Tony Blair has attacked Britain’s new press regulator – after it ruled against him and in favour of the Daily Mail.
The former Prime Minister’s office claimed there had been a “major failure” of decision making at the Independent Press Complaints Organisation (Ipso) – and accused it of ignoring relevant evidence.
Ipso rejected Mr Blair’s formal complaint that the Mail had printed an “inaccurate and misleading” account of a conversation between himself and Commons Speaker John Bercow.
The ruling was regarded as a significant high-profile test of the new body’s authority. Ipso, which acts as a regulator for UK national newspapers, including the Mail, that reject any imposed form of parliamentary regulation as advocated by Lord Justice Leveson, celebrates its first anniversary next week.
The article, headlined “Blair tries to wriggle out of MPs’ probe into IRA comfort letters”, was printed in January and alleged that Mr Bercow had “ripped into” the former PM after he made alleged attempts to evade questioning by a parliamentary inquiry.
The Mail’s version of the telephone conversation between the two men was based on “insider” sources. It also said an agreement had been reached to limit Mr Blair’s time in front of the political inquiry to an hour.Mr Blair insisted the idea of a time limit had come from the inquiry committee’s chair, not himself.
The Mail published a limited retraction of the original Blair-Bercow story in April, accepting that the Speaker had confirmed “he was not asked to overturn an order and that rather than ripping into Mr Blair, the conversation they had was a cordial one”.
Mr Blair however continued to argue that the rest of the article was “misleading” and should have been retracted.
In its findings, Ipso pointed out that the newspaper had presented its version of the conversation as a “claim” and its “understanding” of what had passed between the two men. It said “care had been taken to avoid misleading readers”, and noted that the original article had included a denial from Mr Blair.
Mr Blair’s office said it was “astonished” by the ruling. The statement added that Ipso had “ignored evidence from the only two people who know the truth of the matter, preferring to lend more weight to those twice or three times removed from the conversation”.
The Press Complaints Commission, the body that previously self-regulated the UK press, closed down last September. Although parliament voted for a charter-based replacement, centred on recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry, critics say Ipso is too similar to the old PCC. The Independent, The Guardian and The Financial Times are not under the Ipso umbrella.Reuse content