Simon Hughes - outed and smeared
So there was only rumour and suspicion: the Super Soaraway Currant Bun didn’t do it, honestly. But those who had worked in and around the Murdoch empire, and who knew a little about The Dark Arts, consistently asserted that the Sun had for some years followed the trail blazed by its former Sunday stablemate. And now has come the confirmation.
The latest revelations concern the outing of then Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes, by the Sun, in 2006 at the time he was running for the party leadership. That outing was set against the 1983 Bermondsey by-election, when Hughes first became an MP: his Labour opponent, Peter Tatchell, had been the target of a viciously homophobic media campaign.
As Byline Investigates has now reported, “In 2006, The Sun had found out phone numbers which the ex-Shadow Home Secretary called frequently, call times and durations … The sensitive data was bought from a notoriously illegal private investigator firm called ELI … ELI (Express Locate International) was a private detective company, which has been linked in other litigation to phone hacking, and which sold illegally-acquired private and personal information to newspapers across Fleet Street”. And the hack who ran the story?
You’ll love this one. “Rupert Murdoch’s top parliamentary journalist Trevor Kavanagh then outed the MP as gay … It is not known whether Kavanagh, who later went onto serve on the press regulator IPSO, knew that the story tip he was working on was derived from an unlawful private detective”. Didn’t he ask where the information came from? Tut tut.
What did she know and when did she know it?
The outcome was all too predictable. “In the middle of a leadership contest in January 2006, Trevor Kavanagh told Mr Hughes that they had obtained private and sensitive data, but did not reveal how … Based on this, the journalist said the paper was going to publish a story that Hughes had engaged in homosexual activities … Hughes ‘believed that with or without his agreement,’ The Sun would publish”. So he co-operated with the paper.
“He felt that ‘he had no choice but to cooperate and this resulted in a front page article on January 26 2006’ … The story ended-up misrepresenting Hughes’ sexual orientation”. The article also notes “The way in which The Sun used the private data to manipulate Hughes into cooperating with the paper has been described by critics as ‘blackmail’”.
So who knew? ”ELI relayed the call data, which included a list of phone numbers called from Mr Hughes’ landline, to The Sun News Desk, which then passed it up the line to Sun bosses. The information was sent first to News Desk Executive James Clothier, who in turn informed his line manager, Head of News Chris Pharo [who] emailed this confidential call data to the Managing Editor Graham Dudman”.
The Sun’s editor at the time it ran Kavanagh’s outing of Hughes was Rebekah Brooks. It seems less than totally credible that she would have been kept out of the loop.
Simon Hughes concluded that “it went right to the top”. I’ll just leave that one there.
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