Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in
London. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Former British prime minister Tony Blair offered to act
as a secret adviser to Rupert Murdoch during his media empire's
phone-hacking scandal, suggesting the firm follow steps he took
to calm public anger over the Iraq war, a London court has
Rebekah Brooks, the ex-boss of Murdoch's British newspapers,
wrote an email to Murdoch's son James detailing advice Blair
had given her during an hour-long phone call in July 2011 at
the height of a furore over phone-hacking allegations at the
media mogul's News of the World tabloid.
The disclosure came as the prosecution wrapped up its case
against Brooks, who is on trial at London's Old Bailey on
charges relating to phone-hacking which she denies.
"He (Blair) is available to you, KRM and me as an unofficial
adviser but needs to be between us," said the email from
Brooks to James Murdoch, who at the time ran News Corp.
operations in Britain. KRM refers to Rupert Murdoch's
Brooks said Blair had counselled: "It will pass. Tough up."
Four days later she quit her job and she was arrested by
police two days after that.
The email was sent the day after News Corp closed the
168-year-old News of the World in the face of huge public
anger over revelations that its staff had hacked into the
voicemail messages of a murdered schoolgirl.
Blair's suggestions to Brooks contrast with a public
statement he made three days before their phone call, when he
had denounced the hacking scandal as "beyond disgusting".
The email also demonstrates just how close Brooks and Rupert
Murdoch were to Britain's elite, a relationship critics said
allowed him to use his British newspapers to influence
politicians for the benefit of his business interests.
A spokesman for Blair, who is now a Middle East peace envoy,
said the former prime minister was "simply giving informal
advice" and had made it clear to Brooks that in a such a
serious situation it was vital to have "a fully transparent
and independent process" to find out what had happened.
According to Brooks's email, Blair's advice included setting
up an internal investigation, led by a member of the "great
and the good". The scenario he envisaged was based on the
investigation which cleared him of any wrongdoing in the
build-up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton
style report," Brooks said in the email relaying the comments
of Blair, who is godfather to one of Murdoch's children.
"Publish part one of the report at same time as the police
closes its inquiry and clear you and accept shortcomings and
new solutions and process," the email said.
The reference to the Hutton inquiry could prove hugely
embarrassing for the former Labour leader, who won three
elections to lead Britain from 1997 to 2007 but who has had
to repeatedly defend himself over his decision to join the
United States in going to war in Iraq.
Lord Hutton was appointed by Blair to investigate the
circumstances which led to the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) reporting that the government had "sexed
up" the case for the invasion of Iraq.
That near six-month investigation cleared the government of
any wrongdoing and laid the blame firmly at the door of the
BBC, leading to the resignation of two of its most senior
executives. A poll of Britons in the wake of the inquiry
found that half believed the report was a "whitewash".
The report was leaked to Murdoch's daily Sun tabloid, which
published the findings before its official release in 2004.
Brooks was editor of the paper at the time and, despite an
official investigation, the leak's source was never
In May 2012, at an inquiry set up in the wake of the
phone-hacking scandal, Blair said British leaders had no
choice but to court powerful media barons such as Murdoch or
risk savage press attacks from a media he once described as
The email, which also included a suggestion that Brooks
should take sleeping tablets, was read to the jury at the Old
Bailey as prosecutors concluded their case against her and
six others over phone-hacking and other offences, which they
Another email read out in court from Brooks to James Murdoch
detailed a "Plan B" in which they would "slam" other
executives and leak an internal report stating that their
previous attempts to get to the bottom of the story had been
Brooks herself had been expected to launch her defence on
Wednesday but because of legal issues she is now due to take
the stand on Thursday.