Published on 28 May 2012

Blair at Leveson – armed to the smiling white teeth

Tony Blair has finished his masterclass in “how to give evidence at a public inquiry”. Others appeared as witnesses, but Mr Blair gave off the aura of a wise consultant giving pro-bono advice with Olympian detachment and objectivity. He’d waived his normal fee and was happy to help.

You thought there had been a deal done behind the scenes to get Rupert Murdoch on-side? So did Lance Price (Alistair Campbell’s deputy in No. 10 for three years). So it seems did Blairite minister Tessa Jowell at one point (she asked Tony Blair is there was a deal done with Rupert Murdoch that she needed to know about). Nonsense.

The truth is, Tony Blair told the inquiry, his views and Rupert Murdoch’s simply often “coincided.” There was no deal done on trade union laws – he’d already decided, without Rupert Murdoch’s help, to keep the main body of the Thatcher years’ trade union reforms. There was no deal done on stopping overseas media ownership – not because he was cowed by Murdoch (though media proprietors were powerful), but because he didn’t believe in it.

Tony Blair came armed to the smiling white teeth with cases where he’d actually annoyed Rupert Murdoch with policies that threatened or frustrated his commercial interests (BBC licence fee, sports rights, Manchester United etc) and policies that annoyed Rupert Murdoch too (for instance, reducing the EU rebate).

When he appeared at the Iraq inquiry he managed to beat the drum for military action against Iran. At the Leveson Inquiry, he was no less impressive in a different context. He’s avoided an all-out assault on media law because he had other priorities in government and it would’ve smothered and engulfed all other work.

At the lunch interval I noticed Tony Blair bowed towards the judge, Lord Justice Leveson, as he stood to leave the court. By the very end, as the whole session finishes at 3.10pm, Lord Justice Leveson appeared to bow slightly to Mr Blair.

UPDATE at 6pm

Just been listening back to the interruption by a demonstrator at Tony Blair’s evidence.  He may have been intent on interrupting the proceedings in court and branding Tony Blair a “war criminal,”  but just as he breaks into the courtroom and before starting on his rant he says “excuse me” to everyone present. Lord Justice Leveson then stands and says “excuse me” three times back to him.

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8 reader comments

  1. peejay says:

    He is not known as Teflon Tony for nothing!

    And, no, that is not a statement of admiration.

  2. Saltaire Sam says:

    No surprise their views coincided. Two Tories together

  3. PMay says:

    Sorry, but I don’t have a problem with Blair. It’s the fashion to knock him. He was an election winner, and had more integrity than Brown. Superb political skills.

  4. Philip says:

    Lots of bad decisions (not always the ones he gets criticised for) & a certain flexibility with the truth, but Blair was (a) competent way beyond the present shower (b) able to take decisions & not purely for party political reasons & (c) made sure (wisely as it turns out!) things were neither written down or recorded in cyberspace. Though he can handle this sort of event with considerable skill, he wasn’t just PR. Whether you agree with him or not, he took his party on in regard to many important issues, something the present PM has failed to do, preferring PR spin & obsession with “brand” rather than action.
    I don’t know how history will judge Blair, but we shouldn’t forget his strengths & the things he did well as well as the vice versa.

  5. Dr Lofthouse says:

    Have been listening to Dire Straits ‘The man’s too strong’ this afternoon – fits him to a tee….
    I’m just and ageing drummer boy
    And in the wars I used to play
    And I’ve called the tune
    To many a torture session
    Now they say I am a war criminal
    And I’m fading away
    Father please hear my confession

    I have legalised robbery
    Called it a belief
    I have run with the money
    I have a hill like a thief
    I have re-written history
    With my armies and my crooks
    Invented memories
    I did burn all the books

  6. Mudplugger says:

    A masterclass indeed – just the sort of slippery skill-set he will need when he is El Presidente of EU Mk2.

    Watch and learn, Davey-boy, watch and learn.

  7. Philip Edwards says:


    Blair’s “secret” is easy to recognise. He simply cauterises his conscience – if he ever had one in the first place.

    He is, simply, a disgusting creature of the Right and a blot on the history of the Labour Party and this nation’s political history.

    The man who burst in on the inquiry may have been bang out of order in what he did, but he at least told the truth. You media people could learn a lesson from him.

  8. Citizen Smith says:

    Mr T sat his 11+ and his O/A levels at the same time as myself.

    I’ve worked my nuts off for 40+ years with 20+ years in a consultancy role with much responsibility etc. demanding clients, long days, trains, planes, hotels etc… you get my drift.

    I must say he looks at least 10 years older than me, good decision on my partb not to go into politics and not have to carry all that ‘regret and conscience’ baggage around in later life such as Irag, Afganistan, dead soldiers etc.

    He might have pots of money but is he happy like me?

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