- Dinnertime takeover chat happened in Cotswold home where Mrs Brooks and her husband were arrested last month over allegations of a phone-hacking cover up
- Prime Minister has never explicitly admitted having the discussions at the Christmas meeting
David Cameron and George Osborne are facing questions about their roles in the controversial BSkyB bid after James Murdoch claimed he had discussed it with both men.
Mr Murdoch said he raised the subject with the Prime Minister during a cosy Christmas dinner at the Cotswolds home of former News International boss Rebekah Brooks.
Downing Street spent months dodging questions about that occasion, which took place on December 23, 2010, two days after Business Secretary Vince Cable had been stripped of responsibility for the bid and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had taken charge.
Cosy relationship: David Cameron and former News International boss Rebekah Brooks together. James Murdoch discussed the BSkyB takeover with the Prime Minister at her dinner
Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, a guest at the dinner as another member of the so-called ‘Chipping Norton set’, insisted: ‘BSkyB was not mentioned. Nor was phone hacking.’
The Prime Minister himself later told Parliament he ‘never had one inappropriate conversation’ with Mr Murdoch and ‘completely took myself out of any decision making about this bid’.
But appearing at the Leveson inquiry yesterday, Mr Murdoch, 41, revealed he had used the Christmas get-together to seek assurances from the PM about News International’s plans to buy BSkyB.
He said he wanted to know that Jeremy Hunt, the new minister overseeing the bid, would be more ‘objective’ than his ‘acutely biased’ predecessor Mr Cable.
Mr Murdoch said he and Mr Cameron discussed the revelation that Mr Cable had been caught privately ‘declaring war’ on the Murdoch empire, a disclosure which meant Mr Hunt being handed responsibility for the bid.
Little chat: Mr Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry that he had a 'tiny, side conversation' with the Prime Minister about the takeover of BskyB ahead of a dinner for up to 15 people at the Chipping Norton home of Mrs Brooks
‘It was a tiny conversation ahead of a dinner where all these people were there, so it wasn’t really a discussion.’
Mr Cameron was accused last year of breaking Parliament’s ministerial code of conduct, which requires ministers to avoid even an appearance of a conflict of interest, by attending the Christmas dinner, a claim which was dismissed.
But for the Prime Minister, the revelations about the Christmas dinner mark an unwelcome return to the subject of his closeness to Mrs Brooks, the former chief executive of News International.
It also has uncomfortable echoes of last month’s ‘horsegate’ saga, in which Mr Cameron was reluctant to admit riding a retired police horse that Mrs Brooks had been loaned by the Metropolitan Police.
He was eventually forced to confess he may have ridden the horse with Mrs Brooks’s racehorse owner husband Charlie, a friend from their Eton days.
Scrutiny of Mr Cameron’s friendships with News International executives is likely to be heightened by another disclosure by Mr Murdoch yesterday – that he personally informed him The Sun would be backing the Conservatives at the next election.
Over drinks at The George Club in London on September 10, 2009, Mr Murdoch said ‘it was made clear to Mr Cameron by me’ that The Sun would be switching allegiance from Labour.
Dinner hosts: Mrs Brooks and her husband hosted the Christmas meal at their home in the Cotswolds
His wife, Kathryn Murdoch, who was sitting in the public gallery along with Mr Murdoch’s brother Lachlan, was overheard saying ‘outrageous’ when this suggestion was put to her husband.
The inquiry heard how James Murdoch had met Mr Cameron a total of 14 times, 12 of them before he became Prime Minister.
There were seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners between June 2006 and May 2009 for what Mr Murdoch said were the purposes of ‘general social conversation’, often with their wives present.
Mr Cameron dined at Mr Murdoch’s London home in September 2009, nine days before The Sun switched allegiance to the Tories, and on November 2 that year, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks joined Mr Cameron for breakfast, to discuss ‘politics’.
The two men have met only twice since Mr Cameron became PM, once at the Christmas dinner and a lunch at Chequers in November 2010. Mr Murdoch said he was ‘curious’ as to Cameron’s views ‘on a variety of topics’ when he met him.
Hacking probe: Rebekah Brooks, pictured with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, was first arrested under Operation Weeting last July
Mr Murdoch told the inquiry yesterday he was also ‘friendly’ with Mr Osborne and had visited the Chancellor’s grace and favour house, Dorneywood in Buckinghamshire, with his family.
CHIPPING NORTON SET: WHO ARE THEY?David Cameron and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie are at the heart of what has become known as the ‘Chipping Norton Set’.
It is made up of powerful political and media figures who have homes in a tiny triangle in one of the most scenic parts of England – the Cotswolds.
The group go to the same house parties, dine together and even ride together.
Key players in the 'set' also include Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and daughter of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Elisabeth who is married to PR fixer Matthew Freud.
They met socially until the phone hacking scandal erupted.
Mr Murdoch said his conversation about the proposed buy-out of the satellite broadcaster with the Chancellor ‘would have just been to be grumpy about it taking a long time and being referred to (regulator) Ofcom, which I was very clear in public about at the same time’.
Last night Labour MP John Mann raised questions about the response from the then Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell – now Lord O’Donnell – to his questions last year about conversations between the Prime Minister and Mr Murdoch regarding the BSkyB bid.
Last July, the MP was told that decisions ‘were at all times taken properly and in accordance with the relevant legislation’.
Lord O’Donnell concluded: ‘The Prime Minister was not the decision maker. Nor did he seek to influence the decisions of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt.
‘The fact that he had meetings with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch last year is a matter of public record.
‘The fact that the Prime Minister was not the decision maker meant that he would not have had to consult me before meeting them.’
But Mr Mann said: ‘The ex-Cabinet Secretary and Prime Minister both face critical questions that must be adequately answered.
‘Why was there no investigation carried out last year into the Prime Minister’s dealings with James Murdoch regarding the BSkyB bid?’
A Downing Street spokesman denied that journalists had been misled last year, insisting it had been right to say Mr Cameron had not been involved in formal discussions about BSkyB.
How Prime Ministers courted media boss James MurdochThese are the meetings James Murdoch held with senior British politicians disclosed by the Leveson Inquiry:
Meetings with David Cameron as leader of the opposition:
June 26 2006 Dinner at Brooks’s Club in London, at which the Conservative leader talked about his ‘vision for the country’ to a group of business executives
Wooing the Murdochs: David Cameron and James Murdoch together in 2007 while the Tory leader was in opposition
April 4 2007 Dinner with Mrs Murdoch and Mrs Cameron.
January 22 2007 Breakfast at the Stafford Hotel in London initiated by Rupert Murdoch. They discussed Mr Cameron’s political views
July 15 2008 Dinner attended by Mr Murdoch and his wife, the Camerons and other couples. The conversation covered ‘general topical subjects, politics’
October 29 2008 Dinner with Mrs Murdoch, Mrs Cameron, William Hague and his wife Ffion
May 5 2009 Lunch also attended by Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie
September 10 2009 Drinks at The George Club in London. Mr Murdoch initiated the meeting to discuss The Sun’s proposed endorsement of the Conservative Party at the upcoming general election
September 21 2009 Dinner at Mr Murdoch’s house in London
November 2 2009 Breakfast also attended by Mrs Brooks
November 19 2009 Dinner also attended by Mrs Brooks and others
January 21 2010 Dinner also attended by Mrs Brooks and Mr Osborne at Mr Murdoch’s house in London. The topic was politics
Meetings with David Cameron as Prime Minister:
November 7 2010 Lunch at the Prime Minister’s country retreat Chequers in Buckinghamshire with other guests
December 23 2010 Dinner with the Camerons and several other couples hosted by Mr and Mrs Brooks. The discussion was ‘mostly social’ but Mr Murdoch and Mr Cameron briefly mentioned Vince Cable’s removal from overseeing News Corp’s BSkyB takeover bid
Contact with Tony Blair as PM:
July 17 2004 Lunch at Chequers, along with his wife and Cherie Blair. The discussion covered ‘general social conversation’
October 7 2005 Conference call which may have related to European Commission proposals for regulating broadcasting rights for English Premier League football
Meetings with Gordon Brown as Prime Minister:
March 10 2008 Dinner at 10 Downing Street with Mrs Murdoch, Mr Brown’s wife Sarah and about 14 other people
December 15 2008 Dinner at 10 Downing Street
January 19 2009 Dinner at 10 Downing Street with Mrs Murdoch and Mrs Brown
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134427/James-Murdoch-DID-discuss-BSKYB-takeover-David-Cameron--Christmas-dinner-Rebekah-Brookss-house.html#ixzz1t24ZY8vr
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
#Leveson : Deceitful Cameron DID discuss BSkyB takeover with James Murdoch.....over a Christmas dinner at Rebekah Brooks's house
Posted by SteelMagnolia at 11:52 PM