Former Cabinet minister Michael Gove had lunch with News UK executives including Rupert Murdoch just days before the company’s Sun newspaper published a front page story under the headline “Queen backs Brexit”, Government records have confirmed.
The then justice secretary has been accused by former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg of being the anonymous source behind the story, which claimed the Queen had given the ex-Liberal Democrat leader a dressing down over his support for the EU.
Gove has never confirmed or denied being behind the claim, which related to a Privy Council lunch attended by both him and Clegg at Windsor Castle in 2011.
After losing his bid to become Tory leader Gove was given a job as a columnist by Murdoch-owned daily newspaper The Times. He remains an MP.
Official transparency returns detailing hospitality and gifts received by ministers include Gove’s lunch with Murdoch, News UK’s chief executive officer Rebekah Brooks and chief operating officer David Dinsmore and The Sun’s editor-in-chief Tony Gallagher and associate editor Trevor Kavanagh on 2 March – a week ahead of the story appearing on 9 March. The content of their discussions was not revealed.
Elsewhere, the transparency records detail gifts, hospitality, travel and meetings by ministers and special advisers in the final months of David Cameron’s government.