Tony Blair secretly offered to become an unofficial adviser to Rupert Murdoch and his media empire at the height of the phone hacking scandal, according to an email published by a London court today.
A message sent from Rebekah Brooks to James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, in July 2011 detailed what she described as an hour-long phone conversation with the former prime minister. Brooks said Blair had offered to help “but [that] needs to be between us.” The alleged intervention took place as Murdoch and the government were being accused of collaborating in a conspiracy at the heart of the British establishment.
News International was accused of illegally hacking the phones of politicians, royalty and the victims of crime, but Blair allegedly told Brooks to wait for it all to blow over. According to Brooks, he advised setting up an independent inquiry into the hacking allegations that would produce “a Hutton style report,” which would “clear” her. The Hutton Inquiry, which examined some of the events in the lead up to the Iraq war, was widely criticized by the British media as a “whitewash.”
A spokesman for Blair today confirmed that the phone call had taken place but insisted the former prime minister had simply been offering informal advice based on the version of events Brooks had described to him.
The email from Brooks to James Murdoch was entered into evidence at the Old Bailey today as the prosecution wrapped up its case against Brooks and six co-defendants who deny charges of conspiracy to hack phones and make illicit payments to public officials. In the email dated July 11, 2011. Brooks wrote: “I had an hour on the phone to Tony Blair.”
On the day that The Times (of London) reported that Brooks would be questioned by police, she wrote that he had comforted her. “Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills,” she wrote. “It will pass. Tough up.”
In the note to James she also said Blair was happy to offer further advice. “He is available for you, KRM [Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us.”
Blair, who is godfather to one of Murdoch’s children, has denied having an affair with Wendi Murdoch, Rupert’s estranged wife. Earlier this month a note from Wendi describing Blair as having a “good body and really really good legs [and] Butt” was published.
Blair allegedly told Brooks that the ‘independent’ report could be published in parts to try and help manage her reputation. “Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over,” she wrote in the email to James.
In response to the email’s publication, Blair’s office took the unusual step of offering public comment on the ongoing court case. “This was Mr. Blair simply giving informal advice over the phone. He made it absolutely clear to Ms. Brooks that, though he knew nothing personally about the facts of the case, in a situation as serious as this it was essential to have a fully transparent and independent process to get to the bottom of what had happened,” a spokesman said.
“Mr. Blair said that if what he was being told by her was correct, and there had been no wrongdoing, then a finding to that effect by a credible Inquiry would be far better than an internal and therefore less credible investigation.”