Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Blair defends Murdoch relationship

Former prime minister Tony Blair arrives at the High Court to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards
Officers escort a man to a waiting police van after ex-PM Tony Blair was heckled while giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry (AP)

Tony Blair has denied doing any deals with Rupert Murdoch in return for the support of his newspapers.

The former prime minister defended his relationship with Mr Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry claiming they only became close friends once he left Downing Street.

Mr Blair, who became godfather to Mr Murdoch's daughter Grace in 2010, insisted the media tycoon never "lobbied him for special favours".

His evidence was interrupted by a protester who burst into courtroom 73 from a secure corridor and accused Mr Blair of being a "war criminal". The former Labour leader remained composed as the man was led off by security guards and the session continued.

During his decade in office Mr Blair said he simply had a "working relationship" with Mr Murdoch.

Mr Blair said: "I know Rupert Murdoch and his family far better today than I did when I was Prime Minister.

"I would never have become godfather to their child on the basis of my relationship in Government where meetings with Rupert Murdoch tended to be very much politics oriented and I knew the rest of the family only a little at that time."

He added: "It was a relationship about power. I find these relationships are not personal, they are working, to me."

Mr Blair said he had probably been closer to Ms Brooks too once he had left office, "when we were free from the constraints and it wasn't a relationship about the power relationship".

And he defended his decision to send her a message of support after the phone hacking scandal erupted last summer, saying he was "not a fair weather friend".

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