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Rupert Murdoch At Leveson: Gordon Brown 'Declared War On News Corp' After Sun Backed Tories

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Former prime minister Gordon Brown told Rupert Murdoch he had declared war on News Corp after The Sun withdrew their support from the Labour party, the media mogul told the Leveson inquiry.

Giving evidence to the inquiry into media ethics, the 81-year-old told the court he did not think Brown was in a "balanced state of mind" when he made the comments.

"Mr Brown did call me and said 'Rupert do you know what's going on here?'," Murdoch said, speaking of a phone call after The Sun announced they were backing the Conservatives in September 2009 during the Labour conference.

"I said 'what do you mean?'," Murdoch continued.

"He said 'well, The Sun, and what it's doing and how it came out.' I said: 'I'm not aware. I was not warned of the exact timing… But I'm sorry to tell you, Gordon, we have come to the conclusion that we will support a change of government when there's an election.'

"I must stress no voices were raised, we were talking more quietly than you and I are now. He said 'well, your company has declared war on my government. And we have no alternative to make war on your company'."

According to the Guardian's Dan Sabbagh Murdoch told his advisers "let's get this f**king thing over with" as he left court.

Earlier Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry his media empire News Corp never "pushed our commercial interests in our newspapers."

The media mogul said he was not a "Sun King" character who used charisma to influence his media empire.

"I try very hard to set an example of ethical behaviour and make it quite clear that I expect it," he said.

"One can describe that in a number of ways. But do I do it via an aura or charisma? I don't think so."

The News Corp chief also denied asking favours from the top of government, stressing: "I have never asked a prime minister for anything."

He also denied influencing editors on the Times and Sunday Times, adding he was "sorry to say" he "never much" interfered with the News of the World.

"If you want to judge my thinking, look at The Sun," he said.

Murdoch said he would use his two day appearance at Leveson to "put some myths to bed."

In a statement this afternoon, Gordon Brown said:

“Mr Rupert Murdoch has today made a serious allegation that in a telephone call when ‘The Sun’ declared for the Conservative Party, I told him I had declared war on his company.

He is wholly wrong.

As the Leveson Inquiry heard ‘The Sun’ declared for the Conservatives on the 30th of September, 2009. I did not phone Mr Murdoch or meet him, or write to him about his decision.

The only phone call I had with Mr Murdoch in the last year of my time in office was a phone call specifically about Afghanistan and his newspaper’s coverage of the war. This was in the second week of November after his newspaper, The Sun, printed a story in the second week of November about the death of a soldier and his mother’s complaints .

I hope Mr Murdoch will have the good grace to correct his account.”

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Murdoch's evidence to Leveson has finished. But they'll be more written evidence to delve through online soon.

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Murdoch is told about a journalists who claimed she experienced "constant bullying." He asks why she did not resign.

Leveson interjects, saying: "I think the problem with that might be that she needs a job".

Murdoch says he has "never heard of" allegations of bullying in News International. "They always strike me as a happy crowd."

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Murdoch says no allegations of bullying have been brought to his attention.

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@ paulwaugh : Leveson refuses to allow NUJ lawyer to ask Qs re NI's MSC collusion w cops. But Murdoch says MSC didn't reveal journo sources

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Murdoch says his journalists can join the NUJ at any point.

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@ rowenamason : Some of my channels are better than the BBC, some a lot worse, says Murdoch #Leveson

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He says Murdoch's accusation about Dacre: "I'm going to suggest you've made a mistake in reading something."

But Murdoch said he did not "see the difference," adding: "I think there's no doubt that maybe the Daily Mail and other newspapers were campaigning against it and against us.. That is a commercial reason. They said at the time in their public statement they felt in some commercial danger, if you like, if we succeeded."

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@ Peston : "I've spent hundreds of millions of dollars" on internal investigation, says Murdoch. Really? Can it really be that much. #leveson

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@ mlcalderone : Murdoch claims Huffington Post has just "a few" reporters -- he should come by the newsroom some time! #leveson

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Quite hilariously, Murdoch says his paper the Wall Street Journal is a "challenge to get through." Unsure if he meant it like that. He says they are adding more pictures to it.

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In fact there's more advertising opportunities occurring every year even then there are websites. So the rates stay very low. But it's a fact of life. We have to treat it as an opportunity. The Times of London, seven days a week, we put it on the ipad, we charge for it. Unfortunately apple takes 30% but that's another argument. That can be seen any corner of the world, so maybe there's an opportunity there.

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@ SamiraAhmedUK : Surprise! Rupert Murdoch in his comfort zone now as he blames BBC for its alleged role in declining newspaper sales. #leveson

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Murdoch says it comes down to an argument about intellectual property (but it is a bit unclear what he is talking about). And now, the predictable jibe at the BBC (which does do "great broadcasting").

He says the BBC's website is viewed by 12m people in Britain a week and "feel they have had enough news", saying this is taxpayer funded and affects newspaper circulation.

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@ benfenton : #murdoch apologises for repeating a private conversation with Jay?Leveson that reveals he likes Le Monde and The Times.

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@ PSbook : Murdoch tells #leveson he doesn't have a great understanding of technology. His purchase of Myspace would seem to support that.

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"We're spending a lot of money trying to, and succeeding, in presenting every word of our newspapers on modern tablets. There will be, I will be very confident in saying, that in a very short time.. there will be billions of tablets in the world."

He says other people read news on their smart phones (or as Murdoch refers to them a "smart telephone") but says he thinks printed presses can survive another 20 years with "small" circulations.

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"You said that I had at the very beginning a great understanding of technology. I don't... But the fact is that the internet came along, slowly developed as a source of news and now is absolutely in our space.

"I think it's been responsible for a lot of loss of circulation. I should ask the judge. This inquiry I presume is for the press in this country, not just the press in Fleet Street. We're seeing everybody under extreme pressure."

He adds: "People can send their blogs from Beijing and from the Cayman Islands and whatever you do you can't regulate that. I think you have a danger of regulating, putting regulations in place, which will mean there will be no press in 10 years to regulate."

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The News of the World, let's be quite honest, was an aberration and it's my fault.

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@ christopherhope : #leveson BREAKING MPs on the Commons' Culture Select Committee will publish their long-awaited report on phone hacking on Tuesday, May 1

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@ christopherhope : #Leveson BREAK Cabinet Office confirms Cabinet Secretary and Treasury Solicitor spoke to Leveson on Tues afternoon

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"We set up inquiry after inquiry, we employed legal firm after legal firm. Perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police."

He says News Corp's response to being accused of collective amnesia was "disrespectful to parliament."

He says when he appeared at the select committee last July he said he was the right person to clear it up, and he did. "I have spent hundreds of millions of dollars.... Anything that looked faintly suspicious was passed to the police. That led to, I think, a dozen midnight arrests. Because of my pledge, not because of police. We went way beyond what they'd asked us to do.

"I remain greatly distressed that people who have been with me for 20 or 30 years.. My distress, it would be presumptuous to compare it with the immense disturbance, if you like, and hurt to the people who were arrested. I feel responsible for that but I'm glad we did it."

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@ RobDotHutton : Think Private Eye may need to increase its pagination next week. #leveson

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I think that historically this whole business of the News of the World is a serious blot on my reputation.

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"When the Milly Dowler situation was first given huge publicity, I think all the newspaper took this as the chance to really make a really national scandal. It made people all over the country aware of this..

"I panicked. But I'm glad I did. I'm sorry I didn't close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in. I tell you what held us back - the News of the World readers, only half of them read the Sun."

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@ MASieghart : Tim de Lisle resigned as Arts Editor of The Times when he was pressurised to run a big Sky plug #leveson

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"I don't have any other business interests. I certainly would ask or suggest, I don't think it needs suggesting, the editor of The Sun that it would be good to mention what's coming up in our new paper on Sunday. There is self-promotion in newspapers."

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These are known to be, um, not 100% accurate.

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@ tom_watson : I raised the blackmail point with Murdoch last year and he's claiming he still hasn't read the judgement. Outrageous. #leveson

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He says Andrew Neil, the former Sunday Times editor, doesn't "know the first thing he is talking about."

"Mr Neil seems to have found it very profitable to spread lies about me"

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From a press gazette story in December:

Lord Justice Leveson this afternoon condemned as outrageous an incident in which the News of the World threatened to expose one of the dominatrices involved in the Max Mosley sex party if they didn't cooperate with the paper.

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