Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Video: Leveson anger as "arrest Blair" protester Lawley Wakelin breaches security

Tony Blair is grilled on his relationship with the press and Rupert Murdoch at an inquiry into media ethics in central London May 28

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry was interrupted today when a protester burst in and yelled "this man should be arrested for war crimes".

The man, identified as anti-war demonstrator David Lawley Wakelin from Alternative Iraq Enquiry, somehow managed to evade security. He was swiftly removed from the court room after causing the disturbance and Lord Justice Leveson ordered an immediate inquiry into how he had got in.

He said: "I would like to find out how this gentleman managed to access the court through what's supposed to be a secure corridor and I'll have an investigation undertaken about that immediately."

Mr Blair had been telling the inquiry into press standards that he had a "working relationship" with media mogul Rupert Murdoch when in office and that he "got to know Mr Murdoch better" after leaving office in 2007.

He said when he was Prime Minister his relationship with Mr Murdoch was "about power" but was "not personal".

Mr Blair insisted he had never agreed to any pact with any media organisation.

"There was no deal on issues to do with the media with Rupert Murdoch, or indeed, anybody else, either expressed or implied and to be fair, he never sought such a thing."

He added: "When it came to the specific issue in relation to the Murdoch media group, we more often decided against them than in favour."

Mr Blair was quizzed about his now notorious trip to Hayman Island, Australia, in 1995 where he addressed News Corp executives.

Asked if he agreed with the views of then Australian prime minister Paul Keating, who according to Alistair Campbell's diaries said Mr Murdoch was a "big bad bastard" and the only way to deal with him was to act the same, Mr Blair said he "didn't quite buy the crudeness" of that assessment.

He added: "I came, in time, to have a different view myself."

Mr Blair said his speech focused on elements he knew the organisation would want to hear mixed in with wider policy arguments.

He added: "I would not have been going all the way round the world if it had not been a very deliberate and very strategic decision that I was going to try to persuade them, and I had a minimum objective."

He added: "The minimum objective was to stop them tearing us to pieces and the maximum objective to open the way to support."

Mr Blair explained his relationship with Mr Murdoch, owner of The Sun newspaper, after being questioned by a barrister representing inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson.

"I would describe my relationship with him as a working relationship, until after I left office," said Mr Blair.

"Despite all this stuff about me being godfather to one of his children. I would not have been godfather to one of his children on the basis of my relationship in office.

"After I left office I got to know him. Now it's different. It's not the same."

Mr Blair said he had been in a powerful position, as prime minister, and Mr Murdoch had been in a powerful position as boss of a media empire.

"It was a relationship about power," said Mr Blair. "I find these relationships are not personal, they are working, to me."

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