28 May 2012

LIVE BLOG: Tony Blair gives evidence at the Leveson inquiry

Former prime minister Tony Blair gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry into media ethics. Follow the live blog and add your voice.

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.
Read more from Political Editor Gary Gibbon: Blair at Leveson – armed to the smiling white teeth

15.13 Tony Blair’s evidence at the Leveson inquiry ends ahead of schedule.

15.09 Blair: I think if the framework were different it would make it easier for some in the media to do their job

14.38 I don’t accept that before we came in [media / political relations] were all doing fine

14.34 Mr Blair talks about a time when a minister came to him to resign because he had read that Blair was going to sack him. Blair says the minister thought it was true because he had read it in the media.

14.30 Inquiry counsel Robert Jay lists accusations agains the Blair government’s media techniques including favouritism, briefing against people and bullying. If I thought someone was briefing against someone else I would be “down on them like a tonne of bricks,” Blair says.

14.27 Blair: “I think the issue with the press “antedated” our arrival in office”

12.15 A protester bursts into the Leveson inquiry and shouts “the man is a war criminal”. He is bundled out and Lord Justice Leveson promises an investigation into how the intruder got in. The protester also shouted that Blair had taken £6m from JP Morgan to promote war. Resuming, Blair says that allegation is not true.

11.56 Blair says Rebekah Brooks was “important because she was editor of the Sun”. He is asked if she was capable of issuing personal attacks. Blair says “I did never or would never have asked her to conduct attacks on individuals,” adding “I absolutely hate that type of politics.”

11.55 Blair is forced to talk about the fact he is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s children. He says he “would never have become godfather” during his time as PM, that the relationship was “businesslike” and that his closeness to Murdoch since leaving office is “healthier”.

11.20 Blair: There was a view of Rupert Murdoch that “he just backs the winner”. My view now is not as simple as that… he has very strong views. If I’d been in a situation where they’d turned on me, I would have had to fight back.

11.00 Blair is questioned about the “mystique” of his meetings with Rupert Murdoch. He says he doesn’t think any of his media meetings were publsihed but “I think in future it’s probably best if everything is published”.

Read more: Tony Blair: I decided to ‘manage the media not confront it’

10.54 Blair: It’s not the closeness that’s the problem, it’s the imbalance. If you are pursuing a course you believe in, and they [Murdoch media] don’t believe in it – you’re in a big fight.

10.50 Blair: The “closeness” [to News Corp]… I would say with Rupert Murdoch and his family… it is completely different now. [At the time] it was a working relationship. The big impact was hugely intensified by the fact that if they were against you.. they were all out against you.

10.35 Tony Blair’s appearance before Leveson is certainly a more jocular affair than his turns in the chair at the Iraq inquiry.

10.31 Blair asked did the media behave like a “great sloppy labrador”? In reference to the Mail, Blair says it’s not a description he’s familiar with…

10.23 Blair: I knew that if you take this on [media power] then you do not think for a moment that you are not in a long, protracted battle.

10.15 Blair talks about the 1992 election (when former Labour leader Neil Kinnock was ridiculed by the Murdoch media). Blair says “I was determined not to be subject to the same onslaught”.

10.08 You have the potential now to get a solution…

10.07 I decided as a political leader to manage that [power] rather than confront it.

10.05 Blair: What I found unhealthy was when the interaction became “essential”. The relationship is one in which you feel this pretty intense power…. I’m just being open about that.

10.00 Tony Blair begins giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry about the “closeness” of politicians to powerful media groups.

Blair at Leveson – add your voice

Former prime minister Tony Blair gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry into media standards. Add your voice in the window above or via Twitter @Channel4News.