01/02/2017 07:43 GMT | Updated 01/02/2017 12:23 GMT

David Cameron 'Tried To Get Daily Mail Editor, Paul Dacre, Sacked'

Newsnight scoop reveals extent of pressure during EU campaign.

David Cameron was leader of the Remain campaign, while Mail editor Paul Dacre was a staunch Brexit backer

David Cameron attempted to have the editor of the Daily Mail sacked during the EU referendum, BBC Newsnight has reported.

The former prime minister is alleged to have pressured Mail owner Lord Rothermere to dismiss Paul Dacre over his leadership of the paper’s Brexit stance.

A source told the BBC’s Emily Maitlis that Cameron urged Rothermere to rein in the 68-year-old editor in the lead up to last June’s vote.

Watch the report, below.

A spokesman for Cameron, who led the Remain campaign’s efforts as PM, told the BBC he “did not believe he could determine who edits the Daily Mail”.

The moves against Dacre came after both he and Cameron met in the then PM’s Number 10 flat.

During that meeting, held on 2nd February, the BBC understands Cameron asked Dacre to “cut him some slack” in the Mail’s coverage.

Daily Mail
Cameron is alleged to have pressured the Daily Mail's owner to sack Paul Dacre over the paper’s staunch Brexit stance

It is understood Dacre resisted this pressure, saying he would not temper his editorial position. Dacre had been largely Eurosceptic for many years.

By March, it is said Dacre had been told by a well-placed source of Cameron’s moves against him with Rothermere.

The revelation is said to have left Dacre “incandescent” with rage. The Mail’s line on Brexit continued to harden during the campaign.

Iain Crockart/DMGT/PA Archive
A source told the BBC’s Emily Maitlis that Lord Rothermere was urged to rein in his editor over Brexit

Reaction to the story has highlighted the apparent irony of a Conservative leader taking exception to the Mail’s editorial line. 

The paper has endorsed the party at the last two general elections.

A spokesman for Rothermere, who supported the UK remaining in the EU, refused to confirm or deny whether Cameron had asked for Dacre to be dismissed.

He said: “Over the years, Lord Rothermere has been leant on by more than one prime minister to remove Associated Newspapers’ editors but, as he told Lord Justice Leveson on oath, he does not interfere with the editorial policies of his papers.”

Dacre declined to comment on whether Cameron had sought his dismissal.

In a statement he said: “For 25 years, I have been given the freedom to edit the Mail on behalf of its readers without interference from Jonathan Rothermere or his father. It has been a great joy and privilege.”

A spokesman for Cameron said: “It is wrong to suggest that David Cameron believed he could determine who edits the Daily Mail.

“It is a matter of public record that he made the case that it was wrong for newspapers to argue that we give up our membership of the EU.

“He made this argument privately to the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, and its proprietor, Lord Rothermere.”