Tony Blair had three conversations with the media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the nine days before the start of the Iraq war, the Government has disclosed.The article has details of exactly what was published after each call.
Details of the former prime minister's contacts with Mr Murdoch have been released under the Freedom of Information Act. After trying to block disclosure for four years, the Government backed down in a surprise change of heart the day after Mr Blair resigned last month...
Yesterday the Cabinet Office said there were six telephone discussions between Mr Blair and Mr Murdoch in 20 months, all at crucial moments of his premiership. The subject of their calls was not revealed.
In 2003, Mr Blair phoned the owner of The Times and The Sun on 11 and 13 March, and on 19 March, the day before Britain and the United States invaded Iraq. The war was strongly supported by Murdoch-owned newspapers around the world. The day after two of the calls, The Sun launched vitriolic attacks on the French President Jacques Chirac. The Government quoted him as saying he would "never" support military action against Saddam Hussein, a claim hotly disputed by France.
Mr Blair and Mr Murdoch spoke again on 29 January 2004, the day after publication of the Hutton report into the death of Dr David Kelly. Their next conversation was on 25 April 2004, just after Mr Blair bowed to pressure led by The Sun for him to promise a referendum on the proposed EU constitution. They also spoke on 3 October that year, after Mr Blair said he would not fight a fourth general election.
Who is going to be the first intrepid reporter to demand similar details from PM John Howard? Who will demand the same information from Rupert Murdoch? It's a sure thing that Murdoch's Australian operation is far more advanced than his UK setup, and that was very advanced indeed:
In Alastair Campbell's diaries, published last week, the former spin doctor described a Downing Street dinner for Mr Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, in 2002. "Murdoch pointed out that his were the only papers that gave us support when the going got tough. 'I've noticed,' said TB," Mr Campbell wrote. Lance Price, Mr Campbell's deputy, called Mr Murdoch "the 24th member of the [Blair] Cabinet". He added: "His presence was always felt. No big decision could ever be made inside No10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men, Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored."Memo to the Bancroft family: "Don't sell!"