No pact with Rupert Murdoch, says Tony Blair

 

Tony Blair denied today doing any deals with Rupert Murdoch in return for the support of his newspapers.

The former prime minister defended his relationship with Mr Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry claiming they only became close friends once he left Downing Street.

Mr Blair, who became godfather to Mr Murdoch's daughter Grace in 2010, insisted the media tycoon never "lobbied him for special favours".

His evidence was interrupted by a protester who burst into courtroom 73 from a secure corridor and accused Mr Blair of being a "war criminal". The former Labour leader remained composed as the man was led off by security guards and the session continued.

During his decade in office Mr Blair said he simply had a "working relationship" with Mr Murdoch.

Mr Blair said: "I know Rupert Murdoch and his family far better today than I did when I was Prime Minister.

"I would never have become godfather to their child on the basis of my relationship in Government where meetings with Rupert Murdoch tended to be very much politics oriented and I knew the rest of the family only a little at that time."

He added: "It was a relationship about power. I find these relationships are not personal, they are working, to me."

Mr Blair said he had probably been closer to Ms Brooks too once he had left office, "when we were free from the constraints and it wasn't a relationship about the power relationship".

And he defended his decision to send her a message of support after the phone hacking scandal erupted last summer, saying he was "not a fair weather friend".

He told the hearing: "Certainly I said I was very sorry for what had happened to her...I've seen people go through this situation and I know what it's like."

Mr Blair insisted he had never agreed to any pact with any media organisation. "There was no deal on issues to do with the media with Rupert Murdoch, or indeed, anybody else, either expressed or implied and to be fair, he never sought such a thing."

He added: "When it came to the specific issue in relation to the Murdoch media group, we more often decided against them than in favour."

"Rupert Murdoch never lobbied me for special favours. What he did do was argue strongly with me about politics. He has decided views. On some issues, I agreed and on some I disagree."

He never changed his policies to please the Murdoch press, he insisted, and had stuck to what he believed in on issues ranging from the trade unions to Europe. "I don't know a policy that we changed as a result of Rupert Murdoch," he said.

Mr Blair told the inquiry once the press turned against him it was "full frontal, day in, day out, basically a lifetime commitment."

"Rupert Murdoch never lobbied me for special favours. What he did do was argue strongly with me about politics. He has decided views. On some issues, I agreed and on some I disagree."

He told how wife Cherie was subjected to a "personal vendetta", claiming while some comment was "legitimate" at times the criticism was taken "too far".

The Leveson Inquiry heard how it was "unhealthy" that certain parts of the media used newspapers as "instruments of political power".

But he admitted that Labour had made a strategic decision not to tackle the problem. "I'm just being open about that and open about the fact that, frankly, I decided as a political leader that I was going to manage that and not confront it."

After almost two decades in the political wilderness with Labour leaders subjected to ridicule in the popular press Mr Blair told the Inquiry he was determined to foster better relations with the media.

He admitted he had "flown half way round the world" to Hayman Island, Australia, to meet Mr Murdoch and News Corporation executives when he was Labour leader in 1995, in the hope of persuading the organisation against "tearing us to pieces".

Mr Blair said that in 2001 he had asked Mr Murdoch whether his newspapers would support Labour - and could not see anything wrong in doing that.

"I think I would have done that for any major group," said Mr Blair. "I cannot recall ever doing that specifically with other groups."

He added: "I don't think there is anything wrong with asking them whether they are going to support you.

"What is obviously different is if you are conditioning that in some way."

He said phone hacking was "evidently going on" while he was in office.

He added: "The allegation by the Mail that I tried to pressure Tom Watson to end his campaign against News International is completely and totally untrue."

Mr Blair denied New Labour had run a press operation that used bullying tactics and favouritism to manipulate journalists.

Pressed by leading counsel Robert Jay QC over why a "mythology" had built up around him over use of the "dark arts", he insisted he "hated" that type of politics.

"I have never authorised or said to someone go out and brief against this person or that person," he said.

"I hate that type of stuff. It's the lowest form of politics."

Mr Blair called for newspapers to separate out fact from comment, warning there was now a "violent and aggressive genre of attack".

He added: "It's a very pessimistic view of the world that says you can't make the news interesting unless you distort it."

He did not rule out supporting future proposals for a statutory system of press regulation.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketing Assistant - Wimbledon

£18000 - £19000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketin...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works