So the famous Australian-American protector of British sovereignty Rupert Murdoch not only tried to persuade Tony Blair to take a hard-line stance against Europe. He also pressed another United Kingdom prime minister, John Major, for "policy changes" relating to the country's relationship with supranational institutions. This even went as far as calling for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union – alleges Major.
In his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, Major stated that just before the 1997 general election Murdoch "made it clear that he disliked my European policies, which he wished me to change". Major added: "If not, his papers could not and would not support the Conservative government. So far as I recall he made no mention of editorial independence, but referred to all his papers as 'we'."
Last year, before the House of Commons media select committee, Murdoch himself admitted that the only thing he had heated discussions with Tony Blair about during his premiership was "Europe". Presumably, there has been no need for such debates with David Cameron – given that they are both singing from the same hymn sheet on European matters. But what the Major/Blair revelations do make clear is the strange contradiction with Murdoch's own evidence before Leveson just a few weeks ago - when he claimed: "I have never asked a prime minister for anything." Now, either someone is not being straight with Leveson and the watching British public or a huge breakdown in communication has occurred. In all likelihood, we will never know for sure which one it is.
But, perhaps, more interesting than the allegations of selective memory sometimes aimed at those appearing before Leveson is Murdoch's determination to wage a bitter battle against the EU. Just what has this man got against Brussels – to the point that it allegedly becomes discussion point number one with every British Prime Minister he meets? Writing for PublicServiceEurope.com
last year, the deputy chairman of the London Press Club Professor Martyn Bond said: "The immediate answer lies in the potential of the regulatory authorities in Brussels, particularly the anti-competition authorities, to hamper the growth of Murdoch's media empire. While he is clearly the major single player in the UK market, with both press and broadcasting interests, his holdings on the continent are considerably more modest."
In a separate article for this website
Professor Antony Glees wrote: "Sky News
itself is having a field day with the eurozone crisis. Of course, Murdoch never liked the euro or the EU for that matter." Murdoch's anti-EU stance could quite possibly stem from the desire to avoid regulation of his media empire, from Brussels. We know for sure that he had plans for even greater penetration and influence in the UK media market. I mean, whether you are a Europhile or a Eurosceptic, do we really believe that Murdoch is interested only in defending British institutions like the pound rather than expanding News Corporation's portfolio in mainland Europe and beyond?
For, before the select committee last year, he readily admitted he was more focused on speaking to the editor of the Wall Street Journal
than wasting time on his senior journalists in Britain. Hardly, the ultimate defender of British sovereignty his UK newspapers paint him to be. Whether the media magnate's rants on Britain's place in Europe, in the company of British prime ministers, took place or not – the mood music itself is worrying enough. The Leveson Inquiry raises many serious questions around editorial independence, media monopolies and the willingness of our most senior politicians to kowtow to newspaper proprietors. And it all leaves a rather nasty taste in the mouth. Of course, it could be that British citizens are naturally Eurosceptic in the main. But the daily drip of media poison into their ears damning EU red tape and unelected Brussels bureaucrats will certainly not have done anything to encourage a more mature debate on Europe. The only trouble now is that even if Murdoch sells his British newspapers – as commentators are predicting - they may go to a Russian, Chinese or Saudi oligarch. What is to come may, in fact, be much worse. We dread to think.
Could the answer to the question be twofold? Firstly, Mr Murdoch has a properly functioning brain. Secondly - the corrupt, undemocratic, unaccountable, dictatorial, hugely expensive, profligate, proto-Stalinist European Union begs to be disliked - loathed - hated even.
David Davies - London, Great Britain