As it happened: Rupert Murdoch at Leveson Inquiry

Key points

  • News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch said he did not think Gordon Brown was in "a balanced state of mind" when he "declared war" on News International for changing political allegiance.
  • The 81-year-old media tycoon said he had "never asked a prime minister for anything", when questioned about meetings with leaders during decades of involvement in UK affairs.
  • He said he wanted to "put to bed once and for all ... a complete myth" that he had "used the influence of the Sun or the supposed political power to get favourable treatment" from politicians.

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    Good morning and welcome to the BBC's live coverage of what looks set to be another explosive day at the Leveson Inquiry. Stay with us for updates on, and reaction to, the questioning Rupert Murdoch.


    The News Corp boss, 81, will be asked whether he exerted undue influence over British public life through his papers. He is also likely to be grilled on the phone-hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World.

    0958: Robert Peston Business editor

    "He'll be asked about his long and deep relationship with politicians ... what he ends up saying will be awaited with some trepidation by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron." The BBC's business editor looks ahead to Rupert Murdoch's appearance at Leveson in his blog.


    Daily Mirror associate editor @Kevin_Maguire says: "Rupert Murdoch, 81, to have legal aide alongside him at #leveson to help with documents. First to do so. Read into that what you will"


    Proceedings held up by a man claiming he has rheumatism refusing to sit down. He is asked to leave and does so shouting that it's a "circus," the BBC's Peter Hunt says. His Twitter feed from the hearing can be followed here.


    In his opening remarks, Lord Justice Leveson says he is aware documents such as the emails presented on Tuesday "cannot always be taken at face value and can bear more than one interpretation". He says it is "very important to hear every side of story before drawing conclusions".


    That evidence heard at the inquiry yesterday appeared to show Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's support for News Corp's bid for BSkyB in 2010-11, and has led to calls from the Labour Party for the minister to resign.


    Mr Murdoch says the need for the inquiry is obvious as there have been some abuses. "The state of media in this country is of vital interest to all its citizens."


    Mr Murdoch says media abuses go further than phone hacking, and also he wants to put certain myths about himself to bed.


    Mr Murdoch agrees he was a great fan of Margaret Thatcher, saying "we all wanted a change" in 1979.

    1019: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Murdoch #Leveson : Don't take my tweets too seriously (on his right wingers & toffs tweet)


    Rupert Murdoch photographed leaving home on Wednesday morning.

    Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng
    Journalist, Emma Gilbey Keller

    tweets: This is not the same Rupert Murdoch who appeared before parliament last summer. He is totally on the ball. #leveson

    1028: Peter Hunt News correspondent

    Murdoch: I didn't have the will to crush the unions. I might have had the desire (re Times in 80s)


    Mr Murdoch asked about meeting with Mrs Thatcher at Chequers in 1981, which focused on his bid to take over the Times. He says it was important as "this was the movement of great institution which was under threat of closure, I thought it was perfectly right she knew what was at stake".


    "I didn't expect any help from her," he asserts.

    1031: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Murdoch #Leveson : I've never asked a PM for anything


    Here we run back over the key dates that have brought Rupert Murdoch, and on Tuesday his son James, to the Leveson Inquiry.

    1040: Breaking News

    Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to make a statement to the Commons at 12:30 BST over Tuesday's claims to the inquiry about his role in News Corp's bid for BSkyB.

    1044: Nick Robinson Political editor

    blogged late last night on the culture secretary's fight to save his job following James Murdoch's evidence on Tuesday.


    Mr Murdoch says he told minister in 1981 that he did not mind if the deal to buy the Times was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, but he reserved right to renegotiate the price.

    Executive producer of Sky News, John Dowden

    tweets: #leveson Fascinating stuff for those of us old enough to remember the Fleet St machinations of the 80s. Memory lane.


    Murdoch says he tries to set an example of ethical behaviour and makes it "quite clear" that he expects it. "But do I do it via an aura or charisma? I don't think so."


    The News Corp boss, "aura or charisma" or not, is profiled here.


    On whether standards of tabloid newspapers have improved since 1981, Mr Murdoch replies: "The Sun has never been a better paper than it is today. I can't say the same for our competitors".


    Mr Murdoch says he has "great respect for British public". Says his mantra is always "to tell the truth, interest the public, get their attention, but always tell the truth".


    Mr Murdoch denies he was one of powers behind Mrs Thatcher's throne. Adds: "If you want to judge my thinking, look at the Sun."


    "I never much interfered with the News of the World, I'm sorry to say," Mr Murdoch says. "I'm not disowning it, or saying it wasn't my responsibility to, but I was always closer to the Sun."


    On the publication of the Hitler Diaries in 1983, Mr Murdoch says it was a "major mistake".


    The hearing takes a short break.


    A recap of key evidence so far from BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins. He says the inquiry has been trying to find out whether Mr Murdoch had sought to extract a promise from Mrs Thatcher about the purchase of the Times in 1981, to which Mr Murdoch replied: "I have never asked a PM for anything."

    Sky News Deputy Political Editor, Joey Jones

    tweets: murdoch pretty ruthless in evidence regarding harold evans. wonder if any politicians will get such rough treatment in later testimony?


    Our correspondent says Robert Jay QC had accused Mr Murdoch of sacking a Times editor because he wasn't compliant enough. But the mogul denied his own influence over editors and the power of his aura, saying: "I'm a curious person and find it hard to hold my tongue, but I'm just curious."

    1120: Breaking News

    Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith says he is stepping down from the role, admitting: "I appreciate that my activities at times went too far."

    BBC journalist, Andrew Neil

    tweets: If Murdoch turned up ready to slash and burn the #Leveson QC doing his best to douse him down.


    On press intrusion, Mr Murdoch says he does not believe in hacking or private detectives: "It's a lazy way of reporters not doing their job properly."


    Mr Murdoch does not believe TV stars, film stars and politicians are entitled to same amount of privacy as man in the street. "If we are going to have transparent democracy let's have everything out," he says.


    "I welcomed, was jealous, of the Daily Telegraph buying the expense accounts of MPs. I think the Sunday Times followed later with the Lords. I thought that was a great public service. I was disappointed the editor of the Times didn't buy them when they were offered them first," he says.

    1130: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Smith statement: content & extent of News Corp contact was without Hunt authorisation (question now then: how much of this can be blamed on over enthusiastic special advisor? And was Hunt not still responsible for him?)


    Mr Murdoch is asked whether it's true after election result on 11 June 1987, when Ken Livingstone blamed Labour's defeat on the smears of the media, "Rupert cried out, 'That's me,' and was delighted." Mr Murdoch responds: "I was there and if I said that I'm afraid it was the influence of alcohol".


    Our report on resignation of culture secretary's special adviser here.


    Mr Murdoch agrees he is the biggest player in the UK newspaper market. "I go to election every day. People can stop buying my papers at any time," he says.


    He says Kelvin MacKenzie got "one hell of" a telling-off for the famous "It Was The Sun Wot Won It" headline following the 1992 election. "I just thought it was tasteless and wrong for us. We didn't have that sort of power."

    Politics editor of Prospect, James Macintyre

    tweets: I hope everyone at the Sun and every politician has noted Murdoch's correct admission that the Sun does not decide elections.

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Murdoch #Leveson : suggests Sun only independent paper in business


    Mr Murdoch denies that he likes to back the winning side at elections as best way to foment his commercial interests. "I never let commercial interests enter consideration at elections," he says.


    Mr Murdoch: "I don't know many politicians."


    Our politics team offers minute-by-minute coverage of Prime Minister's Questions, which precedes under-fire Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's statement in the Commons at 12:30 BST.


    Robert Jay QC asks: "So you are oblivious to commercial benefits of particular party winning an election?" Mr Murdoch replies: "Yes."

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Murdoch #Leveson : I love newspapers; shareholders wd like me to get rid of them all (compare and contrast with James Murdoch who said he didn't always read notw)


    @benfenton #murdoch said Lord Patten handled 92 election "not very well...he lost it." Jay: No, Mr Murdoch, he won it. #leveson


    Questioning moves on to Mr Murdoch's relationship with Tony Blair. He has no memory of lunch at Mossimans in 1997 with the former prime minister.

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    (risk of stating obvious: yday was dynamite because #Leveson had new material, today it's quotes from long published books so far)


    On dealings with Mr Blair, Mr Murdoch raps desk as he says: "In 10 years I never asked Mr Blair for anything. Nor did I receive any favours."


    Over in the House of Commons, Labour leader Ed Miliband describes the Hunt situation as a "political disaster". He says "it beggars belief" that David Cameron can continue to defend his culture secretary. He says evidence shows Mr Hunt was "not judging but helping" the News Corp bid for BSkyB.


    At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron calls again for people to wait for the verdict of the Leveson Inquiry, accusing Mr Miliband of jumping on a political bandwagon. He has not mentioned Adam Smith's resignation yet. The prime minister says his culture secretary has his "full support".


    Mr Murdoch says the decision of the Sun to back Mr Blair would have been made with his - Mr Murdoch's - approval. He agrees he extracted as much as he could in terms of policy promises from Mr Blair before he endorsed him.

    Robert Peston Business editor

    Rupert Murdoch admits he ordered Sun to support Labour in 97 election after Blair wrote his famous & uncharacteristic eurosceptic column


    "It seems a long time now since Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was being talked of as the next Conservative leader." Read the rest of our profile of Mr Hunt here.


    The inquiry currently taking another short break.


    Mr Murdoch's written statement has now been published on the Leveson Inquiry website. Here's a link if you'd like to read it in full.

    1227: Chris Mason Political reporter

    Watching Prime Minister's Questions, our reporter says: "Jeremy Hunt, who's making a statement at 12.30pm, is regularly glancing down at his notes, fiddling with his pen..."


    In the Commons, a backbench question on the BSkyB bid saga, this time focusing on First Minister Alex Salmond's relationship with News Corp, prompts Mr Cameron to suggest all politicians had "cosied up" to the Murdoch empire too much.

    Former MP, Dr Evan Harris

    tweets: This cross examination is totally unsatisfactory since #murdoch just says no to any alleged or reported conversation. #Leveson


    Mr Murdoch says he stepped in to stop publication of former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten's memoirs by Harper Collins as he was "a bad governor", but says decision was wrong.


    Asked whether he said the Tories were unelectable, Mr Murdoch says: "I don't think so, I don't think they were." He adds: "You keep putting words into my mouth Mr Jay. I told you I have no memory of any such conversation."


    Meanwhile in the Commons, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is telling MPs he intends to set the record straight about his relations with News Corp on a "number of issues" - and insisting he has "strictly followed due process".


    Mr Murdoch agrees that all of his papers around the world supported the 2003 Gulf War.


    On the subject of whether there was a "back channel" for communications between his office and News Corp, Mr Hunt says this was "categorically" not the case.


    News Corp did not make holding a referendum on the EU constitution a condition of support in the 2005 election, Mr Murdoch says. "We certainly expressed our opinion strongly that it should be put to the people and I don't think we were alone in that," he says.

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Murdoch ws (written statement) - MSC hasn't uncovered any evidence of Times email hacking other than Nightjack case #leveson


    "My personal relationship with Gordon Brown was always warm," Mr Murdoch says.


    He says he regrets the breakdown of the relationship and hopes it can be repaired.


    Mr Murdoch describes slumber party at Chequers in June 2008 as "just a bunch of women, many complaining about their husbands probably".

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Murdoch says if politician wanted his views on major matters could read editorials in the Sun (Jay misses open goal there - rather at odds with the idea he didn't micro manage papers #leveson)


    He says Gordon Brown did not "roar" down the phone at him following the Sun's decision to support a change of government in 2009.


    But he says Mr Brown replied: "Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no choice but to declare war on your company."


    Mr Murdoch accuses Mr Brown of knowingly misleading Commons by saying the Sun hacked into his medical records when he knew how story about his son emerged.


    He says Mr Brown wrote to former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks thanking her for sensitive handling of story and that letter is now with police.

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Murdoch says he didn't think Brown was in "balanced state of mind" when he made war comments #leveson


    In the Commons, Labour MP Tom Watson asks the culture secretary if he seriously expects the nation to believe the texts and emails were the work of a "single rogue adviser" - a reference to News Corp's initial defence of phone hacking.

    Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger

    tweets: Dennis Skinner to Jeremy Hunt : "When posh boys are in trouble they sack the servants" #Leveson


    Mr Murdoch ends the morning's session by saying it did not enter his thinking that Mr Brown's "declaring war" comments meant he would place obstacles in the way of his bid for the remaining shares of BSkyB.

    NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik

    tweets: Highly charged portrayal by Murdoch of Brown's anger in wake of a) Sun switch to Tories and b) hacking scandal w possibly personal element.

    Journalist and media commentator, Roy Greenslade

    tweets: Murdoch at #Leveson: what has emerged under persistent questioning, despite his denials, is his close involvement in UK's political process

    Journalist Ravi Somaiya

    tweets: Morning's testimony masterful from #Murdoch: tacit admission he is powerful, but blanket denial of any impropriety ever in anything.

    1319: Robert Peston Business editor

    says a moment of considerable drama during the morning's evidence came when Mr Murdoch described his conversation with Gordon Brown in 2009 in which he "declared war" on News International. "It was really quite a remarkable revelation," our correspondent says. "We obviously wait to see what Gordon Brown himself has to say about all of this."

    1321: Robert Peston Business editor

    adds that the other passage to stand out was Mr Murdoch admitting he did determine the editorial policy of the Sun, but when he used it to give a political view it was not because he wanted benefits for his company; he claims his aims were always ideological.


    For background on Gordon Brown's claims that the Sun accessed his family's medical records, here's our coverage of the paper's denial from July 2011.

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Imp point - Gordon Brown made claims of criminality in Commons but talked about Sun story in BBC iv

    Andrew Neil

    tweets: I reported the Brown threat to Murdoch 18 months ago #leveson


    runs through the key questions Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is facing about his handling of News Corp's bid for BSkyB.

    Tom Greatrex, Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West

    Perhaps Salmond should also write to #Leveson so he can clear up allegations in emails yesterday on oath

    1343: Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    says it seems Adam Smith has been offered up as a political sacrificial lamb to shield Jeremy Hunt from the core accusations he was paving the way for the Murdochs to take over BSkyB.

    Dr Anne Brunton, Criminologist in London

    Surely #hunt should be subject to a separate independent enquiry into his and his depts behaviour? Ministerial responsibility applies. #pmqs

    Caroline Lucas MP, Green party leader

    No apologist for #Hunt, but bullying, braying & hounding in HoC chamber is disgusting - wouldn't be permitted anywhere else #Leveson


    Mr Murdoch is scheduled to give evidence to the inquiry for two days. Our report rounding up this morning's testimony is here.

    Rupert Murdoch
    John Prescott, former Deputy PM

    He NEVER disappoints. Dennis Skinner to Jeremy Hunt : "When posh boys are in trouble they sack the servants" #Leveson

    Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield

    So, Culture Sec's Commons Statement over. Has he accepted his responsibility under Ministerial Code? No. Should he do so now? Yes. #leveson


    Opposition leaders in Scotland are demanding First Minister Alex Salmond makes a statement to Holyrood following claims he lobbied the UK government over News Corp's plan to take control of BSkyB. Read our full story here.


    And while the Leveson Inquiry took a lunch break, the culture secretary ended his statement to the Commons in response to Tuesday's sensational evidence. He insisted he "followed due process" over News Corp's bid for BSkyB, but Labour's shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman kept up calls for Mr Hunt to resign. Our report here.


    We're back, and straight into what Mr Murdoch thinks of Prime Minister David Cameron. He says says his first impressions were that he is "a good family man".


    Robert Jay QC asks: "Did you feel that he was lightweight?" Mr Murdoch replies: "No, not then, certainly, it was too early to make that judgement."


    Mr Murdoch denies discussing the BBC licence fee, role of Ofcom or the employment of Andy Coulson with Mr Cameron. On ministers and the licence fee, he says: "All governments hated the BBC - and they all gave it whatever it wanted."


    Mr Murdoch says: "If I had been interested in commercial interests I would have supported the Tories in every election as they are more pro-business. It was also in my interest to reflect the views or talk to our readers."

    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Magic Murdoch moment on Prime Ministers "They all hated the BBC, they all gave it whatever it wanted" #leveson


    Mr Murdoch refutes Mr Jay's comment that there is "always political frisson around your bids, mergers and acquisitions". He says: "I want to put it to bed once and for all, that is a complete myth - that I used the influence of the Sun or supposed political power to get favourable treatment."


    Mr Murdoch says he has a vague recollection of David Cameron being flown by Matthew Freud in his plane to a family boat in August 2008. But he can't recall whether it was his or his daughter's boat.


    Mr Cameron's visit was completely normal, Mr Murdoch says, as politicians go out of their way to impress newspaper editors and publishers.


    On his meetings with politicians, Mr Murdoch adds: "I enjoy meeting our leaders, some impress me more than others. I meet them around the world, I can tell you one or two who particularly impress me. One looks at their personalities, knowledge, policies, principles."


    Meanwhile, First Minister Alex Salmond denies any wrongdoing or impropriety in his dealings with the Murdochs over the News Corp takeover bid for BSkyB, and says he would be "delighted" to go before the Leveson Inquiry. This follows opposition calls for Mr Salmond to appear before the Scottish Parliament to answer questions about the affair.


    On his influence, Mr Murdoch says: "The perception irritates me because I think it's a myth and everthing I do every day proves it to be such." He uses the example of his papers' coverage of Mayor Bloomberg in New York: "It sends him crazy but we support him every times he stands for election."


    Mr Murdoch says he was asked to use the back entrance to 10 Downing Street when he visited soon after the coalition was set up in May 2010.


    Mr Jay asks: "Was there no link in your mind between your support for Mr Cameron and the BSkyB bid?" Mr Murdoch replies: "None at all."

    Guardian deputy editor Katharine Viner

    tweets: David Cameron flying on Murdoch's son-in-law's plane to the Murdoch family boat is 'part of the democratic process,' says Rupert #leveson

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    retweets former Brown special adviser Damian McBride: 3 points re. Murdoch & Fraser Brown story: 1. The story appeared hours after The Sun's first approach, certainly not "several days later". 2. Rebekah only contacted Sarah AFTER we told The Sun that we intended to issue a statement to PA, thus spoiling their 'exclusive'. 3. Although the hacking allegation turned out to be wrong, GB 100% believed it. He didn't "know very well" where the story really came from.


    Mr Murdoch says his relationship with First Minister Alex Salmond is "warm". He adds: "He's an amusing guy."

    Guardian journalist Kevin Mitchell

    tweets: Murdoch uses the old trick of powerful men: finishes an answer, pauses, then interrupts the reply. Puts his questioner out of his rhythm

    New York Times correspondent, Sarah Lyall

    tweets: Fascinating Murdoch strategy: Deny influence, deny commercial motivation; make questions seems like silly irritants easily deflected.


    On Scottish independence - the Scottish Sun supports the SNP but not this policy - Mr Murdoch says: "It's a little emotional, I am attracted by the idea, but not convinced so should stay neutral on the big issue and see how he (Mr Salmond) does."

    Peter Hunt News correspondent

    tweets: Murdoch again struggling to navigate his way around the documents.


    And that's it, Lord Justice Leveson decides to wrap up the hearing for the day. Mr Murdoch will continue to give evidence at 10:00 BST on Thursday.

    Home Affairs Correspondent Channel 4 News, Andy Davies

    tweets: Wendi trying to usher Rupert quickly out of room, grabs his arm again. They're off #leveson

    NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik

    tweets: Today's questioning of Murdoch aloof from hacking - focusing more on use of papers for commercial advantage - but landing few blows.

    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Great gang of snappers chasing Rupert Murdoch's departing car up road, splashing through puddles

    Journalist Ravi Somaiya

    tweets: Small band of protesters outside the High Court decrying the "#Murdoch Mafia".

    Photo: Ravi Somaiya

    Pack of photographers chase Rupert Murdoch's car as he leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

    Photographers chase Rupert Murdoch's car
    ITV News UK editor, Keir Simmons

    tweets: So summary of #Leveson today - council suggests to Rupert Murdoch his is very powerful, Murdoch says he's not.

    1538: Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    says Downing Street has contained the row around Jeremy Hunt - for now - following David Cameron's fierce defence in the Commons, which will make it very hard for him to throw Mr Hunt overboard. He says this, plus a succession of Tory backbenchers speaking in support and the scalp of Jeremy Hunt's political adviser, show a strategy in operation to contain the row.

    1541: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    says Mr Murdoch, a man who says his relationships with prime ministers date back to Harold Wilson, spoke most engagingly about Gordon Brown - notably a telephone exchange in which voices were not raised but Mr Brown "declared war" on News International.

    1552: Peter Hunt News correspondent

    offers some analysis on Rupert Murdoch's evidence within our main news story here. Our correspondent suggests: "The evidence of one Murdoch has already imperilled the political future of one cabinet minister. The evidence of another, has not so far badly damaged the standing of any others.

    "But there's always tomorrow."


    That concludes our live coverage of Rupert Murdoch's appearance at the Leveson Inquiry for the day. But he returns to answer more questions on Thursday, of course, when we will again be offering minute-by-minute coverage.


The Leveson report

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