Rupert Murdoch rant claims are untrue, says Gordon Brown | Media | guardian.co.uk
Gordon Brown has made a dramatic intervention in the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, categorically denying he had phoned Rupert Murdoch threatening to “destroy” him after the Sun switched allegiance from the Labour party to the Conservatives in 2009.
The former prime minister denied claims that he had phoned Murdoch and “roared” at him for 20 minutes, allegedly telling the media mogul: “You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company” after he pulled the plug on Labour.
Brown’s lawyers, Reed Smith, have written to Lord Justice Leveson saying “the story is completely untrue”, adding that “it was important that it does not become accepted as fact” as it had received coverage in the national press following claims at the inquiry earlier in January by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.
Last week, the former Sun editor told Leveson that Murdoch had personally disclosed the contents of this conversation including the claim that Brown had said he would destroy him and his company. “Yes, that’s waht Mr Murdoch told me,” he told Leveson.
Brown’s lawyers refute this. “Mr Brown has a clear recollection of the calls he had with Mr Murdoch when he was prime minister. He had no such conversation with him,” said the letter from his lawyers read out by the junior counsel to the inquiry, David Barr, on Monday. “The account is not an accurate reflection of events. The words attributed to him by Mr MacKenzie were not said by him.”
The intervention by Brown now sets the stage for an interesting discussion with Murdoch, who is expected to be called as a witness in the third module of the inquiry, when Leveson will examine the relationship between the press and politicians.
Behind-the-scenes relations between politicians and newspaper editors came under the spotlight for a second time at the inquiry on Monday when the Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace gave evidence.
He told Leveson that Tony Blair had asked him to fire one of his journalists who was critical of him. The journalist Blair wanted sacked, although not named at the inquiry, has been confirmed to the Guardian as Daily Mirror political columnist Paul Routledge.
Wallace said he was invited to meet Blair when he became editor in 2004. “The first thing he did was ask me when I was going to sack one of my journalists who had been a constant critic of the government and Mr Blair in particular. Of course I did not react to it,” Wallace said in his written statement.
Wallace also told the inquiry the journalist in question was still working for the Daily Mirror, adding that he viewed Blair’s intervention in this case “as an aberration” and that he normally “went with the flow” in terms of media coverage.