Leveson inquiry: Andrew Neil questions accuracy of Murdoch’s evidence
A FORMER newspaper editor has recalled an incident which “undermined” the accuracy of evidence media tycoon Rupert Murdoch gave to an inquiry into journalistic ethics.
Andrew Neil, former editor-in-chief of The Scotsman and editor of the Sunday Times – which is owned by Mr Murdoch – wondered whether the tycoon had “forgotten he was testifying under oath” at the Leveson Inquiry in London.
Mr Neil, Sunday Times editor between 1983 and 1994, described a conversation with Mr Murdoch in a written witness statement published yesterday on the inquiry’s website.
He also outlined his views on Mr Murdoch’s relationship with former prime minister Tony Blair’s New Labour government.
Mr Neil told inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson of Mr Murdoch’s ideological “soul mates” relationship with former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, now Lady Thatcher. He recalled an incident in late 1985, shortly before an industrial dispute at Mr Murdoch’s printing plant in Wapping, east London.
He wrote: “There was at least one time … when Mr Murdoch’s support for Mrs Thatcher paid business dividends and undermines the accuracy of his claim to the inquiry that he has never asked politicians for anything.
“In the run-up to the Wapping dispute he made it clear to me one night in late 1985 in my office that he had gone to Mrs Thatcher to get her assurance – to ‘square Thatcher’, in his words – that enough police would be made available to allow him to get his papers out past the massed pickets.
“She was fully ‘squared’, he reported: she had given him assurances on the grounds she was doing no more than upholding the right of his company to go about its lawful business.
“He added that he could never have got the same assurances from the mayor of New York or the NYPD.”
Mr Neil also said New Labour did nothing to threaten Mr Murdoch’s British media interests, and “paved the way” for Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation to attempt to buy the 60 per cent of BSkyB it did not own.
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