David Cameron's close friendship with former News International boss Rebekah Brooks has been laid bare - including his habit of signing off texts "lots of love".
Mrs Brooks disclosed that the Prime Minister sent a message urging her to "keep your head up" when she resigned over the phone hacking scandal and expressed regret that he could not be more loyal. The embarrassing revelations emerged as Mrs Brooks gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry.
Mrs Brooks detailed her contacts, for more than a decade, with the most powerful people in the country, including dozens of lunches and dinners with successive prime ministers.
She met or dined with Tony Blair at least 30 times between 1998 and 2007, including three times on their own. There was a minimum of five encounters with Gordon Brown after he entered Number 10, although she said she was closer to his "amazing" wife Sarah. But the links with Mr Cameron, whom she described as a "friend", are likely to provoke the most fallout.
They met at least once for lunch and four times for dinner following the 2010 general election, including a now notorious Christmas dinner party at the Brooks' Oxfordshire home on December 23.
Mrs Brooks said that after she left News International last July she received commiserations from "some Tories" but "very few Labour politicians".
Mrs Brooks indicated that Mr Cameron's message had been "along the lines" of "keep your head up". Asked to confirm that he also conveyed regret that political circumstances meant he could not be more "loyal", Ms Brooks replied: "Similar, but very indirect."
Mrs Brooks dismissed reports that Mr Cameron would text her 12 times a day, but added: "He would sign them off DC, in the main. Occasionally he would sign them off lol, lots of love. Until I told him it meant laugh out loud."
Mrs Brooks pointed out that her husband Charlie, a contemporary of the Prime Minister at Eton, had long-standing family links with the Camerons, separate from her own connections. There had been speculation that Mrs Brooks would release text message and email exchanges. But she said she only had six weeks of material, from the beginning of June to July 17 last year, that was on her BlackBerry.
Asked whether she discussed the phone-hacking scandal with Mr Cameron between details emerging of pay-offs to victims in July 2009 and her resignation in 2011, Mrs Brooks said: "I think on occasion and not very often. So maybe once or twice because the phone-hacking story was sort of a constant or it kept coming up."