Over the years David Cameron has faced much scrutiny over his close relationship with Rupert Murdoch -- as well as News UK's Rebekah Brooks. However as far as Mr S can remember, the Prime Minister never allowed Murdoch to sit in on important meetings with Cabinet members.
So Steerpike was interested to read Sarah Vine's account in today's Mail of a supper she and her husband Michael Gove attended at Boris Johnson's house ahead of the pair backing Brexit. Also in attendance were Johnson's wife Marina Wheeler and... Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard:
'Now David would inevitably feel let down. Michael was between a rock and a hard place. Be true to himself and disappoint his friend; support the Prime Minister and betray his principles.
Thank goodness, then, for a bit of light relief in the shape of Boris Johnson, who a few weeks earlier had invited us to supper at his house in Islington. And so, last Tuesday, we had drinks in Boris and his wife Marina’s stylishly dishevelled drawing room.'
Happily Lebedev was dressed up for the occasion:
'Marina and I were broadly in agreement: whatever was most likely to keep the boys happy. Also there was the Russian media mogul Evgeny Lebedev, impeccably groomed and suited, a stark contrast to the two baggy-suited politicians sitting next to each other on the sofa.'
The group of five then listened as a senior Cabinet minister discussed legal issues relating to EU law on speakerphone:
'A senior Cabinet minister, accompanied by a lawyer, came on speakerphone to discuss the complexities of law in relation to sovereignty. Michael and Boris leaned into the iPhone, Boris firing questions at it, Michael making listening noises.'
While Vine insists both Johnson and Gove spent the meal tortured about which way to go, she adds that the three remaining guests were more interested in the food on the table by the end of it. However, given that the Independent -- which will soon be online only -- faced a reader revolt during the General Election after the left-leaning publication endorsed a Tory-led coalition instead of Labour, it's rather interesting that Lebedev was allowed to sit on on such secret Conservative party manoeuvres. Come to think of it, Lebedev's other paper -- the Evening Standard -- also endorsed the Conservatives at the election. Mr S looks forward to learning which side Lebedev's papers plump for in the upcoming EU referendum.