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John Major, former British PM, says Rupert Murdoch sought to influence him


Former British Prime Minister John Major arrives to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry on June 12, 2012 in London, England.


Dan Kitwood

John Major, the former conservative British prime minister, said News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch sought to influence his government policies regarding the European Union in exchange for the support of his media empire.

Major's evidence to the Leveson inquiry into medic ethics contradicted testimony given earlier by Murdoch, the second time a former prime minister has done so, according to Agence France-Press.

Under oath, Murdoch told the inquiry in April: "I've never asked a Prime Minister for anything."

Gordon Brown, who also testified this week, accused Murdoch of misleading the inquiry in alleging Brown had threatened war against Murdoch’s company.

"This conversation never took place. I am shocked and surprised that it should be suggested," Brown told the inquiry, according to the Irish Examiner.

"This call did not happen. The threat was not made.

More from GlobalPost: Gordon Brown giving evidence at Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics

Major, UK prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said he had dinner with Murdoch in February 1997, seeking to woo the mogul's support before the general election.

Murdoch said that if Major wouldn't change its policies, "his papers could not and would not support the Conservative government," the Wall Street Journal cited Major as saying.

"It became apparent in discussion that Mr Murdoch really didn't like our European policies — which was no surprise to me — and he wished me to change our European policies," he said, AFP reported.

"It is not very often someone sits in front of a prime minister and says 'I would like you to change your policy and if you don't change your policy my organization cannot support you'."

Major said that without being explicit, Murdoch was "edging toward" a referendum of the British people on whether they wanted to quit the European Union.

Major wen on to lose the 1997 election to Tony Blair and the Labour Party, who enjoyed the support of News Corp.'s British tabloids, the Sun and the News of the World, whose alleged phone hacking sparked the Leveson Inquiry.