George Osborne's relationship with News International will be thrown into the spotlight this week when the Chancellor is forced to publish details of every meeting with media executives since the election.
The revelations are expected to step up pressure on Mr Osborne as a senior political strategist at the heart of the Tory party, and his role in persuading David Cameron to hire the ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief. Sources close to Mr Osborne confirmed that he flew to New York last December and had dinner with Rupert Murdoch, two weeks before Ofcom was due to rule on his bid to take over BSkyB.
More details are expected early next week when the Cabinet Office releases details of every meeting between a cabinet minister and media executives and proprietors since May 2010. Mr Cameron released his meetings 10 days ago. A senior Whitehall source feared the release would be "hideous".
Aides to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, are also understood to be nervous about further details of his contact with senior News Corp figures. Mr Gove was a senior journalist at The Times, owned by News International, before the 2005 election and continued to write for the paper until 2009. Mr Gove, who is married to Sarah Vine, a writer on The Times, attended a party hosted by Mr Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth days before it emerged that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked. James Murdoch, News Corp director and son of the media mogul, was also at the party on 2 July.
The release of details of ministerial meetings with newspaper editors and owners will also reveal the extent to which the Lib Dems have courted the media since entering government. It also emerged last night that David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, was paid £25,000 by News International for a six-month "advisory post for corporate social responsibility (volunteering and education)".
As the furore threatens to ensnare more political figures, so other newspapers were drawn into the scandal. Piers Morgan, a former editor of the News of the World and the Daily Mirror, faced fresh claims that hacking took place under his watch. James Hipwell, a financial journalist under Mr Morgan's editorship of the Mirror, told The Independent the practice was "seen as a bit of a wheeze". He offered to give evidence to the judge-led public inquiry because he was sick of all the "lies". He also said hacking happened at The People.
Mr Morgan has insisted he "never hacked a phone, told anyone to [do so], or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone". BBC's Newsnight also reported a former Sunday Mirror journalist claiming there had been "routine phone-hacking in the newsroom". A spokesman for Trinity Mirror, which owns the three papers, said: "Our journalists work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct."
The allegations revealed today in The IoS by Matt Driscoll about questionable practices at the NOTW date back to when Phil Hall, now a PR consultant, was editor from 1995-2000. He could be forced to give details of the culture during his time in charge.
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