Rupert Murdoch said a “furious” Gordon Brown threatened to destroy his empire after The Sun switched its support to the Tories, Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of the paper, has told the Leveson Inquiry.
By Andy Bloxham
4:39PM GMT 09 Jan 2012
Mr MacKenzie said Mr Murdoch told him that he had received a phone call in which the former Prime Minister “roared” at him “for 20 minutes”.
The former editor also told the inquiry into press standards that News International, Mr Murdoch’s company, had lied to the Press Complaints Commission and recommended that newspapers be fined for such actions in future.
He also referred to the phone hacking scandal and said The Guardian had “got away” with falsely reporting that News of the World journalists had deleted Milly Dowler’s voicemails.
Had such an error been made by The Sun, he said, the newspaper might have been forced to close.
Mr MacKenzie said he had worked closely with Mr Murdoch for 13 years in which he had spoken to him almost daily.
He told the inquiry that it was Mr Murdoch who disclosed Mr Brown’s alleged threat, something which the former Labour leader has repeatedly denied.
Although Mr MacKenzie was not at the meeting between the two men in late 2009, nor was he the newspaper’s editor, he gave an account of the conversation as reported to him by Mr Murdoch.
The evidence, which first came during seminars at an early stage of the inquiry, was read to the hearing by its counsel Robert Jay QC and it refers to a speech by Mr Brown which did not get as much prominence as a story about the paper’s shift of allegiance to the Tories.
Mr MacKenzie had said: “Of course the endorsement blew away Brown’s speech off the front page.
“That night a furious Brown called Murdoch and in Rupert’s words “roared at me for 20 minutes”…
Asked at today’s hearing who the source for the story was, Mr MacKenzie replied: “It was Mr Murdoch.”
Mr MacKenzie’s submission continued: “At the end, Brown said: “You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company”.”
When reports of a conversation between the former Prime Minister and Mr Murdoch first surfaced, Mr Brown claimed to have numerous witnesses who could attest to its not having taken place.
After Mr MacKenzie’s evidence, a spokeswoman for Mr Brown said: “It has already been pointed out that there was no such phone call nor communication between Mr Brown and Mr Murdoch.”
News International declined to comment.
The inquiry heard further details of Mr Murdoch’s behaviour.
Mr MacKenzie refuted the broadcaster Anne Diamond’s previous claims to the inquiry that she had been singled out for negative treatment by his papers.
He said he had “never heard Rupert Murdoch say we should ‘go after’ anybody”.
Mr Murdoch was furious when he found out The Sun was to pay £1 million in damages to Elton John after a story falsely claimed the singer had hired rent boys, the inquiry heard.
Mr MacKenzie recalled sending the media mogul a fax then receiving a 40-minute phone call of “non-stop abuse”.
He told the hearing: “Let’s put it this way, he wasn’t pleased.”
On hacking and the way stories are perceived differently according to the newspaper in which they appear, Mr MacKenzie said: “Take the Milly Dowler deletions of those calls. Had that been The Sun, The Sun would have come very, very close to being shut down had they got that story wrong. The Guardian sticks the story on page 10 and they get away with it.”