Whichever way Boris tilts on Brexit may well be dependent on Rupert Murdoch

Last Saturday morning, the 20th February, the Wall Street Journal ran this lead essay saying Britain would be better off outside the European Union.The same morning brought this Times editorial:

TimesEUdeal20216

A fortnight earlier, on 3rd February, The Sun had already called Cameron’s draft deal “a stitch-up”, “a farce”, and “a steaming pile of manure”. On the same day a Times leader opined, ‘This was supposed to be a radically reformed relationship with a more streamlined and accountable EU. It looks instead as if Mr Cameron has contented himself with whatever an unreformed union is willing to offer to Britain in the club’.

The Times, Sun and Wall Street Journal are all owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp.

The Mail on Sunday (not a Murdoch paper) leads this morning with the story of a Michael Gove and Boris Johnson dinner last week to discuss next moves….a ‘plot’ yarn I’d picked up from two sources last Friday. I was further told the following day that Johnson had been invited to Saturday’s Cabinet, but had excused himself.

The beat of the street is that Johnson is ‘on the brink’ of becoming an active Leaver on the EU issue. Both he and Gove are very close to Murdoch (the latter used to work for him). But for the moment, Newscorp is not taking an overt position.

Until the Spring of 2015, the general feeling in the corridors of power was that Murdoch would actively put his titles behind the Go camp. But from then on, leaks started to appear suggesting that the Digger had “mellowed on the issue”. Not only do I not believe this – the old rascal himself tweeted to deny it at the time – I have heard from others that Roop is still gagging to have Cameron fall flat on his face: he has always felt that the PM was “not supportive enough during the Newscorp corporate crisis”.

However, the background to this jockeying is an almost inextricable web of venal conflict in which Cameron, Osborne, Baron Green, Murdoch, senior bankers, Johnson and Gove are all enmeshed to one degree or another. The notable (and honourable) exception to the venality is Michael Gove, who is merely trying to work how enthusiastic media support for his position is going to be.

Boris and Roop in particular are conflicted: the former needs the City for any leadership bid (most of its movers are on the Stay team) and Murdoch too is said to need its help to bankroll further UK ambitions to take over from the BBC. Johnson has also confided to one or two friends that he feels Murdoch may have been ‘nobbled’ in some way by an Osborne-brokered deal with Cameron in return for certain Newscorp immunities.

One way or another, tomorrow is going to be a big day. Stay tuned.