- Alastair Campbell: Phone-hacking may have revealed Cherie Blair's pregnancy
- Former Labour Party communications chief urges reform of the 'putrid' press
Alastair Campbell has told of how he believes a story about Cherie Blair's pregnancy published by the Daily Mirror could have been obtained by phone hacking.
The former Labour Party press secretary was giving evidence at hearings at the High Court in London into the standards and behaviour of the media.
Mr Campbell said that Cherie Blair's friend and lifestyle consultant Carole Caplin had contacted him since his draft statement to the inquiry was leaked at the weekend to tell him her phone had been hacked. She suspected this may have been how private information about the Blair family ended up in the newspapers.
"I do not know if her [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," Campbell said in his witness 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."
Along with Mr Campbell, evidence was heard today from former information commissioner's office investigator Alec Owens, and solicitor Mark Lewis.
Alastair Campbell told the inquiry: "Good journalists, who are still in the majority... have nothing to fear.
"The people fighting for the last, last, last chance saloon are the ones who got drunker before. They are terrified of not being able to do the sort of journalism they have been doing for the last decade or so."
Mr Campbell said he believed the press was "frankly putrid in many of its elements". He mentioned one incident when a newspaper reporter called him to say his paper was running a story that he was "fed up" at Downing Street and was going to a job at Manchester United. "I said it was completely untrue," explained Mr Campbell, "and his verbatim quote was: 'I know, but it's a good story'."
Mr Campbell also recalled the Daily Mail reporting that his father's death had had a severe impact on him.
"The only thing was that my father was still alive at the time," he said.
He then rang up Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, who admitted he "didn't have to leg to stand on" and eventually paid a sum of money which was used to provide playground equipment at Mr Campbell's children's school.
Mr Campbell called for the government to introduce a new regulatory system for the press that would be free of any newspaper influence. He said no editor should sit on the new regulatory body and it should produce an annual report with league tables of newspapers' adherence to the code of practice.
He also urged parliament to consider introducing new laws barring anyone not UK tax registered from owning a paper. This would prevent Rupert Murdoch from owning News International.
Later in the day, the inquiry heard from Alec Owens, a former police officer. Mr Owens was a lead investigator at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) when it conducted Operation Motorman, a 2003 investigation into the use of illegally-obtained information by newspapers.
Mr Owens revealed that Francis Aldhouse, former deputy head of the UK's data protection authority, had declined to pursue newspapers over the illegal purchase of confidential information.
He explained that Mr Aldhouse had told him the media groups were "too big" for the ICO to take on.
But Mr Owens had urged Mr Aldhouse and the then information commissioner Richard Thomas to investigate the press. "I said, 'we can go for everybody from the blagger right up to the newspaper'.
At which point there was a look of horror on Mr Aldhouse's face, and he said, 'we can't take them on, they're too big for us'."