Why Cameron and Osborne fear losing their firewall – UK Politics – UK – The Independent
In February 2009, News Corp, under its chief executive, James Murdoch, hired Frédéric Michel as its European public affairs director. Michel was to start smoothing the path for News Corp\\\\\\\’s bid to take over BSkyB, which would be announced following the 2010 election. With the Tories predicted to win that election, the contacts between News Corp and Cameron were stepped up. A year earlier, Cameron visited Rupert Murdoch on his yacht off Santorini, and had meetings with his son James and Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, promoted to chief executive of News International (NI) in June 2009.That summer, according to sources, Osborne ordered Hunt to get close to James Murdoch. And when further revelations of phone hacking at the News of the World emerged in July that year, Osborne took the extraordinary decision to rubbish them and attempted to distance Andy Coulson, the No 10 spin-doctor he helped to hire after resigning over hacking in 2007, from the fresh allegations.In an interview with The Independent on Sunday during the Norwich North by-election in July 2009, the shadow chancellor insisted: “I see no new allegations that are directly connected with Andy Coulson. I think it\\\\\\\’s up to those who made the allegations to substantiate them and I\\\\\\\’ve not seen those allegations substantiated to date. And I thought it was pretty significant that the police came out and made it clear that they\\\\\\\’d investigated all of this and there was no new evidence.” In hindsight, it is easy to see why Osborne was so keen for the scandal to die down.In August 2009 Murdoch Jnr delivered a blistering attack on the BBC and Ofcom at the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Festival. That same month, Hunt took a trip to New York, where he met News Corp executives. Despite the putative BSkyB bid being mulled over inside News Corp, Hunt\\\\\\\’s aides have insisted that the issue of the satellite broadcaster did not come up.Cameron was summoned to a meeting with James Murdoch at George, a private members club in Mayfair, in September 2009, where he was informed that NI titles would switch their allegiance back to the Tories from Labour.It is clear that, from 2009, both the Tory and News Corp ships were sailing in the same direction. Once the BSkyB bid process started, the close links continued. The contacts that Hunt and Cameron had with the Murdochs have been widely reported. But it was also Osborne and Gove who were frequent dining companions of the media family.