25 Apr 2012

Brown: ‘I did not threaten to wage war on Murdoch’

Gordon Brown calls for Rupert Murdoch to correct his testimony to the Leveson inquiry after the media mogul claimed the former prime minister made threats when the Sun backed the Tories in 2009.

Mr Brown strongly denied Mr Murdoch’s accusation that he had threatened to “make war” on Murdoch companies, saying Mr Murdoch was “wholly wrong”.

Mr Brown said he had not met Mr Murdoch and had not phoned or written to him regarding the Sun’s changed political allegiance.

In a statement he said: “Mr Rupert Murdoch has today made a serious allegation that, in a telephone call when The Sun declared for the Conservative Party, I told him I had declared war on his company.

“The only phone call I had with Mr Murdoch in the last year of my time in office was a phone call specifically about Afghanistan and his newspaper’s coverage of the war. I hope Mr Murdoch will have the good grace to correct his account.”


Mr Murdoch had earlier told the Leveson inquiry that his relationship with Gordon Brown suffered after the Sun switched its support from Labour to the Conservatives in September 2009 following Mr Brown’s conference speech.

The media tycoon said previously he and Mr Brown bonded over their shared Scottish heritage and discussed the fact they were both descended from a long line of Presbyterian ministers.

Mr Murdoch said: “He gave me a lovely gift: a book of his father’s sermons. My wife and his also developed a friendship and my children and his played together. For some period of time, I contributed to Mrs Brown’s charity. I certainly thought we had a warm personal relationship.”

Margaret Thatcher

During Mr Murdoch’s appearance in front of Lord Justice Leveson, counsel for the inquiry spent the day trying to draw out the extent of the Murdochs’ political links to government. Robert Jay QC questioned Mr Murdoch about relations between his companies and the then Conservative government in the 1980s.

When quizzed on the period during which News Corporation was looking to buy the Times and Sunday Times newspapers, Rupert Murdoch denied he had asked for preferential treatment from the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “I didn’t expect any help from her, nor did I ask for any,” he told the inquiry.

I thought it was tasteless and wrong for us, it was wrong in fact, we don’t have that sort of power. Rupert Murdoch on ‘The Sun wot won it’ headline

It was put to Mr Murdoch that he was the “power behind the throne” during Mrs Thatcher’s premiership, something he flatly denied.

Later, Mr Murdoch was asked about the famous Sun headline after the 1992 general election, “It was the Sun wot won it”.

“Did you appreciate that headline?” Robert Jay asked Mr Murdoch.

“No. Mr MacKenzie [former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie] said I gave him a b******ing. I thought it was tasteless and wrong for us, it was wrong in fact, we don’t have that sort of power.”

Read more: James Murdoch’s testimony to the Leveson Inquiry

Regarding his relationship with Tony Blair, Mr Murdoch told the inquiry: “Mr Blair did not expressly request our support in 1995, 1997 or any other election, but he was a politician and I had no doubt that he would welcome the support of our newspapers and our readers.”

Mr Blair is godfather to Mr Murdoch’s daughter Grace and attended her christening on the banks of the river Jordan.

“Extremely impressed”

Rupert Murdoch’s ties to David Cameron and the Conservative party were also explored. He said he was “extremely impressed” by Mr Cameron the first time he met him, especially the way he treated his children.

But Mr Murdoch risked criticism by referring to the prime minister’s late son Ivan, who suffered from severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy and died in 2009, as “retarded”.

“I first met him once or even twice at family picnics, at weekends at my daughter’s house in the grounds of Blenheim Castle, where he came with my family.

“We were over-run by children, there were no politics, but I was extremely impressed at the kindness and feeling he showed to his children and particularly to his retarded son.”

Despite these remarks, Mr Murdoch maintained he “doesn’t know many politicians”. He also denied that his business interests affect his newspapers’ coverage during elections.

He is due to return to complete his testimony on Thursday.