David Cameron's former press chief reveals plan to shun Murdoch

David Cameron began his reign as Conservative Party leader with a clear strategy of creating distance between himself and Rupert Murdoch, according to his former press chief.

David Cameron: attacked over News International links
David Cameron: attacked over News International links

Writing exclusively for PRWeek, George Eustice reveals that Cameron was initially determined to 'send a signal' to editors and proprietors - and to Murdoch, in particular.

The revelation comes as the Prime Minister faces sustained criticism over his close links to ex-News International figures at the centre of the phone hacking scandal such as Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. Cameron has met News International's top executives 26 times in the 15 months since he became Prime Minister, Downing Street has disclosed.

But Eustice reveals: 'When I was his press secretary, we pursued a strategy of quietly puncturing the arrogance of both editors and proprietors, and raising the status of what I termed real journalism.

'It was the settled position of David Cameron's inner team that, if he were invited to speak at News Corp's annual conference, he would have politely declined in order to send a signal that Murdoch's power was not recognised. Shrill leader columns were also to be ignored as one might ignore a child's tantrum. Political parties were to decide the agenda and newspapers were to report it.'

Eustice managed media relations for Cameron's successful leadership campaign in 2005, going on to serve as his press secretary until 2007. He is now Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a regular PRWeek columnist.

The former press secretary acknowledges that Cameron veered away from his original comms strategy after appointing former News of the World editor Coulson as his comms director in 2007.

Eustice says there has been a 'four-year detour', but he adds: 'Now is the time to return to those values.'

Downing Street last week gave what was intended to be a complete list of Cameron's meetings with senior newspaper executives. The list revealed Cameron had met Brooks, News International's former chief executive, four times since he became Prime Minister.

But it later emerged Cameron had also met Brooks for dinner at her Chipping Norton home on 23 December, and the following day had a picnic with the Brooks family. Cameron also invited Coulson to spend a private weekend at Chequers as recently as March.

Click here for George Eustice's full column

CAMERON'S MEETINGS

Downing Street published details of David Cameron's meetings with proprietors and journalists. They show he attended:

26 meetings or events involving News International figures

9 involving Telegraph Media Group

4 involving Associated Newspapers

4 involving the London Evening Standard

2 involving Guardian Media Group

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