Mark Steel: Just when I was getting over Blair...

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Who's the vindictive bastard who made Tony Blair give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry? This was heartlessly cruel, to all decent people who have tried to put Blair behind us and get on with our lives. But there he was again, tormenting us, making us feel like someone just coming to terms with their years in a Japanese POW camp and then the bloke who used to electrocute us every morning comes on daytime television, justifying himself and leaving us screaming and dribbling as all the memories come washing back.

There was never an agreement between New Labour and Murdoch, he insisted. Because only a conspiracy theorist would suggest Blair flew to Australia to spend an afternoon with Murdoch to get anything from him, and if Murdoch's papers supported Blair a short while later that was one of life's chirpy coincidences.

Similarly, asked why he contacted Murdoch three times in the two weeks before the start of the Iraq War, Blair said: "I don't think there's anything particularly odd about that". So it wasn't because Murdoch had influence, he was just calling for a chat. Maybe he rang lots of people, selected at random, because what few of us realise is that PMs have nothing to do in the week before a war starts, so they get bored.

And he explained he sent a message to Rebekah Brooks after her resignation, because "I don't believe in being a fairweather friend".

He's on firmer ground here, because many of us have trouble being truly loyal to friends. If, for example, one of our friends becomes a bit needy on account of ruling a North African nation as a murdering tyrant we might keep our distance, but Tony has the Christian heart to stick with his mates in these trying moments. And which of us can say we haven't, when life gets tough, owned a newspaper that's hacked into murdered kids' voicemails? It's at those times your true friends shine through.

So is it any wonder he referred to The Independent as "a feral beast, tearing people and reputations to shreds". Because it would be so much more respected if it followed the slogan of his friend Rupert's papers, which is "If you can't say something nice about someone don't say anything at all". I suppose we should be thankful Cherie didn't get called, as she'd have not only spent the day uttering similar gibberish, but put in for a 50 grand appearance fee as well.