Former British prime minister John Major told the Leveson inquiryon Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch demanded he change his policy on Europe, directly contradicting the News Corp. chief’s own testimony.
Major’s challenge comes a day after another former premier,Gordon Brown, also accused the Australian-born tycoon of misleading the inquiry into press ethics.
Major, who was the Conservative prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said he had dinner with Murdoch in February 1997 as part of an effort to get closer to the media baron’s newspapers ahead of elections.
“It became apparent in discussion that Mr Murdoch really didn’t like our European policies, which was no surprise to me, and he wished me to change our European policies,” Major told the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.
“It is not very often someone sits in front of a prime minister and says ‘I would like you to change your policy and if you don’t change your policy my organisation cannot support you.’”
Major says he told Murdoch there was “no question on us changing our policies.”
Murdoch’s Sun tabloid, Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper, switched its support to Major’s Labour rival Tony Blair shortly afterwards, and Blair went on to win the May 1997 election.
Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry on April 25 that he had “never asked a prime minister for anything”, as he tried to downplay his papers’ political influence.
On Monday, former Labour premier Brown appeared at the inquiry and denied the media baron’s claim that he had telephoned the tycoon in November 2010 threatening to “make war” on News Corp.
News Corp. said on Monday that Murdoch “stands by his testimony” regarding Brown.
The inquiry, chaired by senior judge Brian Leveson, was set up by current Prime Minister David Cameron last July in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch’s now-closed News of the World tabloid.
Cameron is due to give evidence to the inquiry on Thursday.