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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
News
Williams says: 'The reason I got jobs was because they would blow the budget on the big guys - but they only had to pay me the price of a cup of tea'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee