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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Digital Project Manager / Web Project Manager

£45-50k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced ...

Account Manager

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager to join ...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home