Tories deny Murdoch deal

By Emmeline Saunders

The Conservatives have denied a deal with Rupert Murdoch as a “completely wrong and totally improper” allegation.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News yesterday that accusations levelled at the party by business secretary Peter Mandelson were “absolute nonsense”.

Lord Mandelson’s comments came after the Sun newspaper, owned by Mr Murdoch’s company News International, attacked Gordon Brown over a letter sent to a grieving mother that was riddled with alleged spelling mistakes.

Last week, the business secretary said Mr Murdoch’s media company and the Tories had “effectively formed a contract”.

He accused the Sun of “bad taste and crude politicking”, and claimed the tabloid had entered into a ‘bargain’ that would be rewarded under a Conservative government.

“What the Sun can do for the Conservatives during the election is one part of the contract and, presumably, what the Conservatives can do for News International if they are elected is the other side of the bargain,” he added.

Mr Hunt said yesterday: “I’m sure they [Mr Murdoch and David Cameron] have met and why shouldn’t they? …But the idea of any kind of deal would be completely wrong and totally improper.”

“If there was some deal between the Conservatives and the News Corporation [News International’s parent company], then what about Labour’s deal in 1997, 2001, 2005? It’s absolute nonsense,” he added.

The Sun, which has a weekday circulation of three million, switched allegiance after 12 years of supporting Labour during the party’s conference in September.

In response the government argued the paper no longer has the power to influence the outcome of a general election.

Last week, in the midst of the furore over the prime minister’s misspelt letter, the tabloid was forced to offer its own apology after spelling Jacqui Janes’ name wrong on its website.