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Ex-Mirror journalist says he was asked to give Coronation Street star flowers containing listening device | UK News

A former Mirror Group journalist has told Sky News that he was asked to give a Coronation Street actress a bunch of flowers bugged with a listening device during a visit to a spa.

Dean Piper, a showbiz reporter at The Mirror in the early 2000s, said he was asked to carry out the task while working for the paper’s sister title, The Sunday People.

However, he said he refused and later decided to leave the paper.

Last week, in a privacy case brought by Prince Harry, a High Court judge found another practice – phone hacking – was carried out by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) from 1996 to 2011.

The judge said hacking was “widespread and habitual” from 1998.

He also found there was “some unlawful activity” – involving the use of private investigators – in 1995.

Britain's Prince Harry walks outside the High Court, in London, Britain March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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Prince Harry, pictured outside the High Court in May

Speaking to the UK Tonight with Sarah Jane Mee about his experience working at MGN, Mr Piper said: “The worst thing I was ever asked – and it was probably ultimately what made me walk from my job at The People – involved Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw.

“She was having a lot of issues in those days, but she was very big news. She was on the front cover all the time.

“I was called over at one point and said that I was going to go to a spa and have a spa break, and I thought: ‘Brilliant’.

“They said you are going to have a bunch of flowers, and we’re going to put a bug in it, and we’re going to deliver it to Tracy Shaw, and we have booked the room right next door to her, and you’re just going to stay up all night and write down everything that’s gone on.”

Mr Piper said he “point-blank refused” the request.

“There were enough whipper-snappers that want to further their career that probably would have taken the flowers, but that wasn’t morally right, and it’s kind of illegal,” he said.

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Prince Harry: The mission continues

‘It was a Voldemort scenario’

Mr Piper was speaking after Prince Harry’s victory in a phone hacking against his former employers.

The judge ruled in the case that phone hacking “remained an important tool in the climate of journalism” at all three MGN papers – the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – from 2006 to 2011.

The judge also ruled that directors at MGN – Paul Vickers and Sly Bailey – knew about phone hacking but did not inform the rest of the board.

Mr Piper said he was aware that people were phone hacking during his time working there, but insisted “not everybody was phone hacking”.

“I’m able to talk about it because I’ve got a completely clear conscience about the fact that I was never involved in it. But there were people at the paper that did phone hacking,” he said.

“There were certain people on each desk – they were usually away from the main throng of the editorial team – we knew what they did, and we knew that their exclusives were coming from the phones.”

Mr Piper compared the topic of hacking to the main villain in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, who is referred to by most characters as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named because of the culture of fear surrounding him.

The ex-reporter said: “It was a ‘Voldemort’ scenario – as far as you didn’t openly talk about it. But everybody knew what was going on.”

Morgan ‘brilliant boss’ but hacking excuse ‘ridiculous’

The judge, Mr Justice Fancourt, said in his ruling that he found it “convincing” that Piers Morgan knew about phone hacking when he was in charge of the Daily Mirror – from 1995 to 2004.

After the judgment, Mr Morgan made a statement outside his London home, in which he said he had “never hacked a phone or told anyone else to hack a phone”.

Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan speaks to the media
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Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan speaks to the media following the ruling

“There is just one article relating to the prince published in The Daily Mirror during my entire nine-year tenure as editor that he [the High Court judge] thinks may have involved some unlawful information gathering,” Mr Morgan said.

“To be clear, I had then and still have zero knowledge of how that particular story was gathered.”

Mr Piper praised Piers Morgan as a “brilliant boss” who was “very supportive”.

But asked about the judgment and Mr Morgan’s defence, Mr Piper said: “I mean, look, if you’re a national newspaper editor, and you’ve got all of this power, and you’re deciding what the narrative is for the Daily Mirror the first thing you’re going to say is, where did that story come from?

“So I find that quite amusing and kind of ridiculous because that’s the first port of call as an editor and as a journalist, you want to know where the story came from.”

Read more:
What were the articles at the centre of the case?
Key findings in the judgment

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Morgan: “I have never hacked a phone”

Mr Piper added: “But there is an open conversation that I feel is important about the way that those newspapers did work in those days.

“And it wasn’t good what they were doing, and it would be nice if people started to get to the point where they accepted some responsibility for what they put people through.”

He continued: “You only have to look at the front pages in those days to realise how many stories were coming from that [phone hacking]. It wasn’t just the odd one, it was endless amounts.”

A spokesperson for Mirror Group said following last week’s judgment: “We welcome the judgment that gives the business the necessary clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago.

“Where historical wrongdoing took place, we apologise unreservedly, have taken full responsibility and paid appropriate compensation.”

Ex-Tory MP Chris Pincher asked to ‘help’ PM by quitting parliament | Politics News

Disgraced ex-MP Chris Pincher was urged by Tory high command to “help the prime minister” by quitting parliament now so the by-election in his Tamworth constituency could be held on the same day as the Mid Bedfordshire poll.

After Mr Pincher formally resigned as an MP following his failed appeal against an eight-week Commons suspension for drunken “groping”, senior Conservative MPs told Sky News they expected the by-election for his seat to take place on 19 October.

That means voters in Tamworth – where Mr Pincher had a 19,634 majority over Labour in 2019 – will go the polls on the same day as those in Mid Beds, where the Tories will defend a 24,664 majority won by Nadine Dorries at the last election.

Politics Hub: ‘Lack of staff’ may have led to prison escape

“That was the plan,” a senior Conservative MP with knowledge of the by-election process told Sky News. “It makes sense to hold both these difficult by-elections on the same day.

“It was pointed out to Chris that as a former deputy chief whip, he would appreciate that it would help the prime minister if he would go now and not prolong the agony by going through a recall petition, which he had no chance of winning, and land us with another by-election further down the road.”

A senior government minister also told Sky News: “We expect Tamworth to be held on 19 October. As the prime minister has said, mid-term by-elections for incumbent governments are always difficult.”

Top Tories, including chief whip Simon Hart and party chairman Greg Hands, wanted both by-elections to be held with a decent interval after the party’s conference – taking place between 1 and 4 October – and to stretch the resources of their Labour and Liberal Democrat opponents.

It’s thought the Conservatives also want to get both polls out of the way quickly because they’re not confident of winning either, given the perception of sleaze that Mr Pincher and Ms Dorries have created for the party and the embattled Rishi Sunak.

Chris Pincher has a large majority when the seat was last up for election in 2019.
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Chris Pincher had a large majority when the seat was last up for election in 2019

Tamworth has been described by political guru Professor Sir John Curtice as a “totemic target” for Labour. That’s because a year before Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide, the party won a spectacular by-election victory in the seat when it was called South East Staffordshire.

The swing then was 22% and this time, a year before an election expected next autumn, Labour needs a 21% swing to win the seat.

It’s a big ask – although in July, Labour achieved a 23.7% swing in Selby and Ainsty, where it only needed an 18% swing for victory.

The Tamworth poll comes after Mr Pincher lost his appeal against a ruling by the Standards Committee of MPs that he “groped” two people at the Tory “holy of holies”, the Carlton Club, on 29 June last year, and was therefore guilty of an abuse of power.

Read more:
Pincher appeal against suspension dismissed by watchdog
Boris Johnson resigns as prime minister

His appeal against the eight-week suspension, which he claimed was “disproportionate”, was rejected by an independent expert panel, meaning he would have faced a recall petition in his constituency, requiring only 10% of voters to call for him to go.

“We consider that the appellant’s arguments are misconceived or erroneous,” the panel concluded as it upheld the Standards Committee’s recommendation. “The sanction is far from being arbitrary or disproportionate.”

Boris Johnson and Chris Pincher
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Mr Pincher was blamed by many for the eventual downfall of Boris Johnson.

The Pincher scandal was one of the “three Ps” that brought down Boris Johnson – the other two being (Owen) Paterson and partygate. Mr Johnson was also said to have remarked to Tory colleagues: “Pincher by name, pincher by nature.”

That was in 2020, after former Olympic rower Alex Story claimed in 2017 that Mr Pincher made an unwanted pass at him when he was a 26-year-old Tory activist back in 2001 “like a pound shop Harvey Weinstein”.

That claim led Mr Pincher to resign as a junior government whip, though he was cleared of wrongdoing by a party investigation. He later served as Europe minister and housing minister.

But given the embarrassment Mr Pincher has caused the Conservative Party, it’s no wonder Tory MPs believe the least he could now was to help the prime minster out.

Former top aide of Queen Elizabeth II to lead new memorial committee – with public asked to submit their ideas | UK News

A former top aide to Queen Elizabeth II is to lead a new committee looking at ways to commemorate the life and service of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

Lord Robin Janvrin, who served as private secretary to the sovereign from 1999 to 2007, will chair the newly established Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee.

The committee will put forward proposals for a permanent memorial for the former monarch, as well as a national legacy programme.

The ideas will centre around Queen Elizabeth II’s public service across her 70-year reign, as well as the causes she supported.

The committee will also engage with the public to bring in ideas and suggestions from across the UK.

Lord Robin Janvrin makes a speech before a Platinum Jubilee beacon is lit at Coutts bank in central London, on day one of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Over 3,000 towns, villages and cities throughout the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Oversea Territories, and each of the capital cities of Commonwealth countries are lighting beacons to mark the Jubilee. Picture date: Thursday June 2, 2022.
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Lord Robin Janvrin. File pic

Previous royal memorials include the statue of King George V opposite the Houses of Parliament and the memorial statue of King George VI on The Mall.

National legacy programmes for previous monarchs include the creation and protection of 506 parks, playing fields and green spaces in honour of King George V, and a bursary for youth leadership training to mark the life of King George VI.

The plans will be unveiled to coincide with what would have been Her Late Majesty’s hundredth birthday year in 2026.

Read more:
The Queen through the years – a life of service in pictures
Tributes to Elizabeth II as King attends Braemar Gathering

The committee will be jointly supported by the Royal Household and the UK government – which will consider funding options as proposals develop.

A range of senior figures and experts will be appointed to develop ideas and bring recommendations to The King and the prime minister.

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Why Meghan and Harry ‘won’t return to the UK’

Lord Janvrin said: “It is an honour to be asked to chair the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee.

“It will be a unique challenge to try to capture for future generations Her Late Majesty’s extraordinary contribution to our national life throughout her very long reign”

Who is Lord Janvrin?

A former Royal Navy officer and later a diplomat, Robin Janvrin is best known for his two decades of service to the Royal Household.

He first joined as the Queen’s press secretary in 1987, later taking on the role of assistant private secretary and then deputy private secretary.

In February 1999, he stepped up to the position of the Queen’s private secretary – the keeper of the sovereign’s official programme and the chief line of communication between monarchs and the governments of the Commonwealth.

He stayed in the role until his retirement in September 2007, after which he was knighted and appointed a life peer.

Since leaving the Royal Household, Lord Janvrin has served as Chairman of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, and a trustee of the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

He stepped down from all three roles in 2016, but remains a member of the British Library Board, a trustee of the Normandy Memorial Trust and Secretary of the Order of Merit.

Lord Janvrin also sits as a crossbencher in the House of Lords.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said: “Queen Elizabeth II was our longest reigning monarch and greatest public servant.

“Lord Janvrin will now begin the important work of designing a fitting tribute to her legacy of service to our nation and the Commonwealth.”

Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been asked to ‘vacate’ Frogmore Cottage, spokesperson says | UK News

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been asked to “vacate” their UK residence, a spokesperson for the couple has said.

Harry and Meghan’s spokesperson said a “request” had been made for them to give up Frogmore Cottage, near Windsor Castle.

The spokesperson said: “We can confirm the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been requested to vacate their residence at Frogmore Cottage.”

Reports have claimed the move, which removes their final remaining foothold in the UK, was sanctioned by the King.

It comes week’s after the Duke of Sussex’s book Spare was released, which revealed deep rifts between him and the rest of the royal family.

Cabinet to be asked to find ‘efficiency savings’ in Whitehall despite Truss promising no cuts | Politics News

Liz Truss’s cabinet is to be asked to find “efficiency savings” in Whitehall budgets, Sky News understands, putting huge pressure on frontline services. 

During the leadership contest, Ms Truss said that she was “not planning public spending reductions”.

Now the Treasury is expected to send out a letter within hours to secretaries of state insisting that departments find savings where possible and live within existing budgets.

This is to reduce the level of government borrowing needed in future, in a bid to calm the market turmoil.

Read more:
No ‘reversal of policy’ on mini-budget and chancellor won’t resign – live politics updates
Bank of England forced to take emergency action
Truss is a ‘danger to the economy’. Starmer says

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Treasury’s financial secretary said the government won’t take responsibility for the financial storm hitting the UK following the chancellor’s mini-budget.

The move comes as Kwasi Kwarteng is putting together a plan to show the markets that he can bring spiralling borrowing under control after the market turmoil.

Double-digit inflation will leave frontline services under huge pressure, but the letter will make clear there is no money left to help ease the situation.

On top of real-term cuts, additional efficiency savings will be demanded by the Treasury putting budgets under the biggest pressure since Theresa May reversed the austerity policy of the Cameron-Osborne years.

Chris Philp, the chief secretary to the Treasury, will send the letter, alongside a second letter from the prime minister outlining her priorities in government.

In July, Ms Truss said: “I’m very clear I’m not planning public spending reductions, what I am planning is public service reforms.

“I’m certainly not talking about public spending cuts, what I’m talking about is raising growth.

“I want people to be able to keep hold of their own money, but we’ll also have more money to spend on our public services over the long term.”