Osborne: BSkyB bid 'inconvenience'

George Osborne insisted of the BSkyB bid that he did not have 'strong view about its merits' either way

Former prime minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice

First published in National News © by

The Murdoch bid for full control of BSkyB was a "political inconvenience" that would "cause us trouble one way or the other", the Chancellor has told the Leveson Inquiry.

George Osborne insisted he did not have a "strong view about its merits" either way and suggested the decision to give responsibility for the deal to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was made on the recommendation of Downing Street's then-permanent secretary Jeremy Heywood.

Mr Osborne also defended the decision to recruit Andy Coulson as Conservative director of communications, insisting the former editor of the News of the World's contacts with News International, which published the now defunct Sunday tabloid, were "not relevant" in his appointment.

He admitted he had not interrogated Mr Coulson about the possibility of hacking at the paper being widespread following the conviction of its royal editor Clive Goodman but had made a "reasonable assumption" the police had uncovered all the relevant evidence.

Earlier, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown used the Inquiry to repeat previous denials about claims he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch in a telephone call to the media mogul and behaved aggressively to former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

He said the conversation where he was "alleged to have acted in an unbalanced way" as well as threatening Mr Murdoch "never took place".

"I'm shocked and surprised that it should be suggested even when there is no evidence of such a conversation," he said.

He also criticised the way The Sun published a story about his son Fraser's cystic fibrosis, which he had complained about in July 2011. The ex-Labour leader called for measures to stop the "conflation of fact and opinion" in the press.

Mr Osborne struck a different tone, warning Lord Justice Leveson it would be a "slippery slope" to impose restrictions on the media based on judgments about what was in the public interest.

Pressed about his role in the saga of News Corp's bid for BSkyB, Mr Osborne suggested the decision was either going to offend one media camp or another: "I regarded the whole thing as a political inconvenience and something we just had to deal with, and the best way to deal with it was to stick to the process."

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