The dinner demonstrates that the owner of the Sun's political pulling power has not been diminished by criticism in the Leveson report on the future of press regulation that politicians have had an unhealthily close relationship with the press.
Murdoch regularly assembles some of London's elite for dinners, and last Tuesday's event was no different. Described by insiders at News International as a collection of "very interesting people", the dinner was also attended by Boris Johnsonand several NI executives and editors and given a sprinkling of Hollywood stardust with the attendance of the London mayor's fellow Old Etonian, Damian Lewis, star of Homeland – a Fox21 production.
A spokesman for the chancellor said: "We are happy to confirm he attended the dinner. It will be declared in the usual way," describing it as a social dinner.
Private meetings with newspaper proprietors are not disallowed under any parliamentary or party rules, but Hacked Off, the group campaigning on behalf of phone-hacking victims for a Leveson law for press regulation, said social occasions like this smacked of "sleazy" deals behind closed doors.
"There is a breathtaking arrogance in the idea that senior Conservative figures can keep up close connections with Rupert Murdoch at the very time the government is meddling with the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson and the police are investigating Mr Murdoch's company.
"You have to ask George Osborne and Boris Johnson what they think they were doing, dining privately with Mr Murdoch on the very day a senior Sun journalist was charged with bribing a policeman. The mayor is in charge of oversight of the Met police," said Brian Cathcart, director of Hacked Off.
Hacked Off also criticised the government over declarations of meetings with newspaper proprietors. Despite a promise in 2011 to publish a record of meetings every quarter, nothing has been declared since June 2012.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said the meetings would be declared "shortly", and the last two quarterly summaries of meetings had been delayed because there had been a reshuffle and it had proved difficult to collect the relevant data. A spokesman for News International refused to comment on the dinner.
Osborne has always been close to NI. He recommended the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who has now been charged with several offences following the inquiry into activities on the paper, as the Tory party's director of communications.
It emerged during the Leveson inquiry that one third of his meetings with newspaper owners between 2005 and 2010 had been with NI executives.
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