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.

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 General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference