26 Jul 2011

Cabinet Ministers’ meetings with News International revealed

Rupert Murdoch (Getty)You may remember how Rupert Murdoch made something in his evidence to the Select Committee about how David Cameron had him into No. 10 almost before he’d unpacked his own belongings.

“I was invited within days to have a cup of tea and to be thanked by Mr Cameron,” Rupert Murdoch said, making the whole thing sound like a church volunteer beingĀ  thanked by the vicar for particularly colourful flower-arranging.

Well, now we know who else saw him before they’d fully unpacked, straight after the General Election.

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, squeezed a dinner in with Rupert Murdoch and other News Corporation execs in May 2010 (to be followed by eight more meetings of one kind of another with Team Murdoch members in the next twelve months).

The Culture Secretary has a number of responsibilties that the Murdochs would have been interested to discuss, but remember until Christmas 2010 they did not include responsibility for the BSkyB bid. That resided with Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, until the Daily Telegraph recorded his private thoughts.

So did Rupert beat a path to Vince Cable’s door straight after the General Election? Not a bit of it. Vince’s list is a Murdoch-free zone with only a chat with The Times’ editor and a Sunday Times Business lunch on the News International account.

George Osborne has had 17 meetings with Rupert Murdoch and/or Murdoch team members (compared with 21 for David Cameron). Ahead of publication, the Chancellor said he would be happy to talk about the list of meetings, but it was published on the Treasury website just after interviews he gave to broadcasters today on the GDP figure, so he was cruelly cheated of the opportunity.

The other Cabinet Minister who has been particularly in demand with the Murdochs is Michael Gove. He was, of course, once an employee of NI at The Times (fondly remembered as line manager by Ed Miliband’s strategy chief Tom Baldwin).

The Education Secretary, no doubt unwittingly, has misinterpreted the rubric of the exercise and inserted a lot of political correspondents he met since the election. If he stripped them out of the list I think he might be shocked at just how much time he spends in the company of newspaper proprietors: Rupert Murdoch (7 times), the Rothermeres (3 times) and Evgeny Lebedev (once).

These lists do not, of course, help us with the content of the meetings and exclude phone calls.

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