Murdoch: I did discuss BSkyB bid with Cameron

Murdoch's revelation contradicts Cameron's previous claims.

David Cameron has always denied discussing the BSkyB bid with James Murdoch but in his testimony to the Leveson inquiry, Murdoch has just revealed that the bid was raised at the famous Christmas dinner at Rebekah Brooks's home.

He told the inquiry that Cameron reiterated that Vince Cable's behaviour had been "unacceptable" (Murdoch contemptuously referred to Cable as having shown "acute bias"), adding:

I imagine I expressed the hope that things would be dealt with in way that was appropriate and judicial. It was a tiny side conversation, it was not a discussion.

His witness statement to the inquiry goes into more detail:

I recall speaking briefly to the Prime Minister on one occasion about the proposal. This was on Dec 23, 2010, at a dinner hosted by Rebekah and Charlie Brooks and attended by a number of other people.

It took place two days after responsibility for the matter had passed to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, (from Vince Cable). On Dec 21 the Prime Minister’s office had issued a statement saying that: ‘The Prime Minister is clear that Mr Cable’s comments were totally unacceptable and inappropriate.’

I recall concurring with that view, and believe I would have appreciated assurances that the process would be handled objectively in the future.

Last year, Cameron told parliament: “I never had one inappropriate conversation”, adding that “[I] completely took myself out of any decision making about this bid”. A spokesman later added that Cameron had “not been involved in any of the discussions about BSkyB”.

Murdoch's insistence that it was "not a discussion" gives Cameron some wriggle room but one is left with the impression that the PM has not been entirely honest on this front.

The other revelation from Murdoch's appearance is that he also discussed the BSkyB bid with George Osborne. Here's the relevant extract from his witness statement:

My diary records an appointment with Mr Osborne on Nov 29, 2010, but I cannot recall whether that was the date on which I had the discussion with him.

I believe we discussed a number of matters, and that I expressed my concern at the slow progress with the regulatory process, my view that the investment would be good for Britain and also my view that there were no plurality issues raised by our proposal.

James Murdoch and David Cameron together in 2007. Photograph: Rex Features

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

YouTube screengrab
Show Hide image

Listen: Schools Minister Nick Gibb gets SATs question for 11-year-olds wrong

Exams put too much pressure on children. And on the politicians who insist they don't put too much pressure on children.

As we know from today's news of a primary school exams boycott, or "kids' strike", it's tough being a schoolchild in Britain today. But apparently it's also tough being a Schools Minister.

Nick Gibb, Minister of State at the Department for Education, failed a SATs grammar question for 11-year-olds on the BBC's World at One today. Having spent all morning defending the primary school exams system - criticised by tens of thousands of parents for putting too much pressure on young children - he fell victim to the very test that has come under fire.

Listen here:

Martha Kearney: Let me give you this sentence, “I went to the cinema after I’d eaten my dinner”. Is the word "after" there being used as a subordinating conjunction or as a preposition?

Nick Gibb: Well, it’s a proposition. “After” - it's...

MK: [Laughing]: I don’t think it is...

NG: “After” is a preposition, it can be used in some contexts as a, as a, word that coordinates a subclause, but this isn’t about me, Martha...

MK: No, I think, in this sentence it’s being used a subordinating conjunction!

NG: Fine. This isn’t about me. This is about ensuring that future generations of children, unlike me, incidentally, who was not taught grammar at primary school...

MK: Perhaps not!

NG: ...we need to make sure that future generations are taught grammar properly.

I'm a mole, innit.