The plot of the story which has inevitably been dubbed yachtgate, and which threatens to bring down Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne thickened today – as it emerged that Rupert Murdoch and Sun editor Rebekah Wade were also bit-part players in the drama.
Osbourne’s involvement with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska began when he attended a party on his yacht the Queen K in Corfu on August 22.
It was the next night that Osbourne met Peter Mandelson in a taverna, when the latter “dripped poison in his ear” about Gordon Brown, as Osbourne “told friends” (as Nick Robinson puts it).
Andrew Pierce writes in the Telegraph today about the growing cast of characters socialising together in Corfu at the time when Osbourne’s current troubles began.
He writes that Rupert Murdoch’s Yacht which was moored alongside that of his daughter Elisabeth – on the island to celebrate her 40th birthday – and that of the Russian billionaire, who Osbourne is accused of soliciting a donation from.
As well as the Murdochs the castlist as described by Pierce includes: Elisabeth Murdoch’s husband, the PR man Matthew Freud; Sun editor Rebekah Wade, Peter Mandelson and Brunswick PR boss Alan Parker.
While the BBC’s Robert Peston has taken the plaudits for reporting the financial crisis – it is the national newspapers which have led the way with covering the political story of the autumn.
It was the Sunday Times which revealed claims that Mandelson had “dripped poison” into the ear of a “senior Conservative”, later revealed as Osbourne.
And The Times has led the way this week, after receiving a letter from Nathaniel Rothschild in which he disputes the Times and Sunday Times’ “focus on the fact that one of my guests, Peter Mandelson, is a friend of another, Oleg Deripaska.”
“Not once in the acres of coverage did you mention that George Osborne, who also accepted my hospitality, found the opportunity of meeting with Mr Deripaska so good that he invited the Conservatives’ fund raiser Andrew Feldman, who was staying nearby, to accompany him on to Mr Deripaska’s boat to solicit a donation.
Since Mr Deripaska is not a British citizen, it was subsequently suggested by Mr Feldman during a conversation at which Mr Deripaska was not present, that the donation was ‘channeled’ through one of Mr Deripaska’s British companies.
In a subsequent phone call in mid-September about one month later, Mr Feldman again raised the issue of the donation with me. Mr Deripaska decided that he did not wish to make any donation.”