The former justice secretary Jack Straw admitted that he had a steady arrangement to meet Rebekah Brooks on the Oxfordshire to London train.
He told the Leveson inquiry yesterday that after discovering they shared the same regular commute, he and Brooks would meet to talk and work together on the train. They would “gossip about personalities” and the papers, although confidential discussion was limited due to the prevalence of “earwiggers” in the surrounding seats.
Straw was MP for Blackburn, but had a house in Minster Lovell, near Charlbury, West Oxfordshire.
The arrangement ended in 2009 when Brooks was made chief executive of News International, but they remained friends and he was one of several high ranking politicians invited to her wedding in June 2009.
Several of the recent witnesses at Leveson have objected to the idea that newspapers can make or break politicians' careers. Straw rejected this, saying:
Few of us who took part, for example, in the 1992 general election, are in any doubt that the Sun's approach lost us seats. That was the purpose [of the hostile coverage] and it is disingenuous for anyone to deny it.
In 1992, the Sun criticised Labour leader Neil Kinnock and personally attacked in its pages key members of the party, including Straw, who was accused of hypocrisy.
The possibility of a deal between the Sun and the Labour party in 1997 has been much discussed – and rebutted – by witnesses so far at Leveson. The Sun changed its allegiance from the Tories to Labour in 1997 with the headline “the Sun backs Blair”.
Straw said that Murdoch
Reckoned his political influence would be greater if, as it were, his support was available in return for what he thought he could get out of it.
I don't mean a deal, because I have seen no evidence of a deal. But he thought there was something in it.
Straw was critical of journalists at his Leveson appearance, saying: "As John Major famously said, 'the only people who've never made a mistake are the people who have never made a decision'. To which I would simply add: they are called journalists."
He also accused journalists of contributing to low turnouts and general apathy by presenting politicians as self-serving individuals.