No deal with Murdoch, insists Cameron
London: British Premier David Cameron, under fire for his closeness to Rupert Murdoch, was on Thursday grilled at a public inquiry where he denied entering into any deal, overtly or covertly, with the media baron, but admitted seeking support for his party's bid for power.
Facing a 6-hour televised grilling before the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics, culture and practices of the British press, Cameron accepted that the relationship between press and politicians in the last 20 years "had not been right, I think it has been too close".
Presenting evidence under oath, Cameron dismissed as "nonsense" the suggestion by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown that that there was a deal with News International under which the Conservatives would back its views on regulator Ofcom and the BBC in return for the support of its newspapers.
Cameron admitted focussing on television rather than newspapers as the key vehicle for his political communication, and said it had more to do with his previous job in a communications agency, Carlton.
He said: "A lot of the views about media, media policy, media regulation, the BBC...Carlton was quite a formative place and I formed a lot of views then that I still hold today".
To persistent questioning by counsel Robert Jay on his meetings and dealings with Murdoch, Cameron insisted that all he was trying to do was to win the support of the latter's news outlets, just as he was seeking the support of other media proprietors.
He said: "Of course I wanted to win over newspapers but I didn't do it on the basis of saying overtly or covertly that 'your support will give you a better [position] on this policy or that policy.
"I think the idea of overt deals is nonsense... I also don't believe in this theory there was a nod and a wink and some sort of agreement".
On the controversial appointment of Andy Coulson as his
director of appointment, he said Coulson was a "big hitter" and wanted to give Coulson a "second chance" after he had resigned as editor of the News of the World. Cameron said Coulson was effective in his job in Downing Street: "He did his job very well".
In his witness statement, Cameron stated: "At the time I became leader of the Conservative party I did not have widespread support in the media. I wanted to meet media figures (not just Rupert Murdoch) to make sure the Conservative party got a fairhearing in the press".
He added: "I also considered it was important to have good relations with Rupert Murdoch because at this time his newspapers were supporting the Labour government and I wanted to raise awareness of what I perceived to be the faults in that administration and in their policies. One way of doing this was via the media".
Cameron set up the Leveson inquiry in July last year after the Murdoch's News of the World was shut down in the wake of a public outcry when it emerged the tabloid had hacked into the phone of a murdered schoolgirl.
The Conservatives have been accused of having a biased view in favour of the bid by News International's parent company News Corp to take over BSkyB.