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Murdoch demanded policy change: Former British PM

London: Former British Prime Minister John Major today told an inquiry that Rupert Murdoch demanded a change in his government`s policy on Europe in return for support from the media baron`s stable of newspapers. Major, who was the Conservative prime minister from 1990 to 1997, gave evidence before the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics, culture and practices of the British press, and directly contradicted the News Corp chief`s own testimony earlier.

The inquiry is currently hearing evidence from leading lights in British politics on the relationship with the press. Recalling a meeting with Murdoch, Major said: "I haven`t talked about this conversation at any stage over the past 15 years but now I am under oath. I was asked the question and I have answered the question."

"It`s not very often someone sits in front of a prime minister and says to a prime minister, `I would like you to change your policy and if you don`t change your policy my organisation cannot support you.` People may often think that …but it`s not often that point is directly put to a prime minister so it`s unlikely to have been something that I would have forgotten". In his evidence before the inquiry in April, Murdoch had said: "I have never asked a prime minister for anything".

Presenting more details of the interaction with Murdoch in his written evidence, Major said: "In the run-up to the 1997 general election in my third and last meeting with him on February 2, 1997, he made it clear that he disliked my European policies which he wished me to change. If not, his papers could not and would not support the Conservative government".

"So far as I recall he made no mention of editorial independence but referred to all his papers as `we`. Both Mr Murdoch and I kept our word. I made no change in policy and Mr Murdoch`s titles did indeed oppose the Conservative party. It came as no surprise to me when soon after our meeting the Sun newspaper announced its support for Labour," he added.

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