By Martin Kelly
Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch has claimed that former Labour PM Gordon Brown “declared war” on his organisation after the tycoon confirmed to Mr Brown that they were no longer supporting Labour.
In a sensational testimony to the Leveson Inquiry Mr Murdoch described the former Labour leader as “unbalanced” as he angrily confronted the News Corporation owner on the phone.
The phone call by Mr Brown followed news that the Sun newspaper had changed its allegiance from Labour to the Conservatives in the run up to the 2010 General Election.
Mr Brown called after a headline appeared in the Sun on 30th September 2009 proclaiming “Labour’s lost it”.
According to Mr Murdoch, Gordon Brown said: “Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company.”
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked Murdoch how he thought the Labour leader could have attacked News Corp. “I don’t know.” Said Mr Murdoch, “I don’t think he was in a very balanced state of mind,”.
Mr Murdoch then effectively accused Brown of lying after the former PM made a statement to the House of Commons claiming his phone had been hacked and details of his child’s medical records had been accessed.
“He knew he was wrong when he called us a criminal organisation” the media tycoon told the inquiry, “he knew very well” how the tabloid had found out that his son Fraser had cystic fibrosis. “A father from the hospital in a similar position had called us,”
Mr Murdoch then revealed that a letter from Brown containing a personal thanks to Rebekah Brooks, who had liaised with Mr Brown’s wife Sarah over the story, was “now in the hands of the police”.
The accusation that Gordon Brown, when Prime Minister, made threats after support for the Labour party was dropped comes as Labour in Scotland launched an attack on First Minister Alex Salmond.
The party north of the border has claimed that Mr Salmond had “shamed Scotland” by backing the bid by News Corp to acquire control of BskyB and planning to make representations to Jeremy Hunt, the Minister who was considering the application.
However Mr Salmond has hit back by claiming that it was an entirely “legitimate position” for a Scottish Government First Minister to present the case that would have brought investment to Scotland.
Mr Salmond said: “I thought Scottish interests should be taken into account at some point in the deliberations that had to be made by UK secretaries of state. Far better to do it on that basis than to do it on the politics of whether they liked or didn’t like Rupert Murdoch.
“I would have been delighted to articulate that position if the opportunity had presented itself. As it turned out the opportunity didn’t present itself through a combination of circumstances.”
The furore over internal News Corp emails has led to calls for Tory Minister Jeremy Hunt to resign. The revelations have already claimed the scalp of the Culture Secretary’s aide, Adam Smith, who resigned earlier today.
Supporters are hoping that the scalp of his Ministerial aide will be enough to silence calls for the Minister himself to step down. However such is the nature of the communications contained in the emails shown to the Leveson inquiry that it is unlikely that Mr Hunt will be able to hang on to his Cabinet Position for much longer.
Mr Salmond will be appearing on STV’s ‘Scotland Tonight’ where he will be answering questions on his stance on the BskyB bid. The interview can be seen on STV at 22:30 or viewed online by going here: http://live.stv.tv/