David Cameron has confirmed that he did ride a horse which was lent by police to former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks.
The Prime Minister apologised for allowing a “confusing picture” to emerge over recent days about his direct connection with the animal. He told reporters that the horse, Raisa, was among his mounts when he rode, before becoming Prime Minister, with Mrs Brooks’s husband Charlie, a friend since they attended Eton school.
“I have not been riding with him since the election. Before the election, yes, I did go riding with him,” he said in Brussels.
“He has a number of horses and, yes, one of them was this former police horse Raisa which I did ride.
“I am very sorry to hear that Raisa is no longer with us and I think I should probably conclude by saying I don’t think I will be getting back into the saddle any time soon.”
The question of whether Mr Cameron rode Raisa became the subject of Westminster speculation this week after the loan by Scotland Yard to the ex-tabloid editor was made public.
After initially declining to directly answer questions, Downing Street aides conceded on Thursday that the premier “probably” had mounted the ex-Metropolitan Police horse. That came shortly after Number 10 had been forced to retract an earlier briefing that he had ridden with Mr Brooks after taking office in May 2010.
His spokeswoman also said that while he had “no recollection” of ever having ridden with Mrs Brooks, that could not be ruled out.
The case has refocused attention on the relations between politicians and newspaper executives, which Mr Cameron has admitted became too close over recent years.
Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman said: “David Cameron has not been straight about just how close he was to senior executives at News International and it’s time for him come clean about the extent of this relationship.”