The Prime Minister David Cameron has defended himself against accusations that he has been too close to the Murdoch family by saying that during the numerous dinners he had with them in his home and elsewhere he didn’t actually talk to them about anything.
In a statement, Mr Cameron explained:
Although it’s true I have invited both Mr Murdoch and his little boy James to dinner on a regular basis, during the meals I made it absolutely clear as Prime Minister I would not actually be saying anything to either of them. Or their wives.
When asked if the Mr Murdoch had tried to talk to him about anything, Mr Cameron said:
I think Rupert may have asked me to pass the salt once but I just blanked him.
Although the Prime Minister was accused last year of breaking Parliament’s ministerial code of conduct by failing to avoid a possible conflict of interest in attending a Christmas dinner at the Cotswolds home of Rebekah Brooks, Mr Cameron denied any wrongdoing:
Although it’s true I attended the dinner, I refused to speak to Ms Brooks, Mr Murdoch or their partners either before, during or after the meal. At all times I remained impartial and professional, and firmly pretended they didn’t exist, even during particularly difficult moments such as when Rebekah asked me if I wanted some more sticky toffee pudding. Despite the government’s support for this particular dessert, I said nothing, and had to do without a second helping.
The Prime Minister refused to allow an inquiry by the Cabinet Secretary because he said nothing of relevance was discussed over the meal:
I remained strictly impartial during the dinner. When Mr Murdoch asked everyone what they thought about the brussels sprouts, which as PM I have made absolutely clear I am very strongly against, I pretended I didn’t hear the question and pulled a cracker with my wife instead.
Mr Murdoch has said he also spoke to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, about the BSkyB bid at another dinner, but in a statement, the Chancellor denied the allegations:
Mr Murdoch tried to talk to me about the BSkyB bid but I pretended I had a sore throat and couldn’t speak, which seemed to do the trick. Of course, when I mimed to him ‘can I have another slice of spotted dick’ he may have mistaken it for ‘Yes I’ll do whatever I can to make sure your bid goes through as smoothly as possible’ but I can’t be sure.
Mr Murdoch also claims he had a conversation with Vince Cable about the proposal, who he claims offered to meet him once only:
I offered to meet with Mr Cable or his representatives to allow us the opportunity to explain what we were seeking to achieve by making the proposal but like the other members of the government, Mr Cable didn’t speak either. He just raised one finger, which I took to mean he’d meet me once, but he never returned my calls after that for some reason.
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