Was the Cabinet no longer impartial over BSkyB bid?
First Reaction: Accusations abound after Cameron reveals senior Tories met Murdoch’s men 100 times
Any doubts about the closeness of David Cameron's cabinet with News International executives appear to have been banished by the Government's publication yesterday of a list of meetings between senior Conservative politicians and Murdoch's men.
Since taking office in May 2010, Cameron and his cabinet have met more than 100 times with Murdoch or News International executives and editors. Chancellor George Osborne has met with NI seniors 16 times since the election – more than once a month – while education secretary Michael Gove has attended six events where Rupert Murdoch has been present.
In total, almost one in four of the Cabinet's meetings with journalists and media proprietors have included Murdoch or senior News International staff.
The significance of these meetings is now being hotly debated...
Cabinet's independence was compromised. "It shows the extent to which so many senior figures were compromised and to a degree embarrassed with their links with Murdoch and the empire," said Michael Crick, political editor of BBC Newsnight.
Michael Gove, said Crick, "used to work for the Times, worked for Murdoch, was highly regarded by him and his wife still works for the paper." The closeness of that relationship may explain why Gove and others failed to publicly defend Cameron in recent weeks, leaving the PM "rather isolated".
They will think twice in future. "In time, there is an obvious danger that these networks will reassert themselves," the Guardian said in an editorial. "The great weapon against that happening inappropriately is transparency. The knowledge that a meeting will become public is a great regulator of the instinct to hobnob inappropriately.
"Publication holds the process up to the light," the leader continued. "If that means that ministers will now think twice before grovelling to or being grovelled to by media executives, that is all to the good"
What about the BSkyB decision? Labour was quick to go on the attack. "The publication of these lists raises new questions about the discussions David Cameron, George Osborne and Michael Gove had about the BSkyB deal, Andy Coulson and phone hacking allegations," Labour MP Ivan Lewis said.
"We now need urgent clarification about whether David Cameron or his ministers sought to influence the BSkyB decision."
It's all blown way out of proportion. Spiked Online editor Brendan O'Neill said journalists invest too much significance in the encounters. "The almost Versailles-level obsession with recent politician/Murdoch dinner-party seating arrangements is salacious gossip masquerading as investigative journalism," he said.
"The fact that George dined with Rupert is not proof that he sucked up to him and agreed to give the BSkyB bid the nod, and the fact that Dave Christmassed with Rebekah does not tar him with the News International brush." ·
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