Tony Blair’s private text message exchanges with Rebekah Brooks were published in a London court Wednesday as the scale of cooperation between former members of the Labour government and senior figures at News International were laid bare.
When Brooks, one of Rupert Murdoch’s most trusted executives, was called to give evidence about phone hacking in the House of Commons, Blair offered his personal assistance to help prepare her according to the text messages presented in court. His loyal ally Peter Mandelson, a former government minister, was also asked to hold mock interrogation sessions to help Brooks practise, according to prosecutors.
Brooks has spent the last thirteen days in the witness box, denying charges that she conspired to hack phones, has illegally paid public officials for stories, and attempted to cover it up by hiding evidence from the police.
The texts between the former Labour prime minister and Rupert Murdoch’s most senior executive at News International were recovered from a Blackberry device Brooks had been using at the moment of her arrest whose contents had been copied by police. Andrew Edis, prosecuting counsel, read out some of the text exchanges.
In July 2011, she texted Blair that she had a police interview the following day. "Feeling properly terrified! The police are behaving so badly," she wrote.
Blair tried to reassure her: "Everyone panics in these situations," he wrote. "I'm no use on police stuff but call me after that because I may be some help on Commons."
Lord Mandelson was also approached to coach Brooks for her pending appearance before a select committee hearing, according to the prosecuting counsel. Both Rupert and James Murdoch were part of the weekend long preparations at Enstone Manor in Oxfordshire.
In the days leading up to her arrest, the prosecution revealed that she was back in touch with Blair. "If you're still going to Parliament you should call me. I have experience of these things! Tx" he wrote.
She replied: "Definitely. Depends on the police interview first. I have Stephen Parkinson here today. I have never met him but people say he is good."
"He's excellent," Blair wrote back. On the day she was arrested, Brooks texted Blair: "With Stephen now. We are both saying hello. x"
In previous evidence presented to the jury, an email from Brooks to James Murdoch described Blair’s offer to become an informal adviser for some of the senior newspaper executives who were being linked with illegal newsgathering techniques. Other internal News International emails from Brooks and Will Lewis, (now the publisher of the Dow Jones) had suggested the phone hacking scandal, which erupted that summer was ‘revenge’ from supporters of Blair’s successor and Labour rival, Gordon Brown.
In his fifth and final day of cross examining Brooks, Edis accused her of masterminding phone hacking at the now shuttered News of the World, payment to public officials at The Sun, and covering up both activities when she was chief executive of News International. Brooks denied she knew anything about the illegal activities of news editors Greg Miskiw and Neville Thurlbeck, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who have already pleaded guilty to phone hacking. She also denied all knowledge of the activities of her PA Cheryl Carter and her husband Charlie Brooks, who—the prosecution alleges—were part of a conspiracy to hide Brooks’ notebooks and computer equipment from the police around the time of her arrest.
In his concluding remarks Edis said: “Your evidence has been a carefully presented and prepared script and bears little relation to the truth these offences." Brooks replied, quietly: “No, it isn’t.”
The trial continues.