Former Daily Mail Political Editor James Chapman says his boss Paul Dacre vowed to destroy Cameron for holding Fleet Street to account in Public Inquiry into Press Ethics.
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
The Editor of the Daily Mail pursued a vendetta against former Prime Minister David Cameron for holding the Leveson Inquiry, claims James Chapman.
Chapman, who worked for the controversial paper for 17 years, says Dacre vowed to destroy David Cameron in revenge for the ground-breaking 2012 inquiry into the culture of tabloid papers.
Dacre was summoned to give evidence under oath in front of Lord Leveson about his paper’s massive use of unlawful private detectives.
The Daily Mail editor had never been called to account for his actions in a public forum before.
At the Leveson Inquiry, which was set-up after the phone hacking scandal at the News of The World, Dacre was criticised by actor Hugh Grant for publishing stories in the Daily Mail about the birth of his (Grant’s) child, including private information which Grant also alleged must have been obtained illegally.
Grant also speculated that a 2007 Mail On Sunday story (subject at the time to a libel action, which the Mail settled very quickly and generously) about him having late night conversations with a “plummy-voiced” woman may have been the product of phone-hacking.
In response to this Paul Dacre accused him of perjury by describing the claims as “mendacious smears”. This strong attack by Dacre on a witness led to Sir Brian Leveson requiring Dacre to return to be questioned on the matter.
Byline readers will already be familiar with some of Dacre’s testimony at Leveson, relating to the alleged extensive and long-term use of Private Investigators for unlawful data-mining.
Our reporters have revealed how the Daily Mail spent a million pounds on private investigators – while the shadowy industry was being investigated for criminal activity.
The Daily Mail paid ‘blaggers’ to illegally obtain phone billing data on an industrial scale.
The paper also funnelled cash to dodgy private investigator firms and similar middlemen, which went on to pay bribes to police staff for criminal records and civil servants for car registration details.
As political editor, far removed from the showbiz stories of other parts of the paper, Chapman would know little about the use of Private Investigators or other “Dark Arts” involving phones.
He started at the Daily Mail in 1998, becoming its political editor in 2009. Following his career at Associated Newspapers, where his senior role gave him access to editorial conferences, Chapman went on to work, in 2015, for George Osborne when he was Chancellor and then for David Davis the Brexit Secretary.
Chapman told Byline exclusively: ‘The reason that the Daily Mail is so violently against David Cameron is because he is a proper conservative. Whereas George Osborne is a radical liberal, which is why I liked working for him.
‘There are two reasons why Paul Dacre hates David Cameron.
‘The first is because he has a chip on his shoulder about Old Etonians. Which is strange, having sent his two sons there.
‘The second reason is because of the Leveson Inquiry, which David Cameron regrets.
‘Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell always said, ‘never have a public inquiry. Because you lose control. And they lost control with Leveson.
‘Paul Dacre said David Cameron was a c**t because of Leveson. And Dacre said he would never rest until Cameron was destroyed.’
Chapman says he was with Dacre on election night on 7th September 2015 when Cameron was up against the then Labour leader Ed Miliband.
In the run up to the election, the Daily Mail was accused of a dirty tricks campaign after running a series of critical stories about Miliband, including a highly negative story about his late father.
The newspaper headlined an article about academic Ralph Miliband – a Jewish immigrant turned Maxist professor – as ‘The man who hated Britain’.
Ed Miliband branded the slur a ‘lie.’ Dacre’s paper was also accused of being anti-Semitic.
Chapman said: ‘I was there on election night (2015) watching the results come in with Dacre.
‘You’d have thought he would have wanted Cameron to win the election, after we’d run that story about Ed Miliband’s dad. But on election night, I was there, Paul Dacre wasn’t happy when the results came in.
‘That’s when he called Cameron a c**t over Leveson – I heard him.
‘He just wandered off.’
Chapman says that Dacre launched a smear campaign to undermine the Prime Minister after his re-election.
The knocking stories reached a frenzy in September 2015 when the Daily Mail published extracts from a book about Cameron’s life penned by Tory donor Michael Ashcroft and former Sunday Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott.
The most sensational story alleged that Cameron had performed a sex act with a pig’s head as part of an initiation rite to get into a posh secret society at Oxford University where he was an undergraduate.
Chapman said: ‘We (the Daily Mail) serialised that book by Michael Ashcroft.
‘We ran that made-up story from Isabel Oakeshott about David Cameron fucking a pig, which even Oakeshott said wasn’t properly corroborated, at least to a standard that the Sunday Times would have run it.
‘Paul Dacre wanted Cameron damaged.
‘He wanted to bring down Cameron.’
In recent days Chapman has sparred with Oakeshott on Twitter, dubbing her “Isabel Oinkshott”.
When Cameron made the decision to have a referendum on Europe, the Daily Mail attacked him for being a remainer – then turned his guns on anyone who lined themselves with the Europhile cabinet.
Referring to the Daily Mail’s controversial coverage of the EU referendum when on several occasions the paper, after splashing on an anti-EU story, had to publish corrections, albeit buried inside the paper, Chapman said: ‘Then Dacre abused his right to free speech to lie about Brexit.
Chapman gives a vivid example of Dacre’s methods.
‘George Osborne had to work hard to get Christine Lagarde involved in the Brexit debate. She was reluctant to drag the IMF into it. Osborne had to phone her personally. And then, to take her out for dinner afterwards, as a thank you. She agreed to do it. Dacre went for her.’
Sure enough there were a series of articles in Dacre’s papers after the referendum taking a special interest in her fate as she faced charges of financial misconduct in French courts, although she was not convicted of any criminal offence.
‘Mark Carney could be the Prime Minister of Canada,’ Chapman added. ‘He should be, after Trudeau. Instead, he’s over here serving our country in the Bank of England.’
‘During Brexit, Carney was very gentle about it. He said: ‘Brexit isn’t a good idea.’ That’s all he said.
‘That was enough for Paul Dacre, he tried to get him drummed out with the help of Jacob Rees-Mogg.’
Chapman blames Dacre’s unchallenged use of power on a weak system of press regulation.
Until recently, Dacre chaired the industry body, the Editors’ Code Committee, which writes the rules that editors need to follow.
His colleague, former Mail on Sunday editor, Peter Wright is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s Complaints Committee.
Both Dacre and Wright were criticised after the Guardian’s Nick Davies revealed the fact that that the News of the World had hacked the phones of Mail and Mail on Sunday news journalists.
This was back in 2006 when the News of the World was claiming that only “one rogue reporter” – the Royal editor – was involved in hacking. But these journalists had nothing to do with Royal stories.
Neither Dacre nor Wright wrote a word in their papers about what they knew, they did not tell Parliamentary inquiries that the hacking conspiracy went wider and – most remarkably of all – they did not tell the PCC (IPSO’s predecessor) on which they served.
In the years that followed they allowed the PCC to produce two reports backing up the one rogue reporter lie.
‘Self-regulaton of the press has failed’
IPSO’s Board also includes Trevor Kavanagh, the controversial Sun political columnist.
Kavanagh has been criticised for his role in the Hillsborough slur on dead Liverpool fans, a fabricated story which he helped stand up using Whitehall sources. Kavanagh eventually admitted to his role in producing the notorious “Truth” headline.
More recently he wrote a column about migrants which was widely condemned for describing “the Muslim Problem” – language associated with Nazi-style propaganda attacks on the Jews.
Referring to the second half of the Public Inquiry, due to look into the extent of criminality and mismanagement across the newspaper industry, which has been delayed by the Government at the request of Dacre and Murdoch, Chapman added, ‘I support Leveson 2.’
We put these allegations to the Mail, who refused to comment formally for the record but indicated their denial in general terms.
Our investigation continues.
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