All eyes on Blair as he takes stand at Leveson

Martin Hickman on what the former PM should be asked about his relations with Murdoch empire

Tony Blair today faces hours of questioning about his relationship with Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers at the Leveson Inquiry.

In a day starting at 10am and concluding at 4.30pm, with an hour for lunch, the former Prime Minister's evidence is scheduled to last six and a half hours. Mr Blair, who was Prime Minister for 10 years until 2007, will be asked about his views towards newspapers and their reform, but the greatest focus is expected to be on his personal dealings with Mr Murdoch.

Among the subjects that may be broached are:

Was there a deal?

In July 1995, a year after he became Leader of the Opposition, Mr Blair flew half way round the world to a News Corp conference at Hayman Island in Australia, which was widely seen as an act of a homage to Mr Murdoch.

Mr Blair defended the visit on the basis that Labour, then out of power for 16 years, needed media support. In his book Where Power Lies, however, Mr Blair's former aide Lance Prince went further, writing: "A deal had been done, although with nothing in writing. If Murdoch were left to pursue his business interests in peace he would give Labour a fair wind."

Did Labour dilute media ownership regulations for Mr Murdoch?

In 1996, Mr Blair's party sank a broadcasting Bill provision that would have prevented any national newspaper proprietor with more than 20 per cent of the market from buying into television.

The Labour MP Chris Mullin, a Murdoch critic, who had tabled an amendment applying a similar provision to owners of tabloid newspapers, recorded in his diaries: "Jack [Cunningham, Labour's shadow heritage secretary] asked me – gently, it has to be said – to withdraw. I declined."

When The Sun came out for Mr Blair the following year, the Chief Whip, Donald Dewar, asked Mr Mullin to stay silent; the following year, the Culture Secretary Chris Smith resisted attempts to increase regulation of BSkyB.

According to Mr Mullin, Mr Smith, having initially said that Sky's Luxembourg base ruled it out, added: "There is also prime ministerial interest in the matter, but I haven't told you that last part."

What did Mr Murdoch and Mr Blair discuss about the Iraq war?

All of News Corp's 175 newspapers – including The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times and News of the World – supported the Iraq warin 2003. Mr Blair had three conversations with Mr Murdoch in the run-up to the conflict. Earlier this month, Mr Blair's former spokesman, Alastair Campbell, told the Leveson Inquiry that he could not recall the content of the calls, but said the idea that Mr Blair could not have pursued his policy in Iraq without the backing of Mr Murdoch's papers was "complete nonsense".

Is Mr Blair still close friends with the Murdochs?

Mr Murdoch's third wife, Wendi Deng, let slip last year that Mr Blair was a close friend of theirs and was godfather to their daughter Grace.

Mr Blair's picture was omitted from a Hello! spread on the baptism in 2010. Mr Blair refused to confirm or deny he was godfather.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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 General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible