When UK politics was `too cosy` with the Murdochs

Politicians have been quick to pull back from the Murdoch embrace - at least in public.

London: It has now been confirmed that
Defence Secretary Liam Fox gave secret briefings on defence
issues to leading lights of Rupert Murdoch`s media empire,
reflecting the scale of nexus with British politicians, who
recently admitted being to `too cosy` with the Murdochs.

"The world has changed," the Labour leader Ed
Miliband said, after the phone-hacking issue blew up in the
face of politicians, press and the police, but the proximity
between politicians and Murdoch`s media empire is only now
being unravelled, day-by-day.

Politicians have been quick to pull back from the
Murdoch embrace - at least in public - after the phone-hacking
allegations generated public revulsion.

One-by-one, ministers and others have been publishing
details of their meetings with media representatives.
It is not certain that the `too cosy` nature of the
relationship will stop, but politicians have agreed to record
every meeting they have with media representatives and publish
the list quarterly.

Details of ministerial meetings with Murdoch and
others since the 2010 general election are being published,
reflecting how large sections of British politics were in bed
with the Murdoch empire, including the opposition Labour

For example, Prime Minister David Cameron met
Murdoch`s executives no less than 26 times in just over a year
since he entered Downing Street after the 2010 general

These include Murdoch, son James, Rebekah Brooks, and
Andy Coulson, even after Coulson resigned as his director of
communications under a cloud.

The extraordinary access that Cabinet ministers
granted Murdoch and his aides is clear from the fact that in
all, they met more than 60 times and, if social events such as
receptions at party conferences are included, the figure is at
least 107.

On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News
International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given
confidential defence briefings on Afghanistan and Britain`s
strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

Another briefing was held with Brooks, Rupert Murdoch
and the Sunday Times editor John Witherow.

A spokesman for Fox said that the defence briefings
given to the Murdochs covered a range of issues and were given
because of the "interest in defence matters" shown by News
International papers.

He did not say who initiated the meetings.
Chancellor George Osborne has had 16 separate meetings
since May 2010 with News International editors and executives,
including two with the Murdochs within just a month of taking

He also invited Elisabeth Murdoch as a guest to his
40th birthday party last month.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt dined with Rupert
Murdoch within days of the government coming to power and,
after being given quasi-judicial oversight for the Murdochs` 8
billion pounds attempted takeover of BSkyB, had two meetings
with James Murdoch in which they discussed the takeover.

Hunt said the meetings were legitimate as part of the
bid process.
But the minister who sees Rupert Murdoch the most
frequently is Education Secretary Michael Gove, a former News
International employee.

Gove has seen Murdoch for breakfast, lunch or dinner
on six occasions since last May. Overall, Gove has had 12
meetings with Murdoch executives since becoming a minister.

The list of meetings, released by government
departments, reinforces the impression of an unhealthily close
relationship between the top echelons of News International
and senior members of the Cameron administration.


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