Yesterday the Independent made much of this headline and the idea was picked up by the BBC and others. I wonder who thought up the original line? The number comes from taking every News International entry on this list of the Prime Minister’s meetings with proprietors, editors and senior media executives published by Number 10 and adding them up.
There are 74 entries of which some 26 are related to News International. My first observation would be that 36% of the list is News International which pretty much exactly matches its share of the national newspaper market.
Of the 26 News International meetings 10 were one-on-one meetings with the editors of national newspapers:
- Dominic Mohan, Sun 3 times
- James Harding, Times 4 times
- Colin Myler, NOTW 1 time
- John Witherow, Sunday Times 2 times
These sessions are entirely normal and entirely proportionate. If calling newspaper editors Murdoch chiefs is a tad poetic then the next set of “meetings” make the Independent and the BBC look mendacious:
- The Sun Police Bravery Awards – twice
- The Sun Military Awards – once
- News of the World Children’s Champions – once
There is nothing wrong with the PM deciding to support these causes. Maybe if the Guardian or Observer honoured the police and military the PM would turn up to their dos too.
So we have reduced the Independent’s list from 26 to 12. You get into more questionable areas when you consider that Cameron attended the News International Summer party twice and a News International reception. Three “meetings”. Like Cameron had deep and meaningfuls with anyone at these. In the same period he attended another 8 parties variously related to the news media:
- FT mid-summer party
- Spectator summer party
- hosted two reception for broadcasters and the Lobby at Number 10
- another one for regional broadcasters and the lobby
- a party for National Magazines’ 100th birthday party
- another for the Journalists’ charity
- hosted a reception for British Society of Magazine Editors
- hosted a reception for the Regional Lobby
In context 3 out 11 media related parties with News Corp does not seem unreasonable. Perhaps Cameron should party less? Maybe that makes him normal?
The meetings that the public might question are now looking a little thin – down to eight.
Two appearances at the Times CEO Summit. Again deep and meaningfuls? Isn’t this pretty normal along with appearances at CBI conferences or similar? This takes us down to six. The six meetings that Cameron might have avoided or reduced resolve to:
- One one-to-one with Rupert Murdoch
- Two one-to-one with Rebakah Brooks
- One meeting with Brooks and Sun Editor at the Conservative Party Conference
- One social with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch
- One social with Rebekah Brooks
Maybe Cameron will come to regret these six meetings. Am I alone in thinking that this is not a big deal?