UK Politics

Phone records suggest no Brown 'war' call to Murdoch

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Media captionBrown vs Murdoch: Who said what at the Leveson Inquiry

Gordon Brown says records released by the Cabinet Office confirm his claim that he did not call Rupert Murdoch to declare "war" on News Corp.

Mr Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry that the then prime minister made an angry call to him in September 2009 after the Sun dropped Labour.

But the Cabinet Office said there was no record of a call that month.

Mr Murdoch hit back in a Twitter message, saying: "I stand by every word I said to Leveson."

The Cabinet Office keeps records of all calls made through the Downing Street switchboard.

'One call'

Mr Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that Mr Brown had phoned him after one of his company's newspapers, the Sun, switched its backing to the Conservatives.

He quoted Mr Brown as saying: "Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company."

The News Corp chief further claimed that Mr Brown had not been in a "balanced state of mind" when he made the phone call.

Mr Murdoch could not recall the precise date of the call but News Corp later said it had been made towards the end of September 2009, when Mr Brown would have been at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Quizzed about the alleged call at the inquiry on Monday, Mr Brown said: "This conversation never took place."

The former prime minister added: "I'm shocked and surprised that it should be suggested, even when there's no evidence of such a conversation, that it should have happened."

He said any call that he made to "someone like Rupert Murdoch" would have gone through the Downing Street switchboard, even if it had been made on a mobile phone and he always had someone to "verify what happened".

Asked if he would avoid using the Downing Street switchboard if he did not want there to be a record of a call, he said: "Well, I would never have done that."

He told inquiry barrister Robert Jay QC: "I wouldn't know Rupert Murdoch's phone number."

'Confirms evidence'

News Corp issued a statement after Mr Brown's evidence session to say Mr Murdoch stood by his version of events.

But the Cabinet Office has now released a statement which Mr Brown says confirms his evidence to Leveson.

It says: "Following Gordon Brown's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on Monday we have received a number of questions about our records, which we provided to Mr Brown to support his preparations for the inquiry.

"We can confirm that there is a record of only one call between Mr Brown and Rupert Murdoch in the year to March 2010.

"That call took place on the 10th of November 2009.

"This was followed up by an email from Gordon Brown to Rupert Murdoch on the same day referring to the earlier conversation on Afghanistan.

"Four witness statements have been submitted to the inquiry on the content of the call by staff who worked in No 10 Downing Street and who were the four and sole personnel on the phone call."

Mr Brown's office said in a statement that the Cabinet Office note "confirms Mr Brown's evidence to the inquiry and this document will now be submitted by Mr Brown to Lord Justice Leveson".

"The fact is there is no record of a phone call Mr Murdoch claims to have had with Mr Brown around the end of September 2009," added a spokesman for the former prime minister.

"There is no record of a call because because no call took place. Indeed even now Mr Murdoch has been unable to name any date or a time of such a call."

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