Leveson Inquiry: Lord Mandelson denies deal with Rupert Murdoch

 

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown may have grown "closer than was wise" to
Rupert Murdoch, former Labour cabinet minister Lord Mandelson
acknowledged today.

The former business secretary denied there had been any "Faustian" pact between Labour and the media baron.

But, in evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Lord Mandelson said the amount of personal contact between the two prime ministers and Mr Murdoch led to "adverse" comment.

He suggested the same was true of current Prime Minister, David Cameron, and other Conservative leaders.

"As far as the Labour Party is concerned, I do not believe, generally speaking, that the public interest was subordinated to the party's interests in seeking good relations with News International," he said in his written evidence.

"I reject the view that, under either Mr Blair or Mr Brown, some sort of Faustian pact was forged between the government and Rupert Murdoch involving commercial concessions to him in return for support from his newspapers."

He claimed that "the contrary" was the case.

But he went on: "It is also arguably the case, however, that personal relationships between Mr Blair, Mr Brown and Rupert Murdoch became closer than was wise in view of the adverse inference drawn from the number of meetings and contacts they had.

"The same, I am sure, can be said for Mr Cameron and, no doubt, his predecessors."

Lord Mandelson said Mr Blair sought to "reassure" The Sun over issues like Europe to put to rest the "famously bad relationship" between News International and Labour in the 1980s and early 1990s.

"What we all wanted to do in the 1990s, should we ever have any hope of winning a general election again - and by that time we had lost three or four - we didn't want to make permanent enemies of News International," he told the inquiry.

"Dialogues were opened" with journalists, editors and executives, "including the proprietor", Lord Mandelson said.

He added: "I don't think that's unreasonable.

"I was hopeful, I suppose, that if we started turning things around and looked like winners, he (Murdoch) might be more attracted to supporting the Labour Party but I also think that being a man who is very interested in politics and policy, that he might have needed some reassurance from the Labour Party about how genuine the changes that we had undergone were and the changes in policies that we had made.

"If we were likely to win the election and he and the management team had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at us to stop us being elected, that he might think that was commercially not a brilliant thing to do."

He said the party "wanted his support, or didn't want the same degree of trenchant opposition that we experienced from them before".

But he added: "It did not mean that we were prepared to make concessions to his commercial interests that might enable us to curry favour and draw him over the line in supporting us".

Lord Mandelson said that as a "notorious pro-European" he was uncomfortable with the concessions made to The Sun over that issue.

He said: "I felt that the concessions we were making in that policy area, at least in rhetoric and tone, was perhaps going a tad too far."

Former culture secretary Tessa Jowell disclosed earlier that she sought an assurance from Mr Blair that he had made no deal with Mr Murdoch on media regulation when she was appointed to the job.

Ms Jowell said the then prime minister promised her in June 2001 there was "no prior agreement" with the media baron.

Her role involved responsibility for the reforms that became the Communications Act, which relaxed the rules on cross-media ownership in way that critics felt could benefit Mr Murdoch's News Corporation.

"I asked him (Mr Blair) whether any deal had been done with Rupert Murdoch on the reform of cross media ownership," she said.

"He gave me an absolute assurance, which I completely accepted, that there had been no prior agreement.

"So I had no constraint on the conclusion I might reach."

Ms Jowell said she had urged Mr Blair not to see the interested parties so that her decision-making would not be undermined by direct lobbying of Number 10.

"I wanted to make sure that the meetings I had, the proposals I developed, were not being undermined by representations being made directly to Number 10, and the Prime Minister understood the risks of that," she said.

She said that she "invited lobbying" on the reforms by a wide range of media companies and other interested parties, and said she had more than 150 meetings.

"I don't think there was more lobbying from News International than other media groups," she said.

Ms Jowell insisted there had been no "negotiation" with the company over possible media reforms and that she had not discussed with Mr Blair their impact on Labour's relationship with the Murdoch empire.

PA

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Digital Marketing Assistant

£17 - 27k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Marketing Assistant to join ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering