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Sir Menzies Campbell: Murdoch aimed to steer Blair in direction of US

Sir Menzies Campbell Credit: ITV News

Responding to Alastair Campbell's earlier comments, the Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "Why on earth would Rupert Murdoch ring Tony Blair three times in the week before the invasion of Iraq if he was not trying to influence the British prime minister?

"Mr Murdoch's intervention was clearly designed to steer Tony Blair in the direction of those in the United States, including [US President] Bush, who were determined to take action against Saddam Hussein and to ignore illegality."


Campbell: 'Hey Tony, you've got to go to war' overstates it

Alastair Campbell has told the BBC's Today programme that Tony Blair's views on Iraq were well known and that Rupert Murdoch did not influence them. He said:

I wasn't listening to the call but I do record Tony Blair's mild irritation and our feeling that this was just part of pressure ... I don't think there is a single person in the world who was not aware of what Tony Blair's view was on Iraq and how much his determination was to ensure that Saddam Hussein was dealt with ... I don't think you can say this was Rupert Murdoch saying 'hey Tony, you've got to go to war'. I think that really does overstate it.

Alastair Campbell: Murdoch said 'nothing inappropriate'

Tony Blair's former spokesman Alastair Campbell has sought to "contextualise" comments in his diary that suggest Rupert Murdoch lobbied the Prime Minister over the Iraq war.

Writing in his blog, Mr Campbell says he supports New Corporation's point that he has no evidence to back up his claim, pointing out that the comments were only a small aside in his account of a busy day:

It is ... evidence of the extraordinary topicality and controversy of the Murdoch brand that out of 700 pages of a book covering the momentous period from 9/11 to the Iraq War, The Guardian should lead their coverage on a very short entry about this phone call.

He also writes that Mr Murdoch's comments were "nothing inappropriate".

There was actually nothing inappropriate in what he [Rupert Murdoch] said. He was clearly wanting to signal support, and given TB’s [Tony Blair's] views on Iraq, and his determination to deal with Saddam absolute, it is really pushing it to suggest this call contradicts Murdoch’s statement that he ‘never asked a Prime Minister for anything.’ TB was clearly irritated though, and we did feel the arguments were those coming at us in all directions from the US Administration.

News Corp: 'Complete rubbish' that Murdoch lobbied Blair

Rupert Murdoch's company News Corporation has released a statement denying the allegation that Mr Murdoch lobbied Former Prime Minister Tony Blair over the Iraq War.

It is complete rubbish to suggest that Rupert Murdoch lobbied Mr Blair over the Iraq war on behalf of the US Republicans. Furthermore, there isn't even any evidence in Alastair Campbell's diaries to support such a ridiculous claim.

– News Corporation statement

Murdoch 'called' Blair over Iraq

Rupert Murdoch was part of an "over-crude" attempt to push Tony Blair into action in Iraq, Alastair Campbell has claimed. Credit: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

On March 11 2003 in his book Burden of Power, Countdown to Iraq, which is being serialised by The Guardian, Campbell wrote: "(Tony Blair) took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc.

"Both TB and I felt it was prompted by Washington, and another example of their over-crude diplomacy. Murdoch was pushing all the Republican buttons, how the longer we waited the harder it got."

The following day he added: "TB felt the Murdoch call was odd, not very clever."

Mr Campbell claims in 2002 Downing Street believed the then chancellor Gordon Brown was "hell-bent on TB's destruction" as a result of his behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.

The former No 10 communications director also suggests that his former boss believed the Prince of Wales had been "captured by a few very right-wing people", following the publication of leaked letters he wrote about a US-style compensation culture in 2002.


Murdoch 'pushed Blair on Iraq move'

Rupert Murdoch was part of an "over-crude" attempt to push Tony Blair into action in Iraq, Alastair Campbell has claimed.

In the last volume of his diaries being serialised by the Guardian, Mr Blair's former spin doctor said the media mogul made a telephone call warning about the dangers of delaying Britain's involvement.

Rupert Murdoch. Credit: PA

The claim comes days after questions were raised about Mr Murdoch's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics that he had "never asked a prime minister for anything".

Ex-Tory PM Sir John Major said Murdoch had asked him to change his European policy in return for the support of his papers.

Alastair Campbell arrives to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry at The Royal Courts of Justice. Credit: PA

Mr Campbell's book, The Burden of Power, Countdown to Iraq, suggests Mr Murdoch made moves to help US Republicans the week before the Commons vote in 2003 on deploying British troops to Iraq.

Campbell: Blair made 'time for calls' from Murdoch before Iraq war

Alastair Campbell told the Leveson Inquiry today that former Prime Minister Tony Blair had only spoken six times between 2002 and 2005 with News International chief executive Rupert Murdoch in the run-up to the Iraq war.

However, he pointed out that Mr Murdoch was a “very significant figure in the media landscape”:

Rupert Murdoch, one of the things that makes him different to some of the other media owners, some of whom you saw last week, is that he is a news man. He is interested in what is going on in the world.

I think it is a combination of Rupert Murdoch trying to find out what is going on and also probably saying, 'You know, we're going to support you on this.

It doesn't strike me as that odd, not least because by then I think it is fair to say Tony Blair had very few strong supporters in the media left.

Speaker: Hunt must face MPs' questions

The Speaker of the House of Commons has effectively ordered Jeremy Hunt to face MPs’ question about his dealings with News Corporation.

Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader and shadow culture secretary prompted the Speaker's intervention.

She had asked the Speaker whether it was acceptable for a minister to refuse to answer parliamentary questions on the grounds that he would be giving evidence in due course to an inquiry.

Hunt has refused to answer questions about what he knew about the contacts between his special adviser and News Corp, saying he will address this in his evidence to Leveson.

I do believe this House should be pre-eminent. It should be treated by whomsoever is in Government with courtesy and consideration.

It should be regarded as a priority and a matter of honour to keep the House informed and to facilitate the House in the discharge of its scrutiny function.

I do not dissent from anything you have said.

– John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons
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