Gordon Brown claimed today that records released by the Cabinet Office confirm his repeated denials that he phoned Rupert Murdoch to declare “war” on the mogul and his media empire.
A trawl of Downing Street telephone records found only one phone call between Mr Brown and Mr Murdoch in the period of late 2009 when the media billionaire claims the then-Prime Minister called to berate him about the decision by The Sun to back the Conservatives and say his government would “make war” on News Corp.
The Leveson Inquiry has heard that the phone call took place within days of The Sun’s announcement, which was made hours after Mr Brown’s party conference speech in September 2009. But the Cabinet Office said today there had been no call that month and the only conversation it had found around that time was on 10 November, when the two men discussed Afghanistan.
Four unnamed officials working in No 10 who listened in on the phone call had supplied statements to the Leveson Inquiry to confirm the content of the call, a Cabinet Office spokesman added. It is common for at least one civil servant to monitor conversations held by the Prime Minister to make a note of what is discussed.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said: “We can confirm that there is a record of only one call between Mr Brown and Rupert Murdoch in the year to March 2010. That call took place on 10 of November 2009. This was followed up by an email from Gordon Brown to Rupert Murdoch on the same day referring to the earlier conversation on Afghanistan.”
Mr Brown, who told the press standards inquiry this week that the conversation described by Mr Murdoch did not take place, said the Cabinet Office findings confirmed his version of events.
In a statement, his office said: “There is no record of a phone call Mr Murdoch claims to have had with Mr Brown around the end of September 2009. There is no record of a call because no call took place.” News Corp declined to comment on the Cabinet Office statement.