LONDON- British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Sunday he had struck no secret deals with media baron Rupert Murdoch whereby policy was traded for his newspapers’ political support.
The government has been under pressure over its closeness to Murdoch’s News Corporation after Murdoch and his son James gave evidence under oath last week at the British inquiry into press ethics.
Cameron openly admitted courting newspaper proprietors to get his point of view across and that the relationship between politicians and the press had become too close.
But he maintained there was no agreement that in return for the support of his newspapers, among them The Sun and The Times, he would help Murdoch’s business interests, including his now-dropped bid for full control of pay-television giant BSkyB.
“The thing that people are asking is: was there some big deal, some big agreement between me and Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch that in return for their support for the Conservative Party I would somehow help their business interests or allow this merger to go through. That is not true,” he said.
“I do not do things to change my policies to suit this proprietor or that proprietor. That is not the way I work and I will say that under oath,” he told BBC television.
“It would be absolutely wrong for there to be any sort of deal — and there wasn’t.”
Culture and Olympics Secretary Jeremy Hunt is under pressure over the closeness of his advisor Adam Smith’s contact with News Corp. over its BSkyB takeover bid, following emails and text messages released at the press ethics inquiry.
Cameron gave Hunt his backing and said he did not believe he had broken the ministerial code.
“I think he’s doing an excellent job on the Olympics,” he said.
“I don’t think it would be right in every circumstance if a special advisor gets something wrong to automatically sack the minister.”
Cameron said Smith had been right to resign over his contacts with News Corp. lobbyist Frederic Michel, which were “too close, too frequent”.
Cameron admitted he discussed the takeover bid with James Murdoch while the government was deciding whether to approve it.
The Leveson Inquiry resumes its hearings in the week commencing May 7.
Meanwhile former Scottish first minister Jack McConnell said he was taking legal action over allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World. He said police had told him he was among the potential victims of the scandal.
Ahead of Thursday’s local elections, a poll put Cameron’s Conservatives on their lowest rating since 2004.
The YouGov survey in The Sunday Times newspaper suggested support for the Tories had fallen to 29 percent, while the opposition Labour Party led on 40 percent.
The Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives’ partners in the coalition government, were on 11 percent, with the United Kingdom Independence Party on 10 percent.
YouGov interviewed 1,717 adults on Thursday and Friday.