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Phone hacking:Tony Blair offered to advise Murdoch

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  • by RORY REYNOLDS
 

FORMER prime minister Tony Blair offered to act as an ­“unofficial adviser” to Rebekah Brooks at the height of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, a court has heard.

The ex-premier also suggested parent firm News International follow steps he took to calm public anger over the Iraq war, with the setting up of a “Hutton-style inquiry” similar to the one ordered after the death of government weapons adviser Dr David Kelly, it is claimed.

Mr Blair even gave personal advice to Brooks, including taking sleeping pills to get through the ordeal during an hour-long conversation in July 2011, ­according to e-mails presented in court.

Brooks, on trial at the Old Bailey over the hacking scandal, then sent a summary to then News International boss James ­Murdoch.

Mr Blair, who stood down after a decade as prime minister in 2007, advised “no rash short-term solutions as they only give you long-term headaches”, Brooks wrote.

Instead, the former News of the World and Sun editor told Murdoch that Mr Blair suggested holding an independent inquiry which would report back and clear their names in due course.

Mr Blair allegedly told Brooks: “It will pass. Tough up.”

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC read members of the jury an e-mail Brooks sent to Mr Murdoch on 11 July, 2011, just days before she was arrested by police.

In it, she relayed the telephone conversation she had with the former Labour prime minister.

The court heard that Brooks’s notes of the conversation, e-mailed to Murdoch at 4:21pm on 11 July, stated that Mr Blair recommended:

“1. Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact-checkers, etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton-style report.

“2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept your shortcomings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over.

“3. Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills. Need to have clear heads and remember no rash short-term solutions as they only give you long-term headaches.

“4. It will pass. Tough up.

“5. He is available for you [James Murdoch], KRM [Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be ­between us.”

Brooks added: “He is sending more notes later.”

The mention of a “Hutton-style inquiry” was not explained in court yesterday, but is likely to be a reference to Lord Hutton’s investigation into the death of government scientist Dr Kelly at the height of anger at the Iraq war.

Dr Kelly took his own life after it became public that he was the source of BBC news reports that the Blair government’s dossier on Iraq had been “sexed up” to justify military ­operations.

In the same e-mail chain sent the day after the final edition of the NotW was published, Brooks relayed to Murdoch the news that circulation figures for the Sunday tabloid were still close to four million, saying: “So much for a sales boycott.”

The son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who was chief executive of News International before Brooks, replied at 3:53pm: “What are you doing on e-mail?”

All defendants – including Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire – deny all charges.

The prosecution case has now finished and Brooks’s defence is expected to start tomorrow.

 

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