Osborne to face questions over links to Murdoch – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

by peterjukes

In another damaging development for No 10, one of Mr Cameron’s top aides was accused of breaching Civil Service guidelines by inviting Mr Michel into a ministerial policy-making meeting. Emails released to Leveson show that on 2 December 2010, Rohan Silva, who at the time was deputy to Mr Cameron’s strategist Steve Hilton, suggested that Mr Michel could attend a meeting at the Department for Energy and Climate Change to discuss carbon emissions. News Corp’s chief executive, James Murdoch, has taken a keen interest in environmental issues. In the end, Mr Michel did not attend after civil servants at the department blocked the request. But on another occasion, on 17 March 2011, Mr Michel emailed Mr Silva to ask if he could be invited to a No 10 event on entrepreneurship hosted by Mr Hilton the following Monday. Mr Silva replied “Sweet, dude” and asked his diary secretary if she could “do the business and make sure Fred gets what he needs”.

A No 10 spokesman denied that Mr Silva had been acting in breach of the codes of conduct for civil servants and special advisers, insisting that both meetings had been attended by a number of companies.

But the apparent friendly relationship that Mr Michel shared with another No 10 figure, following the disclosure of text messages he exchanged with Gabby Bertin, Mr Cameron’s press secretary, and Craig Oliver, his director of communications, will fuel fears that Downing Street was, in effect, on the same side as News Corp.

Mr Watson added: “It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Political advisers were inviting Murdoch lobbyists into ministerial policy-making meetings. It shows a remarkable closeness that I’ve never seen in 25 years in politics. What other lobbyists were invited into the heart of Cameron’s government?”

Mr Harrison and Mr Michel also exchanged several cordial texts and emails. On 3 March 2011, after Mr Hunt had given the green light to a revised News Corp bid for BSkyB, subject to competition concerns, Mr Harrison texted Mr Michel to say: “Looks like you’ve found a good solution.”

After the news that the News of the World was to close, Mr Harrison texted Mr Michel a message of support: “Hope you’re holding up.”

A Treasury official insisted that Mr Harrison had done nothing wrong.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who gives evidence on Wednesday, has cryptically suggested that not everyone who has given evidence to Leveson has given a true version of events. He told The Independent on Sunday: “I’m giving evidence very soon, within the next few days. I think so much is now stacking up and people giving different versions of events, I would prefer to give that in that inquiry context, rather than just fire off a few one-liners at this stage.”

Harriet Harman, Labour’s culture spokesperson, is likely to raise questions this week about the scale of the pay-off awarded to Adam Smith, who resigned last month as Mr Hunt’s special adviser.

Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, said the latest evidence raised “huge questions” about David Cameron’s judgement, as well as Mr Hunt’s role. “From what I have seen, I think we have got yet more evidence that Jeremy Hunt wasn’t the right person to be taking the decision about the BSkyB bid.

“He wrote a memo to the Prime Minister for the bid four weeks or so before taking charge of it, and I think it really calls into question David Cameron’s judgement about why he appointed him in the first place to take over this bid.

via Osborne to face questions over links to Murdoch – UK Politics – UK – The Independent.

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