosley lecture, and questions over his payments – all justified publication.]

Amol Rajan had a problem… The Independent was a tenant of Associated Online Newspapers

To full a required licensed issue of the story sooner than publication, it was crucial Olivia King be given the prospect to answer. On October 19 remaining yr “Mistress Kate” was scheduled to work on the London Retreat. Permission was sought from the editor to go to the membership and talk to her. The comparable day Amol Rajan was speaking at a Society of Editors conference. John Whittingdale was speaking on the same event merely sooner than him.  The following day Rajan despatched this e-mail: 1655728280 648 Carriegate The Whittingdale Scandal and Press Cover Up – Byline Times

The “explanation” promised inside the e-mail under no circumstances materialised. Executives above Rajan, at board diploma in IPL (Independent Publishing), knew regarding the selection to complete the investigation. Those exterior the company who requested what had prevented the story exhibiting have been suggested there had merely been a failure to face it up – which wasn’t true. Over the next 5 months, till The Independent lastly stopped printing, no rationalization was offered by Rajan no matter repeated ensures. One senior editor however said it was the “least he could do” to elucidate. He said “Whittingdale is the Mail’s asset – we can’t take that away from them. “ He said it was a “ludicrous situation” to be the Mail’s tenant, together with “But – that’s where we are.”

So three newspaper groups, Mirror Group, Rupert Murdoch’s Online News UK, and the Mail all had vested pursuits in holding Whittingdale in place as a result of the UK’s custom and media secretary. The Independent’s editor and proprietor had their very personal causes. They have been able to bury the Whittingdale story on account of they supposedly feared the wrath of a displeased landlord, or feared being ostracised by an even bigger conservative establishment. Between all of them, they managed to depart John Whittingdale, in response to definitely one in every of his Westminster colleagues, “feeling he must be invincible.”

By stalling indeterminately a important issue of the regulation handed by parliament in 2013, related to the imposition of costs penalties on newspapers who fail to affix a charter-approved regulator, Whittingdale efficiently gave himself an unfettered govt vitality over the press. This was one factor that every one sides at Leveson said should under no circumstances happen. Although victims have complained of betrayal and broken ensures made by David Cameron, Number 10 is in the mean time staying silent and allowing Whittingdale free rein. 

The vitality the Culture minister believes he’s entitled to utilize, higher than any of his predecessors, is reaching elevated proportions. Whittingdale recently immediate he should appoint the members of the BBC Trust, rendering the corporate an environment friendly “government-approved” broadcaster – a state of affairs which could destroy its independence and erode public perception in one in every of many world’s most revered institutions. A dependable question to ask is subsequently: who exactly would revenue from a BBC whose powers and attain have been severely attenuated? He appears to have unilaterally decided to shelve the promised Part II of Leveson.  His causes? None have been forthcoming, 

A dependable question to ask is subsequently: who exactly would revenue from a BBC whose powers and attain have been severely attenuated?  

During a modern meeting with victims of press abuses, Whittingdale was quizzed on why he wished to retain a singular govt vitality that allowed him alone to find out whether or not or not or not he would begin a provision on costs that Parliament had handed into regulation 3 years prior to now.  His options talked about each factor from the Convention on Human Rights, to the exact to freedom of expression. He said he cared “very deeply” regarding the freedom of the press and was concerned regarding the affect of imposed “sanctions” and “penalties” on the newspaper {{industry}}. He said his option to not convey into impression a regulation voted by way of by Parliament, which every he and the Prime Minister had beforehand acknowledged was an crucial incentive, didn’t indicate he wasn’t ready to take motion. He said the uncertainty saved the press “on their toes.”

When Whittingdale spoke to the Society of Editors remaining October he launched he had no quick plans to sign into regulation any new financial penalties. He said he had listened to their issues and would proceed to guage the matter.  The gathered editors and newspaper executives didn’t sound as if they’ve been being saved on their toes. They burst into spontaneous applause.

Read James Cusick’s contact upon this textual content proper right here. 


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