David Cameron’s links to the Murdoch empire will be on display this week, says Simon Basketter
The Tories are worried about the evidence that was due to be produced this week at the Leveson inquiry. They have demanded that senior ministers be allowed to see evidence from Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson in advance.
Eight government ministers, including the chancellor George Osborne and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, have been granted “core participant” status.
Brooks is former chief executive of News International (NI) and Coulson is David Cameron’s former spin doctor. Both were set to give evidence to the inquiry on Thursday and Friday of this week. Both are ex-editors of the News of the World.
It is possible that the Tories will succeed in getting the text messages and emails of evidence redacted.
Cameron was sending Brooks more than a dozen texts a day before she quit her post at the height of the phone hacking scandal last summer.
He claims not to have been involved in the £8 billion deal for Murdoch to fully buy BskyB. He claims there were no “inappropriate” discussions. Yet Cameron has needed more than six meetings with lawyers to help him prepare for cross-examination at the Leveson Inquiry. He has delayed providing written evidence to the inquiry.
Coulson held shares in News Corporation while he was Cameron’s head of communications.
This was while the government was deciding whether to approve the company’s takeover of BSkyB.
George Osborne told Jeremy Hunt to get close to James Murdoch. Osborne originally recommended Coulson for the spin doctor job.
It is unclear whether Osborne’s attitude had anything to do with the News of the World’s restrained treatment of a photograph of him with a woman working as a prostitute. It shows what appears to be cocaine on the table in front of him.
Although the story made the front page (see left), Coulson wrote an editorial defending Osborne in the same issue.
Osborne met senior NI figures at least ten times in the first 15 months after he became chancellor.
Michael Gove met his most senior former colleagues at NI on at least 12 occasions in his first 15 months as education secretary.
In that period Cameron had more than 30 meetings with senior figures from Murdoch’s media empire.