Olympics Minister Jeremy Hunt was under renewed pressure to resign Saturday following the revelation at Britain's press ethics inquiry of a further email from a top Murdoch aide.
In a potentially damaging development, the email, revealed at the Leveson Inquiry, left Hunt facing fresh calls to resign, less than three months away from the start of the London 2012 Games.
The email was from Frederic Michel, a lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation media empire, to Rebekah Brooks, who quit as chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper wing News International last July.
Brooks gave her eagerly-awaited testimony to the inquiry on Friday, in which she described the closeness of her relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron.
He signed text messages to her "lots of love", privately discussed the News of the World scandal with her, and commiserated her after she stepped down as the phone-hacking affair at the News International weekly tabloid exploded.
But despite such details, newspapers turned the spotlight once again on Hunt, whose adviser resigned last month after admitting that he had gone beyond his remit in his dealings with Michel, in emails that emerged when Murdoch's son James testified to the inquiry.
Michel's message to Brooks, revealed Friday, said Hunt had asked for private advice to "guide his and No. 10's positioning" about whether the hacking scandal would affect News Corp.'s bid to take full control of British satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Hunt has rejected calls to quit and says that when he is mentioned in Michel's emails the lobbyist is referring to aides in his Department for Culture, Media and Sport ministry, and not to him.
Brooks was arrested two days after her resignation over allegations of phone-hacking and bribing public officials. She and her husband were also arrested in March on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
As the inquiry probed the extent of the ties between Murdoch and 10 Downing Street, Brooks said she used to exchange text messages around once a week with Cameron, rising to twice a week in the run-up to the 2010 general election.
"He would sign them off DC in the main," said Brooks, giggling slightly. "Occasionally he would sign them off 'LOL' -- 'lots of love' -- until I told him it meant 'laugh out loud'," the red-haired 43-year-old said.
Brooks said Cameron had been friends for years with the family of her second husband, racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, a fellow pupil at the elite boarding school Eton.
She said Cameron asked her about phone hacking during a conversation in 2010, after a series of celebrities sued the News of the World over the interception of their mobile phone voicemails.
"I think he asked me what the update was, I think it had been on the news that day, so I explained the story behind the news. No secret information, no privileged information, just a general update," she said.
The former Murdoch protegee said she also received indirect messages from Cameron's Downing Street office and from the offices of finance minister George Osborne, interior minister Theresa May and foreign minister William Hague.
Murdoch, the Australian-born chairman of US-based News Corp., shut the News of the World in July 2011 after it emerged that it had illegally accessed the voicemails of a murdered schoolgirl as well as dozens of public figures.
Brooks admitted Friday that she had discussions with both Cameron and Osborne about News Corp.'s bid to take full control of British satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
The Independent newspaper on Saturday called on Hunt to quit and said the inquiry had turned up conclusive evidence of overly-cosy relationships between politicians and the media.
"There can no longer be any doubt of the inappropriate proximity of the political classes and News International," its editorial said.
"From the friendships, to the text messages, to the social dinners at which matters of high politics and high business were discussed; the picture is painted of a world where the lines between the professional and the personal are altogether blurred.
"Mr Hunt cannot cling on any longer. He must resign. And the uncomfortable revelations from the Leveson Inquiry must continue until the Augean stables are finally swept clean."
The Daily Telegraph newspaper called for all ministerial texts and email contacts with News International to be put in the public domain.
"Friendship is one thing; but the impression left by Mrs Brooks' lengthy testimony to the Leveson Inquiry was of a chumminess that went beyond what might have been expected between a prime minister and a senior media executive.
"Not for the first time in this saga, we were left with an uneasy feeling that the full picture has not been revealed."
In her testimony, Brooks said The Sun newspaper had permission from Gordon Brown in 2006 to break the news that his baby son Fraser had cystic fibrosis, and would not have run the story without it. She said the source was a man whose own son had the condition.
But in a statement afterwards, the former prime minister and his wife said there was still no "satisfactory explanation" as to how the News International daily tabloid obtained such information.
"The idea that we would have volunteered our permission or were happy that a story about our son's health was about to enter the public domain is untrue," they added.
Source: AFP Global Edition