Cameron can't recall News Corp talks but all were 'appropriate'

 

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The Independent Online

David Cameron yesterday claimed he had no recollection of more than 20 key events and conversations going to the heart of his Government's relationship with the Murdoch empire.

During more than five hours of questioning at the Leveson Inquiry, Mr Cameron repeatedly said he couldn't remember or recall discussions he had had over phone hacking, the BSkyB takeover or the appointment of Andy Coulson as his communications chief.

But the Prime Minister did insist that at no stage was there a "covert or overt" deal with News International in return for their political support, despite his close personal relationship with both Mr Coulson and the News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks.

The Prime Minister's aides insisted afterwards that he had not tried to evade the inquiry's questions but had not wanted to comment on oath on events in the past that he genuinely could not remember. "He is only human," they said.

But in a fresh embarrassment, a text message was released by the inquiry illustrating the extraordinary close relationship that was built up between Mr Cameron and Ms Brooks when the Tories were in opposition.

In the message, sent shortly after The Sun came out in support of the Tories, Ms Brooks told Mr Cameron, "we're definitely in this together" – a phrase which he later used to characterise how the country should deal with the financial crisis.

Ms Brooks also described herself as a "proud friend" who was "so rooting for you" ahead of Mr Cameron's key conference speech, and suggested catching up for a "country supper". She ended her email with a phrase which later appeared in a Sun editorial: "Speech of your life? Yes he Cam."

Asked to explain the message, Mr Cameron told Lord Justice Leveson: "The Sun wanted to make sure it was helping the Conservative Party put its best foot forward with the policies we were announcing, the speech I was making. That's what that means."

He went on: "We were friends. But professionally, me as leader of the Conservative Party, her in newspapers, we were going to be pushing the same political agenda."

As part of his evidence, Mr Cameron admitted he met Ms Brooks 19 times, James Murdoch 15 times and Rupert Murdoch 10 times just while he was in opposition. In addition, he said he met Ms Brooks around once every six weeks in Oxfordshire, where they both had homes.

But he insisted that on no occasion did they have inappropriate discussions and there had been no substantive talks about News Corp's bid for BSkyB, either with Ms Brooks or James Murdoch.

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