Tony Blair accused of trying to silence Rupert Murdoch critic

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to persuade the Labour MP who led the campaign to expose the phone-hacking scandal to fall silent, according to a report yesterday.

The Mail on Sunday stated that "well-placed" sources said Mr Blair had sought to encourage Mr Brown to ask his supporter Tom Watson to back off. A "friend of Mr Brown" was quoted as saying: "There is no doubt about it, Tony wanted Gordon to intervene." Mr Watson, who claimed last week that News International had entered "the criminal underworld", was reported to have been told that Rebekah Brooks, News International's chief executive, "will pursue you for the rest of your life".

Earlier this year, another Labour MP, Chris Bryant, said in a Commons speech that a senior figure allied to Mr Murdoch had warned his friends that speaking out about the scandal would not be forgotten.

Members of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee claim they were warned off calling Ms Brooks to give evidence to them in the committee's inquiry about phone hacking.

News International last night made no comment in response to the claims about Ms Brooks' alleged attempt to put pressure on Mr Watson to back off.

A spokesman for Mr Blair, who enjoyed a cordial relationship with News International's proprietor Rupert Murdoch, denied the claim by the Mail on Sunday. The spokesman said: "The allegation is categorically untrue." Mr Brown's office declined to comment.

Mr Watson told The Independent: "Senior people told me that was the case but I have not spoken to Tony or Gordon about it."