Tonight 8pm- C4 Dispatches investigates ‘Murdoch, Cameron and the £8 Billion Deal’
Categories: Latest News
Monday June 11 2012
|Peter Oborne in an article in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph explored some of the issues he probes in the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary to be aired tonight on ‘Murdoch, Cameron and the £8 Billion Deal’.
Oborne’s article addresses the dubious relations between David Cameron, and members of his Cabinet, and Rupert Murdoch’s News International amidst the background of the phone hacking scandal, the BSkyB takeover bid, and the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics, culture and practice. The documentary will be broadcast in the week that David Cameron follows several Cabinet Ministers in appearing as witnesses before Lord Justice Leveson.
“When he first came across Mr Murdoch, Mr Cameron’s reaction was in keeping with his fastidious nature. He was civil, but kept his distance both socially and politically. The tycoon seems to have been surprised by the Tory leader’s scrupulous approach. Reports emanated from Wapping that Murdoch was “unimpressed” by Cameron. Translated, this simply meant that the young Tory leader would not do what Murdoch wanted.
“By the early summer of 2007 Mr Cameron, less than two years after winning the party leadership, was failing. He lagged in the polls and faced the prospect of being obliterated in a general election that many believed to be imminent. It was at this low point that George Osborne (architect of many of the Prime Minister’s recent misfortunes) recommended that the Tory party should engage the services of Andy Coulson, who had resigned as editor of Mr Murdoch’s News of the World a few months previously, after the royal correspondent was jailed for hacking into the phones of the royal household.
“David Cameron found himself insensibly drawn into the Murdoch system of government originally perfected when Tony Blair was prime minister… This course of action, so natural at the time, was in due course to result in the Prime Minister’s summons to a grilling at the hands of Lord Justice Leveson this Thursday. The Prime Minister has a very embarrassing set of questions to answer. As I disclose in my documentary for Channel 4’s Dispatches tomorrow evening, a dangerous conflict of evidence has arisen between Mr Cameron and Mr Coulson.
“When he appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry a few weeks ago, Mr Coulson could not “recall” being asked for assurances over phone hacking more than once by the Prime Minister. If he is right then Mr Cameron is open to the charge of negligence.
“But answering questions in the House of Commons on July 13 2011 Mr Cameron had a slightly different story. He told MPs that he had “conversations” with Coulson “many times” about the phone hacking issue (and Downing Street has reaffirmed this account in correspondence with Dispatches). Only one of these accounts can be correct. Either Mr Coulson was lying under oath to Lord Justice Leveson, which seems unthinkable. Or the Prime Minister was misleading MPs, potentially a resignation issue. The Leveson Inquiry will need to get to the bottom of this apparent conflict of evidence on Thursday.”
Oborne goes on to address the Conservative Party’s policy towards Ofcom and the BSkyB takeover bid, questioning Mr Cameron’s judgement in allowing his Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to oversee the bid “when he already knew that he supported it and was a self-confessed “cheerleader” for the Murdoch empire”.
Oborne concludes, “Already, evidence to the Leveson Inquiry has done to Mr Cameron what evidence to Lord Hutton did for Mr Blair 10 years ago: it has exposed a laxness and complicity at the heart of power which can never be forgotten. At best Mr Cameron emerges as naive, gullible and compromised. At the very worst he will be exposed as corrupt. That would be out of character, but if so the game would be up for a man who has the capacity to be one of our very best prime ministers.”
Oborne’s Dispatches investigation into ‘Murdoch, Cameron and the £8 Billion Deal’ will be broadcast tonight at 8pm on Channel 4. It will be available to watch online shortly after on 4oD.
See also the Guardian, ‘Jeremy Hunt should have resigned over BSkyB bid, says Lord Oakeshott’.