1. ITV Report

Jeremy Hunt faces fresh Murdoch collusion claims

Jeremy Hunt faces fresh questions over his role in the BSkyB takeover bid Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Labour have stepped up their campaign for David Cameron to sack Jeremy Hunt after claims made in yesterday's Leveson Inquiry.

Hunt faces fresh questions after it was claimed that he wanted News Corporation to "guide his and Number 10's positioning" on phone hacking.

A newly-disclosed email from News Corporation's public affairs executive Fred Michel also boasts of a tip-off about an "extremely helpful" statement the Culture Secretary was making to Parliament on the BSkyB bid.

The allegations surfaced in material disclosed to the Leveson Inquiry by former News International boss Rebekah Brooks.

Rebekah Brooks at the Leveson Inquiry Credit: Leveson Inquiry

A message from Mr Michel to Mrs Brooks, dated June 27 2011, gave an apparent preview of what Mr Hunt would say about the BSkyB bid later that week.

He will be repeating the same narrative as the one he gave in Parliament few weeks ago.

This is based on his belief that the police is pursing things thoroughly and phone hacking has nothing to do with the media plurality issues.

It's extremely helpful.

Labour has stepped up demands for Hunt to be sacked following the disclosure. Labour deputy leader Harriet Harmon said:

This is absolutely not acceptable. How much more evidence does David Cameron need that this man is not fit to hold this high office?

A spokeswoman for Mr Hunt said he was "confident" his evidence will prove he acted with "integrity".

He is confident his evidence will vindicate the position that he has behaved with integrity on every issue.

It has already been made clear that when Fred Michel claims to be speaking to Jeremy Hunt in emails, he is in fact referring to Adam Smith.

On July 11, 2011 Jeremy Hunt wrote to Ofcom for further advice about the impact of phone hacking on the BSkyB bid.

During her appearance at the Leveson Inquiry, Mrs Brooks also revealed details about her relationships with senior politicians including David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and George Osborne.

The former News International chief executive said that Mr Cameron would occasionally sign-off text messages with 'lol', meaning 'lots of love'. Mrs Brooks later told the Prime Minister that 'lol' usually means 'laugh out loud'.

Mrs Brooks also revealed the following details about her relationship with Mr Cameron:

  • Mrs Brooks said the Prime Minister expressed regret that he could not be more loyal publicly when she was forced to resign over the phone-hacking scandal.
  • She said Mr Cameron - along with Number 11, the Home and Foreign Office - indirectly sent his commiserations when she left News International, which was along the lines of "keep your head up".
  • They met "three or four times" from January 2010 to the General Election in May.
  • Mrs Brooks said she talked to Mr Cameron about phone hacking but could not remember the finer details.
  • She said the Prime Minister attended a Boxing Day party at her sister-in-law's.

Reports that Mr Cameron would text her 12 times a day were dismissed by Mrs Brooks who called the claims "preposterous".

Mrs Brooks said it was a "terrible accusation" from Gordon Brown to claim that they had hacked his family's health records to report his son had cystic fibrosis.

She said The Sun had received the story from a "shattered father", whose son also had cystic fibrosis, and were satisfied the information was gathered from legitimate means.

Gordon Brown's relationship with Rebekah Brooks seemed fractious Credit: Reuters

The relationship between the former Prime Minister and Mrs Brooks seemed more fractious than her friendship with Mr Cameron and Mr Blair, with the former Sun editor joking that Mr Brown would have "probably got the bunting out" when she resigned from News International.

On News Corp's attempted BSkyB's takeover bid, Mrs Brooks said she only had "brief and inconsequential" discussions with Mr Osborne.

She added that Mr Cameron was "not particularly supportive" of the BSkyB bid but he "understood why we wanted to put our side across".

The former News International executive also revealed her close relationship with Tony Blair who she dined with at least 30 times between 1998 and 2007, including three times tete-a-tete.

Tony Blair dined with Rebekah Brooks at least 30 times. Credit: Reuters

Mrs Brooks also revealed that the Blairs told her about their "concerns" over the Daily Mail, with Cherie saying the newspaper's coverage was "sexist" and "cruel".

In her statement, Mrs Brooks emphatically denied that these friendships were in any way untoward.

It is important to understand... that close and effective working relationships must not lead to compromise on either side.

I have never abused my friendships to gain access to information that otherwise I could not have obtained as a professional journalist, nor have I ever compromised my independence through loyalty to a friend who is also a politician.

But whether a relationship develops into friendship or not, a relationship of trust and confidence between the press and politicians does have great value. Where I have known a politician well, this has led on many occasions to a free and frank exchange of views as we have sought to change policy or better understand why the Government is taking a particular stance.

Mrs Brooks claimed that a lot of "gossipy" questions she was asked at the Leveson Inquiry - such as whether she went swimming with Mr Murdoch and if he bought her a suit - was "gender based".

She said "had she been a grumpy old man on Fleet Street" she would not have been asked about these sort of issues.

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