Cameron defends Hunt, Coulson – and his Christmas with Murdoch - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Cameron defends Hunt, Coulson – and his Christmas with Murdoch

The Prime Minister's testimony may have contained a number of memory lapses, but what he did recall was revealing

It was the Yuletide dinner that Number 10 did everything it could to keep out of the papers. For weeks after David Cameron had pulled crackers in 2010 with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch – discussing only "briefly" the BSkyB bid – the meal between "friends" was accorded the status of something akin to a state secret.

Yesterday, some 18 months later, the Prime Minister used his appearance before the Leveson Inquiry to finally confirm the Christmas dinner chez Mrs Brooks and the fact, initially denied, that News Corp's bid had been raised in conversation between Mr Cameron and Mr Murdoch at a crucial stage. The meal, first reported by The Independent, was one of a succession of secret encounters between the PM and members of Rupert Murdoch's inner circle laid bare during Mr Cameron's day-long testimony. The other highlights were:

No "inappropriate conversations" over Christmas dinner

The gathering at the Oxfordshire home of Mrs Brooks and husband Charlie on 23 December 2010 came at a particularly sensitive moment in News Corp's ill-fated bid for BSkyB. Business Secretary Vince Cable had been stripped of his role adjudicating the proposal two days earlier after being recorded stating he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch. Mrs Brooks was now a regular fixture in the Camerons' diary. But with the storm clouds gathering over the hacking scandal, Downing Street was reluctant to confirm that Mr Cameron had attended the festive do. Mrs Brooks and James Murdoch only recently confirmed that the subject of the bid, passed to the domain of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, had been raised. Yesterday, Mr Cameron offered his own version, insisting he had had "no inappropriate" conversations about the deal. He said: "We did discuss the BSkyB bid briefly. While I cannot remember the exact words, I believe I said that what Vince Cable had said about News Corp was wrong and I am sure that I would have said that, while I had recused myself from the decision, it would now be dealt with impartially, properly and in the correct way."

Courting The Sun

On 10 September 2009, James Murdoch used an informal drinks with the then Leader of the Opposition to reveal that The Sun would be switching its allegiance back from Labour to the Tories. To add some extra spice, Mr Cameron was told of plans to announce the switch during the Labour Party conference that month. In the event, The Sun's political re-orientation was made public with devastating effect for the eve of then Prime Minister Gordon Brown's main speech.

Taking Andy Coulson to No 10

The decision to hire the former News of the World editor as his director of communications in 2007 was, in Mr Cameron's words, always going to be a "controversial appointment". But the circumstances in which the Conservative leader obtained assurances from Mr Coulson that the phone hacking scandal would not come back to haunt him remain in dispute.

During his evidence to Lord Justice Leveson last month, Mr Coulson said the question of voicemail interception was raised only once by Mr Cameron during his recruitment in a phone call while he was on holiday in Cornwall. Mr Cameron, by contrast, insisted he had put the matter to the tabloid editor in a face-to-face meeting and then raised it at least once more following further revelations about phone hacking in 2009. Mr Cameron denied there was any discrepancy between the accounts, saying that it was clear he had sought assurances that were accepted by a host of institutions, including Scotland Yard.

BSkyB and Jeremy Hunt

The Prime Minister defended his handling of Mr Hunt's appointment to oversee the proposed take-over, denying that it was "some rushed, botched political decision". Mr Cameron told the inquiry that he had been presented with "a situation I didn't want" following the disclosure of Mr Cable's words but insisted that the decision to transfer the BSkyB bid to Mr Hunt had been made with the approval of his two most senior officials and Government lawyers. Mr Cameron said he did not remember a memo sent to him by Mr Hunt in November 2010 expressing support for the BSkyB deal but said subsequent legal advice showed it would not have made any difference.

He said: "So I accept there is controversy, but I think the backing of, as it were, two permanent secretaries and a lawyer is quite a strong state of affairs."

Deal or no deal?

Like George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he gave evidence earlier this week, Mr Cameron was at pains to dismiss as "absolute nonsense" any suggestion senior Conservatives struck a deal with the Murdoch empire to tailor policy to its needs in return for the support of News International's newspapers. In one testy moment, Mr Cameron said: "There weren't nods and winks. They were policies that I produced, that I am very proud of, came from our beliefs, values, my history... and they weren't dictated by anyone else."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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 General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week