The political career of Lady Warsi has received another blow after she was referred to the independent adviser by David Cameron for failing to declare in her business interests that she has never been friends with Rupert Murdoch.
Warsi, the Conservative party co-chair, wrote to David Cameron admitting that she failed to tell civil servants of her lack of business links to anyone in News International and that she had never sent any jocular or fawning messages to anyone related to Rupert Murdoch.
Cameron has responded by referring her to Alex Allan, his adviser on ministers’ interests and has asked Allan to consider whether Warsi broke the ministerial code by not sucking up to anyone high up in News International.
Warsi’s apology may not be enough to stop a party-wide whispering campaign against her following a slew of allegations, including that she has never gone riding with Rebekah Brooks, and that she failed to declare her complete lack of interest in going to parties and getting drunk with James Murdoch.
Warsi denies not being deferential enough to News International and said that her failure to attend any pyjama parties with News International executives was “an oversight”.
Cameron has until now defended Warsi. She is popular among many non-party members but has riled backbench Conservative MPs by not regularly defending Rupert Murdoch, and has been criticised for a perceived lack of interest in being Godmother to any of his grandchildren.
In a letter to the prime miniser, Warsi said she was “sorry” for the embarrassment caused by her lack of relationship with anyone in the Murdoch clan but she said that her refusal to hide behind a tree in order to avoid being seen at a drinks party with James Murdoch was “widely known”, including to her private office and the British High Commission.
However, she said she did not realise the need to declare that she didn’t have “a common business interest in any of Mr Murdoch’s companies”:
I sincerely regret that I did not consider the significance of my party’s relationship with Mr Murdoch when I decided not to befriend him. In retrospect, I accept that I should have made officials aware of my lack of a business relationship between Mr Murdoch and myself, and for this I am sorry.
I regret that this failure may have caused embarrassment to the government.
Cameron said he accepted her apology but was asking Allan to ‘consider the issues that have been raised by someone in a government position not declaring that they do not have a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch and to provide advice to me as rapidly as possible about how to proceed on such an unusual case’.
The prime minister has faced criticism for refusing to refer Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, to Allan over the conduct of his special adviser Adam Smith during his dealings with Rupert Murdoch’s empire over the BSkyB bid.
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