Former UK prime minister Tony Blair appeared at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and practices today. According to the Guardian’s live blog, he is “the first former prime minister to give evidence to the inquiry.”
Concerning the relationship between politicians and the press, Blair said that media outlets have the power to “effectively” keep politicians “from getting across your message” to the public and that he “decided as a political leader that I was going to manage that and not confront it,” according to the Guardian’s live blog.
However, he said, “The responsibility mainly is having not confronted this” and called for politicians to “have a very, very solid media operation.” He indicated that he didn’t address these issues because it would come before the other issues he wanted to deal with.
According to the Guardian’s live blog, Blair “describes the Sun and the Daily Mail as the two most powerful newspapers.” He claimed the Daily Mail “attacked me, my family and my children” and did so “very well, very effectively.” Specifically, Blair claimed the Daily Mail had a “‘personal vendetta’ against his wife, Cherie,” whose lawyers “sent at least 30 legal warnings to the Daily Mail from mid-2006 to Nov 2011,” according to the Guardian’s blog. Cherie Blair, as we have written, is currently suing the News of the World alleging phone hacking.
Blair said that “To put it bluntly, the decision-maker was not Rebekah Brooks in relation to this. It was Rupert Murdoch, for sure.” He later said that Murdoch has “substantial power.” Also, after questions about “his 1995 trip to Murdoch’s News Corp conference at Hayman Island in Australia,” Blair is quoted as telling the inquiry “My minimum objective was to try stop them tearing us to pieces. My maximum objective was to try get their support.”
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According to the Guardian’s live blog, Blair said that his relationship with Murdoch and Brooks changed after he left office and became “healthier.” He noted that he did give Brooks “his support” last year following her resignation and that his relationship with Murdoch is “different” and “easier and better,” according to the UK Telegraph.
He added that of Rebekah Brooks, “I did never and would never have asked her or others to conduct attacks on specific individual ”
Also at the inquiry, a man named David Lawley Wakelin shouted “the man is a war criminal” at Blair. Wakelin was taken out of the court room, arrested but “later released without charge“. The Guardian posted here a video of the man being removed. According to ITV News, Leveson said he plans to have “an investigation undertaken” to learn how Wakelin got in the courtroom.