Ex-News International executive Rebekah Brooks told the PM “professionally we’re definitely in this together”, after the Sun paper switched loyalty to his party, the Leveson Inquiry heard. It was heard in court that Mrs Brooks sent the text to David Cameron on the eve of his speech to the 2009 Conservative Party conference, which has raised suspicion that there is more involvement from the PM than first anticipated. However, in the PM’s defence Mr Cameron said ex-PM Gordon Brown’s claims about a Tory deal with the company were “complete nonsense”.
Mr Cameron said the message from Mrs Brooks, dated October 2009 and submitted as part of his written evidence, was a reflection the Sun had the previous week decided to support the Conservatives. Mrs Brooks said in the text to the then opposition leader: “I am so rooting for you tomorrow, not just as a proud friend but because professionally we’re definitely in this together.” However, regardless of this very obvious friendship, Mr Cameron said there had been “no overt deals”, “no covert deals” and “no nods and winks” with the company. He did state that in his time he had had some conversations with editors in which he told them “we’d love a bit more support from your paper”, but “not very often”.
Mr Cameron said Mr Brown’s claim is that the Tories had agreed to cut funding for the BBC and media regulator Ofcom in return for political support from News International. He stated this had been made however because of the fact he was very disappointed at the Sun’s decision to switch support from Labour ahead of the 2010 general election. The proposed BSkyB bid for News International was also abandoned in July 2011 amid outrage over the phone-hacking scandal which added to News International’s problems and aims for the company.
In relation to this, the Conservatives have been accused of having a biased view in favour of the bid by News Corporation. The prime minister’s witness statement reveals he had 1,404 meetings with “media figures” – 26 a month on average – while in opposition between 2005 and 2010. Once in government, that fell to an average of about 13 a month. And to add to their scrupulous relationship it was also stated that in 2008, the PM took a trip to Santorini for a dinner meeting with Rupert Murdoch, for what was given in evidence as a chance to ‘build a relationship’ together and when asked in court how many times Cameron had seen Mrs Brooks between 2008-2009, Cameron was not specific.
Charlie and Rebekah Brooks appeared in court on Wednesday as well. Mrs Brooks and her husband Charlie – who went to school with Mr Cameron, have also both been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to the phone-hacking scandal surrounding News of the World. They both however deny wrongdoing and state they are not guilty. Earlier in the enquiry Mr Cameron stated that politicians “have to take care when you have personal friendships [with individuals in the media] but that can be done and I have done that”. Mr Cameron said the relationship between politicians and the media had deteriorated in recent years, highlighting that “how we get it to a better place, I think part of it will be about transparency, better regulation, having a bit more distance, that will be part of respect.”
Meanwhile Mr Hunt, responding to a Parliamentary question, expertly mentioned in court that the Leveson Inquiry has so far cost taxpayers £3.2 million, with the total cost for part one of the investigations expected to reach £5.6 million. The enquiry is still in the midst of the investigation and as well as a lot are concerned it is not over just yet.