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Leveson: Cameron's words of comfort for Rebekah Brooks

By James Tapsfield and Ellen Branagh

Prime Minister David Cameron sent commiserations to Rebekah Brooks after she resigned as News International chief executive over the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry heard today.

Ms Brooks said the indirect messages from the Prime Minister were "along the lines" of "keep your head up" and had also expressed regret that he could not be more loyal in public.

She also received sympathetic messages from other senior figures in 10 and 11 Downing Street, the Home Office, the Foreign Office and some Labour politicians, including Tony Blair.

The glimpse of Ms Brooks's network of high-powered friends and contacts came as she took to the witness box, despite being under investigation by police.

Ms Brooks said she only had access to around six weeks of texts and emails from her time as NI chief executive, from the beginning of June to July 17 last year.

Only one of those emails was relevant to the inquiry, according to her evidence.

One of the text messages had been from Mr Cameron, but the content was compressed and unreadable, she said.

Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, asked Ms Brooks about reports that she had received sympathetic messages after her resignation last July.

"I had some indirect messages from some politicians but nothing direct," she replied.

"A variety - some Tories a couple of Labour politicians. Very few Labour politicians.

"I received some indirect messages from Number 10, Number 11, the Home Office, the Foreign Office..."

She said Tony Blair had been among them but Gordon Brown had not.

"He was probably getting the bunting out," she added, provoking laughter in the courtroom.

Questioned on whether reports were correct that Mr Cameron's message had urged her to "keep your head up", Ms Brooks responded: "Along those lines."

Pressed on whether the premier had also conveyed regret that political circumstances meant he could not be more "loyal", Ms Brooks replied: "Similar, but very indirect."

After she became editor of the Sun, in which she admitted Rupert Murdoch had a hand, she spoke to the mogul "frequently", Mrs Brooks said.

She revealed that the tycoon "liked X Factor", despite arguing for coverage of serious issues over celebrity, and also quashed a rumour that the pair used to swim together when he was in London.

Mrs Brooks also denied that, after she was arrested in 2005 over an alleged assault on her husband, Mr Murdoch sent a dress to the police station where she was being held. She was later released without charge and the police took no further action.

The inquiry heard that former prime minister Tony Blair attended a surprise party thrown for Mrs Brooks by Mr Murdoch, but she said she could not remember whether Mr Cameron was there, though it was possible he was.

She told the inquiry she met Mr Blair in 1995 after he became leader of the Labour Party, and their meetings became more frequent throughout his decade as premier.

They met formally, informally and socially, and often spoke on the telephone, she said, admitting they became "friendly".

But she said there were no emails or texts because "he did not have a mobile phone or in fact I think use a computer when he was prime minister".

In a written statement she said she became close friends with Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie, as well as his spin doctor Alastair Campbell and his partner, Fiona Millar.

Brooks dined with Blair 30 times

Ms Brooks disclosed details of her meetings with senior politicians over more than a decade, although she stressed that they were merely from her secretary's diary and "very incomplete".

She met or dined with Mr Blair at least 30 times between 1998 and 2007, including three times in June 1998.

But Ms Brooks said there were only around three occasions when they dined alone.

After Mr Brown took over as Prime Minister in 2007, they met or dined at least five times including once at the Browns' home.

Ms Brooks recorded one lunch and four dinners with Mr Cameron in 2010, after he had taken power. One was the widely-reported Christmas dinner party at the Brooks' Oxfordshire home on December 23.

'Cameron didn't text me 12 times a day'

Mrs Brooks dismissed reports that Mr Cameron would text her 12 times a day.

"No, thankfully," she said. "I have read this as well, 12 times a day. It is preposterous.

"I would text Mr Cameron, and vice-versa on occasion, like a lot of people. Probably more between January 2010 and maybe during the election campaign.

"He would sign them off DC, in the main. Occasionally he would sign them off 'lol', lots of love. Until I told him it meant 'laugh out loud'."

Asked whether she had discussed the phone-hacking scandal with Mr Cameron between details emerging of pay-offs to victims in July 2009 and her resignation in 2011, Ms Brooks said: "I think on occasion and not very often. So maybe once or twice because the phone-hacking story was sort of a constant or it kept coming up.

"We would bring it up but in the most general terms ... Maybe in 2010 we had a more specific conversation about it."

Pressed for more information on the conversation, Ms Brooks replied: "It was to do with the amount of civil cases coming in around 2010 and we had a conversation about that...

"It was a general discussion about, I think it had been in the news that day and I think I explained the story behind the news."

Asked whether Mr Cameron's interest was related to the position of his then-spin doctor Andy Coulson, Ms Brooks said: "No."

Conversation with Gordon Brown "extraordinarily aggressive"

Mrs Brooks spoke about the Sun's decision to back the Tories at the 2010 General Election, saying she had tried to get hold of Mr Brown at the September 2009 Labour conference the night before the paper was due to declare its support.

"Mr Brown and his wife were due to come to the News International party that night and I wanted to get hold of them," she said.

Mrs Brooks eventually spoke to Lord Mandelson, who seemed "quite angry but not surprised".

She told of an "extraordinarily aggressive" conversation with Mr Brown the following month.

"I remember it quite clearly because it was in response to the Sun splash on a letter that Gordon Brown had written to a bereaved mother whose son had died in Afghanistan.

"He had had some spelling mistakes or got the wrong name or something but the Sun had been particularly harsh to him about it...

"He rang me... it was a private conversation but the tone of it was very aggressive. Quite rightly, he was hurt by the (presentation) and the headline that had been put on the story."

Mrs Brooks said she reassured the then-prime minister that the coverage had been a "mistake", and did not reflect the attitude The Sun would be taking to him.

Mrs Brooks said she was told about the Murdochs' BSkyB takeover bid before the announcement, possibly a "couple of months beforehand", but played no formal role in the transaction.

Asked if she discussed it with Mr Cameron at a dinner in December 2010, she said it was mentioned because it was in the news after Business Secretary Vince Cable was reported promising to "declare war" on Mr Murdoch.

She said she did not remember discussing it with Mr Cameron at a mulled wine and mince pie party at her sister-in-law's house on Boxing Day 2010, and she was not sure if they even spoke that night.

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