Friday, July 29, 2011

Politics:  Meetings Indicate British Officials' Links to Murdochs

Cozy ...

As the phone hacking scandal struck the heart of British politics in recent weeks, one figure has been notably silent: the chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who, by several accounts, played a decisive role in bringing the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson into 10 Downing Street as a senior adviser. That move has deeply embarrassed the British government.

Pressure on Mr. Osborne mounted Tuesday as details of his extensive meetings with the Murdochs and leaders of the News Corporation's British subsidiary, News International, were released.

A diary posted on the official Web site of the Exchequer showed that his encounters continued even after a new police inquiry into hacking had begun, and as the government neared a crucial decision on the Murdochs' $12 billion bid, subsequently abandoned, to take complete control of British Sky Broadcasting, the country's dominant satellite broadcaster.

The posting of Mr. Osborne's meetings with News Corporation executives followed Mr. Cameron's disclosure that he had 26 meetings and social engagements with Rupert Murdoch, his son James and their lieutenants since taking office in May 2010. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has released his own list, showing 15 meetings or social contacts with News International executives over the same period.

According to the Exchequer's listing, which did not include interviews with journalists, Mr. Osborne met 10 times with the two Murdochs and their former lieutenant, Rebekah Brooks. These were among 16 meetings or social occasions Mr. Osborne attended at which News International executives were present — representing a third of all meetings he had with senior figures from all of Britain's media organizations. Mr. Coulson and Ms. Brooks, who resigned this month as chief executive of News International, are among a group of people who worked for News International and The News of the World who have been arrested in connection with the phone hacking case.

For more, see Meetings Indicate British Officials' Links to Murdochs by John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya, July 26, 2011 at NYTimes.com.

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