Disturbing questions over Leveson’s key adviser, Sir David Bell and ‘Common Purpose’: Special Investigation into a central figure in the McAlpine scandal and judicial inquiry into the press- Sir David Bell’s suitability as senior adviser to Leveson Inquiry under scrutiny - Sir David is a trustee of the tarnished Bureau of Investigative Journalism - BIJ behind the disgraced Newsnight probe that implicated Lord McAlpine
By Micheal Seamark and Sam Greenhill Mail OnlineSir David Bell is on the six-strong panel of assessors assisting Lord Justice Leveson, whose report into press standards is expected within weeks. But a Daily Mail investigation has uncovered evidence that questions both his suitability as an adviser and the impact this may have had on the objectivity and neutrality of the Inquiry. Sir David is a trustee of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the group behind the disastrous Newsnight report that falsely implicated Lord McAlpine as a paedophile. With his lawyers preparing to sue the BIJ for damages, the former Tory Party treasurer yesterday described the devastating impact on him of the programme that has left the BBC in crisis, with the resignation of its director general. The 70-year-old spoke of how the shattering allegations had consigned him ‘to the lowest circle of hell’ and said it had made him ‘a figure of public hatred’. The BBC last night agreed to pay Lord McAlpine £185,000 plus legal costs. This was followed by a grudging apology from the BIJ, which read: ‘The bureau’s trustees apologise to Lord McAlpine for the extent to which its contribution to the Newsnight broadcast on 2 November fell short of the high standards it expects and for any incorrect speculation about the identity of the politician that may have been encouraged by the bureau managing editor’s tweet in advance of the broadcast.’ At the Leveson Inquiry, the BIJ, which bragged it was the gold standard of investigative journalism, proposed a media levy that would force newspapers to fund groups such as itself. As well as the bureau, Sir David is co-founder of the Media Standards Trust, the lobby group behind a huge amount of evidence presented to the Leveson inquiry. The Trust, which Sir David chaired until recently, subsequently spawned Hacked Off – the campaign group demanding press reform fronted by actor Hugh Grant and comedian Steve Coogan – which has boasted of its role in considerably expanding the Inquiry’s original remit. Sir David’s friend and Trust co-founder is Julia Middleton with whom he heads an organisation called Common Purpose which receives millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money from public servants sent on ‘leadership’ training courses. It is described as the Left’s answer to the old boys’ network. Two more of Leveson’s panel of advisers, ex-Ofcom chairman Lord Currie and Sir Paul Scott-Lee, ex-chief constable of West Midlands Police, have indirect connections with Common Purpose. The Mail investigation has uncovered an incestuous network of political, business and financial links between Sir David, ex-chairman of the Financial Times, and individuals and organisations appearing before the Inquiry to demand statutory press regulation. It reveals:
- Many of the witnesses who provided the most hostile anti-press evidence to Leveson are linked to senior figures at Hacked Off and the Media Standards Trust;
- Significant funding for the Trust comes from a charitable trust of which Sir David is a trustee;
- The Trust has links with Ofcom, the statutory media regulator which some suspect has ambitions to regulate Britain’s free press;
- Despite being formed by the Trust, which is campaigning for ‘transparency and accountability in the news’, Hacked Off refuses to detail the source of its own funding;
- The ‘prestigious’ Trust-administered Orwell Prize for political writing was handed to a journalist who turned out to have made up his ‘award-winning’ articles;
- Common Purpose is ‘likely’ to have breached the Data Protection Act – the charge levelled at the Leveson Inquiry against virtually all newspapers;
- It has strong links with powerful and controversial lobby and PR groups;
- Common Purpose ‘leaders’ have had a significant influence on the appointments process in Whitehall.
- What a very small world: Why are so many figures in the Leveson Inquiry connected to New Labour’s favourite media quango Ofcom?
- A coup by the Left’s old boy network: The Leveson Inquiry has momentous implications for free speech. But this Mail dossier raises disturbing questions about the influence of a quasi-masonic nexus of the ‘people who know best’
- Solved, the mystery of the money chest: How David Bell sits on the charity bankrolling his own campaign