Rupert Murdoch’s support was critical to the rise of David Cameron. But it is simplistic to see George Osborne as just the next-in-line: the Chancellor has been in the Murdoch crosshairs for just as long as the Prime Minister.
In January 2009, with Gordon Brown a lame duck in Downing Street, both Cameron and Osborne flew to Switzerland.
In an upmarket chalet in Davos, the Murdoch’s residence, the two top Tories laid out their stall. Although Osborne has denied this was the “crunch encounter” which sealed Rupert Murdoch’s backing at the 2010 election, he modestly left out that it was he who was identified as having five-star leadership appeal to both James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks.
The Chancellor’s relationship with James existed before Davos. It was Osborne in 2007 who ensured Andy Coulson’s initiation into the Tory communications fold.
From the 2010 election win, Osborne remained in contact with both James, Rupert and their executives. Inside the first year of the Tory government, the Chancellor had 16 meetings and dinners with News Corp execs.
In December that year, Osborne flew to New York. The Treasury confirmed that a “social dinner” with Murdoch Snr and the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, took place.
The day he flew back to London, the government announced that Vince Cable was being removed as the decision-maker in News Corp’s bid to take control of BSkyB. Only the phone hacking scandal derailed the plan.
Osborne has continued to meet Rupert at the Treasury and at the News Corp boss’s apartment in Mayfair. His relationship with James also remains strong.
The alleged meeting ahead of the announcement on the BBC’s funding cut, is therefore not unusual. Murdoch Snr likes to back winners and Osborne, potentially the next Tory leader, may already have a powerful lead supporter.
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