David Cameron 'too close to media', says ex-civil service chief Gus O'Donnell

 

David Cameron did become too cosy with the media, the former head of Britain's civil service said yesterday.

Gus O'Donnell, the recently retired Cabinet Secretary and a former press secretary for John Major, made the tacit criticism of the Prime Minister while appearing at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

Lord O'Donnell, who served under three prime ministers – Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Mr Cameron – said: "I think the Prime Minister himself, the current Prime Minister, has said that he felt his relationships had got too close, and I agree with that."

After the phone-hacking affair erupted last July, Mr Cameron admitted that he and other politicians had allowed themselves to get "too close" to media proprietors and editors – but he stressed that he had been in contact with a wide range of media organisations, not just Rupert Murdoch's.

Lord O'Donnell said that members of opposition parties should have a different relationship with journalists than Government ministers. "You have much fewer resources, so you do not have big press offices and the like, so you do tend to make closer personal relationships with journalists. There tends to have been swapping of mobile phone numbers, all of those sorts of things," he said, adding that MPs should be "much more careful" once their party formed a government.

Early last year, Lord O'Donnell rejected complaints from Labour MPs that the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt should not be allowed to rule on News Corp's £7bn bid for BSkyB, on the basis that he had previously expressed support for Mr Murdoch.

The peer was asked about the exchanges between Adam Smith, Mr Hunt's special adviser, and News Corporation lobbyist Fred Michel. Mr Smith resigned last month after admitting that contact over the BSkyB takeover had become too close.

Lord O'Donnell said it was for ministers to authorise their special advisers' activities, but there was not likely to be a written record of instructions. In remarks that may be interpreted as being unhelpful to Mr Hunt, he added: "I would have expected the minister to be clear about what his special adviser should be doing."

He insisted that "keeping all parties informed about process is perfectly reasonable, but not getting into substance".

Lord Leveson yesterday ruled out taking action against the Independent on Sunday for publishing a story about Andy Coulson. It disclosed that Mr Coulson had not declared his shares in News Corp while working in Downing Street at the time of the bid for BSkyB.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you looking to take your ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Exciting career prospect for ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935