Rupert Murdoch was the first non-MP into No 10 Downing Street after David Cameron became coalition PM in 2010 (by the back door, obviously).
For a while it looked as though everything was going swimmingly: former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was Cameron’s press secretary and always helpful culture secretary Jeremy Hunt waved through News Corporation’s bid to buy the extant 61 per cent of hugely profitable satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Then it all turned pear-shaped with the phone hacking scandal at the NoW and Murdoch, and his pals like former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, found they couldn’t see Cameron for dust. And Murdoch lost the NoW and BSkyB.
So it’s safe to say that Rupert, who never liked Cameron very much anyway (he preferred Labour’s Gordon Brown) is not feeling well-disposed to Cameron and his chums.
And, hey presto, the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times set off a big bomb under Cameron and the Tories this morning with a story in the Sunday Times saying that Tory co-chairman Peter Cruddas (pictured) had been cheerfully soliciting bids of £250,000 from lobbyists and the companies they represent for access to Cameron, chancellor George Osborne and foreign secretary William Hague.
Not only was the story backed up by journalist quotes from the papers ‘Insight’ team but it was also supported by a video of the spivvy Cruddas boasting about his wares.
This is straight out of the portfolio of one Mazher Mahmood, the now-defunct NoW’s notorious ‘fake sheikh’ who fooled hundreds of people into confessing their ‘sins’ to him and made sure their indiscretions were captured on video. Mazher is now employed by the Sunday Times (for the second time, the first time he was fired) and, although the Cruddas story does not bear his name it certainly bears his imprint.
What’s this got to do with Murdoch’s relationship with Cameron?
I very much doubt that the hapless Cruddas would have been so exposed if News Corporation and the Cameron government had been on better terms. The story would have run but it would have been softened, with Cameron’s chief spin doctor fulminating in the paper (under Cameron’s name ) about how this sort of thing had got to stop.
As it was, Cameron was completely ambushed. He doesn’t answer the question.
You can bet there’ll be more.