Murdoch Linked Support to Policy on Europe in 1997, Major Says

Former U.K. Prime Minister John Major said News Corp. (NWSA) chairman Rupert Murdoch told him in 1997 that his papers wouldn’t support him in the coming election if he didn’t adopt a more hostile pose toward the European Union.

“He made it clear that he disliked my European policies, which he wished me to change,” Major, who would go on to lose that election to Tony Blair, told an inquiry into media ethics in London today. “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.’”

Major said it was “unusual” for someone speaking to a prime minister to make such a direct link between a policy and their support. He said “the sheer scale” of influence Murdoch is believed to wield “is an unattractive facet” of British life, “whether he exercises it or not.”

Major is the second former prime minister to testify in two days. Yesterday, Gordon Brown contradicted Murdoch’s April testimony that Brown threatened the media boss in 2009, after his Sun newspaper switched its support away from him.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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