Labour reveals Murdoch and News International links
LABOUR leader Ed Miliband and his senior team have regularly attended meetings and parties with top News International executives over the past year, the party declared yesterday, as it called on First Minister Alex Salmond to publish his own dealings with the scandal-hit news group.
New records published yesterday for the shadow cabinet show that company chiefs and Labour figures met at party conference, at London meetings and at parties in the Home Counties this summer.
Scottish leader Iain Gray also revealed he had held 42 meetings with media executives since taking over in 2008, four of which involved people from News International titles.
Having published his own list, he turned the focus on Salmond, accusing the First Minister of dragging his heels over detailing his own private dealings.
It comes amid claims from some Scottish Government sources that there is some "nervousness" about the release of Salmond's diary dates, which officials say will be published later this week.
In another development, it emerged yesterday that Prince William held a lunch for News International chairman James Murdoch and former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, below, at a hotel near his home in Wales.
During the meal, the prince is reported to have asked them to apologise after a royal aide's voicemail messages were intercepted by the News Of The World's royal editor in 2005.
The Prince is said to have expressed disappointment that nobody from News International had issued an apology.
Yesterday's disclosures over Labour's contact with News International come after David Cameron and his Cabinet revealed the extent of their own media contacts, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
Cameron revealed he had held 26 meetings with executives from Rupert Murdoch's companies since last May's election, and had invited his former communications director and News Of The World editor Andy Coulson to Chequers. The Treasury has also revealed that Chancellor George Osborne had 16 meetings with NI figures in the same period, which included a meeting with Rupert Murdoch's team in New York.
The meetings have been questioned, as many took place as News Corp was negotiating its aborted takeover of BSkyB, which had been referred to the UK government on competition grounds.
The Labour leader has racked up 50 meetings or receptions with proprietors, editors and senior media executives. They include a private meeting with former NI chief executive Brooks on 15 September last year.
With Cameron, Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg having published details of contacts with NI executives, Gray last night called on Salmond to follow suit.
Gray said: "Alex Salmond should publish a list of his meetings with media executives immediately. David Cameron has published his list, so has George Osborne, as has Ed Miliband. What is Alex Salmond's problem? His close relationship with the Murdoch organisation makes it particularly important that the First Minister behaves in an open and transparent manner."
So far, Salmond's aides have confirmed only that he used a trip to London in January to meet James Murdoch, News International's chair. Aides also say Salmond has not met Rupert Murdoch since 2007, when the News Corp chairman visited Scotland to open its Eurocentral printing plant in Bellshill.
A spokesman for Salmond said: "As previously reported, Mr Salmond will be delighted to publish a comprehensive list of all his meetings with newspaper executives and editors since becoming First Minister in May 2007."
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