UK Media Inquiry Heats Up: Prime Minister Next
Associate Editor, CNBC
British prime minister David Cameron faces the prospect of appearing for a full day at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and ethics on Thursday, rounding off a week in which the elite of British politics will have given evidence into their dealings with the media.
The prime minister is believed to have spent several weeks preparing for his appearance at the inquiry and it’s expected that he will face a number of difficult questions about his judgment and relationships.
One of the major themes that Robert Jay, the lawyer for the Inquiry, is likely to focus on will be the closeness of Cameron’s relationships with senior News International executives.
In particular, Jay is expected to ask the prime minister about his relationship with former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who is also the wife of one of Cameron’s oldest friends race horse owner Charlie Brooks.
Cameron exchanged numerous text messages with Brooks signed off with “LOL” (for lots of love).
Questions on the relationship will undoubtedly focus on various meetings between the two, including a dinner shortly before Christmas also attended by James Murdoch, then chairman and chief executive of BskyB and chairman of News Group Newspapers, the holding company for News International, itself a subsidiary of News Corporation.
It is highly likely that the prime minister will be asked about his relationship with Rupert Murdoch and whether he struck a deal with the media mogul in return for the support of his newspapers ahead of the general election in 2010.
It seems probable that Jay will also ask Cameron about the media coverage of the death of his son Ivan in 2009.
Cameron will be asked about the appointment of Andy Coulson as Downing Street’s director of communications. Coulson was forced to resign last year as further evidence of phone hacking emerged at the News of the World during his time editor of the newspaper – something he had previously denied any knowledge of.
The furor over the revelations eventually led to the closure of the 150-year-old newspaper.
Cameron also faces questions over the government’s handling of the BskyB takeover deal and his decision to give responsibility for reviewing the proposed deal to Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.
However, the prospect of any new revelations or admissions is slim. The prime minister will have studied carefully the evidence given to the Inquiry already including that of both James and Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and several others.
The prime minister’s appearance on Thursday follows the appearance on Monday of his closest political ally and friend, finance minister George Osborne, as well as that of former prime minister Gordon Brown.