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Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Saturday, 9 July 2011 09:17 UK

Can politicians renounce press influence?


In a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that "because party leaders were so keen to win the support of newspapers we turned a blind eye to the need to sort this issue, get on top of the bad practices, to change the way our newspapers are regulated".

But is it ever possible for prime ministers to stand beyond the influence of newspapers and the media?

Lance Price, Tony Blair's former spin doctor and author of Where Power Lies: the Prime Minister Versus the Media, said there was "no doubt" that News International had an influence on the prime minister, but it was difficult to quantify how large the influence was.

"You can't put drops of Rupert Murdoch into a test tube to test how toxic it is," he said.

The area where the influence was felt greatest was over European policy where, he said, Labour "promised" News International that there would be no changes in policy without talking to them first.

"The influence of Rupert Murdoch on the European issue was very strong," he said.

But Jack Straw, ever-present in the Blair cabinet, said that Lance Price was "simply wrong" about Labour's promise to News International - European scepticism was led by politicians, like him and Gordon Brown, within the cabinet.

"Of course Tony Blair had a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch, but Tony was actually very independent from Rupert Murdoch's position on Europe," he said.

He accepted, however, that any political leader, especially Labour leader, had to make their peace with the right-wing press in the UK, otherwise, they "ensured that we have got stuffed in elections".

"It is through the press that the electorate perceive politicians," says Jack Straw. "If you are a political leader, you have to take account of that."

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