NICK Clegg described today how the press “ignored or derided” him and the Lib Dems before they entered government.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that at one dinner party with Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks he had been put at the “very end of the table where the children sit”.
The comments came as Mr Clegg gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. He said when he became leader of the party in 2008 many senior figures did not know him “from Adam”.
Talking about the dinner on December 16, 2009, that he attended with Mr Murdoch, Mrs Brooks and Sunday Times editor John Witherow, Mr Clegg said he was little more than “an observer”.
“I was at the very end of the table, where the children sit, so to speak,” he added.
The following March he had lunch with Sun editor Dominic Mohan, and a “brief” meeting with Mrs Brooks and Mr Murdoch.
The Lib Dem leader said his strong performance in the first televised General Election leader’s debate had sparked a major shift in attitudes towards him and his party.
He said newspapers had gone from being “indifferent at best” to “lashing out” after his ratings spiked in the polls.
Mr Clegg said his contact with journalists and media executives became more formal since entering government, partly because he was based in Whitehall rather than Parliament.
Mr Clegg said he had a number of conversations with media proprietors and editors who were hostile to or concerned about News Corp’s bid for BSkyB, including Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.
But he added: “I didn’t act on their views and made it clear this was a process being dealt with in a sort of box.”
Earlier, Mr Clegg had revealed he wants David Cameron to launch a sleaze probe into Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s handling of the BSkyB bid.
He has repeatedly told the Prime Minister the independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Alex Allan, should be brought in.
The major rift in the coalition emerged as Mr Clegg signalled his MPs would abstain in a vote being forced by Labour on the issue today.
The Commons motion calls for Sir Alex to investigate whether Tory Mr Hunt misled Parliament and failed to take responsibility for his special adviser Adam Smith, who resigned after admitting his contacts with News Corporation had been too close.