Theresa May refuses to deny Rupert Murdoch's involvement in Michael Gove’s cabinet return

Ms May had previously fired Mr Gove from the Cabinet

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 18 July 2017 21:57
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Labour has suggested Rupert Murdoch influenced Theresa May's decision to appoint Michael Gove
Labour has suggested Rupert Murdoch influenced Theresa May's decision to appoint Michael Gove

Theresa May has refused to deny the involvement of Rupert Murdoch in Michael Gove’s return to Cabinet after the general election.

In the days following last month’s election, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson wrote to the Prime Minister to ask whether she had re-appointed Mr Gove due to pressure from Mr Murdoch.

In the email, Mr Watson said it had been “suggested” to him that Ms May could have made the appointment to curry favour with the Murdoch press.

Upon first taking office as Prime Minister in 2016, Ms May immediately fired Mr Gove from his position as Justice Secretary after he launched an ill-fated leadership bid against her in the wake of David Cameron’s resignation after the Brexit vote.

But after last month’s election, Mr Gove made a surprise return to the front bench as Ms May’s environment secretary.

The Government has now responded to Mr Watson’s message, but has not denied Mr Murdoch’s involvement outright.

Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, said that decisions over appointments to the Cabinet are taken by the the Prime Minister alone.

In a letter Mr Green said: “All those appointed by Her Majesty the Queen to Cabinet and ministerial roles are selected by the Prime Minister based on their merit and experience, drawing on each member’s best talent. The decision is the Prime Minister’s alone. Your email raised the important issue of transparency about meetings with senior media executives.

“Government ministers are fully transparent about such meetings, but I observe that the Labour party has still failed to publish any information about shadow cabinet members’ meetings with senior media executives since Jeremy Corbyn became leader – including your own meetings.”

The Labour Party has faced criticism for lack of transparency over Jeremy Corbyn’s meetings with the press for some months. In April this year Mr Corbyn’s office said it would release a list of meetings “in due course”. The party has since cited an administrative issue it says is yet to be resolved.

Mr Watson said people could make their “own conclusions” about the Government’s response to his letter.

“I asked Theresa May to deny a deeply worrying allegation that had been made to me about her and she refused to do so,” Mr Watson told the Guardian.

“It’s such an easy thing to deny - unless it’s true. People will draw their own conclusions.

“With 21st Century Fox’s bid for Sky being considered by the Government right now, questions about Rupert Murdoch’s influence over Theresa May were already being asked. This makes them all the more relevant.”

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