Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has said that First Minister Alex Salmond has been sullied by James Murdoch's revelations at the Leveson Enquiry.
Amongst e-mails filed for the Enquiry to consider, one from Frederic Michel, News International's Director of Public Affairs, about a meeting with Alex Salmond's advisers on 15 June 2010.
It's on Page 80 here.
So, it seems that not only was Salmond apparently prepared to call Jeremy Hunt to lobby on behalf of News International's takeover of BSkyB, but there seemed to be a bit of a deal in the making about persuading Sky News to hold a Holyrood election debate with just two of Scotland's four political leaders. Alex Salmond would clearly have wiped the floor with Labour's Iain Gray in a head to head as he did virtually every week at First Minister's Questions but was much more vulnerable to the Tory's Annabel Goldie and Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott. I wonder if the advisers approached any other broadcasters to try to make this happen and, if they did, whether the response was as positive.
Willie Rennie called for an urgent investigation into the circumstances behind this exchange. He said:
It is difficult to understand why the First Minister has allowed himself to be sullied to such an extent.
When the troubled media mogul said jump, it is clear that Alex Salmond was quick to say ‘how high?
We need an immediate investigation into the circumstances which led to such an outrageous exchange taking place.
Alex Salmond will do anything to split Scotland from rest of UK, even cosy up to a disgraced media tycoon.
This might be a good time to remind readers of two things.
The first comes from the beginning of March when I reported how Willie Rennie took Salmond to task over the First Minster's downplaying of the Murdoch Empire's role in the phone hacking scandal which led to the Leveson Enquiry. This came in the same week as Rupert Murdoch tweeted his support for Scottish independence. Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times, tweeted that Murdoch's support for independence was revenge on the UK Government for setting up the Leveson Enquiry. Salmond is usually full of bluff and bluster but on this occasion he fidgeted, he could barely string a sentence together, his head was down.
The second is this article in the Guardian from July last year which showed that the Liberal Democrats conducted their relationship with the Murdoch empire in a different manner:
According to one account from a senior party figure, a cabinet minister was told that, if the government did not do as NI wanted, the Lib Dems would be "done over" by the Murdoch papers, which included the now defunct News of the World as well as the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
So, to recap:
- Alex Salmond's adviser tells Murdoch's Public Affairs chief that he'll lobby the UK Government for the Corporation. And let's not kid ourselves that Hunt would take a call from a mere adviser;
- Alex Salmond, writing in the Scottish Sun on Sunday, played down the phone hacking scandal;
- Rupert Murdoch tweets his support for Scottish independence.
All a big coincidence?
Tonight I can't quite get out of my mind the idea of Alex Salmond singing to Rupert Murdoch that old James Taylor song, You've got a friend:
You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I'll come running