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Watt reports: "Rupert Murdoch joined in an 'over-crude' attempt by US Republicans to force Tony Blair to accelerate British involvement in the Iraq war a week before a crucial House of Commons vote in 2003."

Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair. (photo: Mike Theiler/EPA)
Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair. (photo: Mike Theiler/EPA)

Murdoch 'Pushed Blair Into Iraq'

By Nicholas Watt, Guardian UK

17 June 12


Murdoch joined an 'over-crude' attempt by US Republicans to accelerate British involvement in the Iraq war, Campbell says.

upert Murdoch joined in an "over-crude" attempt by US Republicans to force Tony Blair to accelerate British involvement in the Iraq war a week before a crucial House of Commons vote in 2003, according to the final volumes of Alastair Campbell's government diaries.

In another blow to the media mogul, who told the Leveson inquiry that he had never tried to influence any prime minister, Campbell's diary says Murdoch warned Blair in a phone call of the dangers of a delay in Iraq. The disclosure by Campbell, whose diaries are serialised in the Guardian, will pile the pressure on Murdoch in light of his evidence to the Leveson inquiry.

The Cabinet Office released information on Friday that raised doubts about Murdoch's claim that Gordon Brown pledged to "declare war" on News Corporation after the Sun abandoned its support for Labour in September 2009. It supported Brown's claim that he never made such a threat by saying that the only phone call between the two men during the period took place on 10 November 2009 and focused on Afghanistan.

Murdoch tweeted in response: "I stand by every word is aid [sic] at Leveson." But there will be fresh questions about one of Murdoch's most memorable declarations from his appearance before the inquiry in April. The founder of News Corporation said: "I've never asked a prime minister for anything."

Campbell wrote that on 11 March 2003, a week before the Commons vote in which MPs voted to deploy British troops to Iraq, Murdoch intervened to try to persuade Blair to move more quickly towards war. "[Tony Blair] took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc," Campbell wrote. "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, 12 March, he wrote: "TB felt the Murdoch call was odd, not very clever."

Campbell's description of Murdoch's intervention is one of a series of disclosures in his diaries, The Burden of Power, Countdown to Iraq, which are serialised in the Guardian on Saturday and Monday. The diaries show:

Blair believed that the Prince of Wales had been "captured by a few very rightwing people", according to Campbell, after the Daily Mail published leaked letters from the prince about a US-style compensation culture in 2002. Blair "liked, rated and respected" the Queen but thought her heir tried to have a "dig" at the Labour government in a speech during her golden jubilee in 2002.

Gordon Brown agitated so aggressively against Tony Blair - demanding a departure date soon after the 9/11 attacks - that Downing Street concluded in 2002 that the then chancellor was "hell-bent on TB's destruction".

The diaries will raise questions about Brown's claim at Leveson that he and his staff never briefed against Blair. Campbell provides specific examples of when Brown and his chief aide, Ed Balls, were suspected of doing just that. In one example, the former health secretary Alan Milburn told Blair that Brown encouraged MPs to defy a government three-line whip to vote against foundation hospitals in 2003.

Blair was "thwarted" from joining the euro by Brown and Balls in 2003. On 11 June 2003, two days after Brown concluded that Britain had not yet met his five tests on euro membership, Campbell wrote: "Things just hadn't worked on the euro and TB was pretty fed up...The judgment was settling that GB had basically thwarted him. TB feared we were making the wrong decision for the wrong reasons."

Campbell said he had mixed views about Brown. He told the Guardian: "I do have very conflicted views about Gordon. On the one hand he could be extraordinarily difficult to deal with. But on the other hand he could be absolutely brilliant. Often we were sitting there longing for the brilliant to be in charge and for the impossible to fade away and it never quite happened. During this period it is the first time that Tony does at least articulate the possibility of actually sacking him. And at various points [he] says I am going to do it. Of course he never did. I completely understand why he decided to stick with Gordon because, as Tony keeps saying throughout the diaries: 'Look, when it comes to ability, he and I are head and shoulders above the rest.' That may sound a bit arrogant but most people will accept that."

Campbell's disclosure of Murdoch's intervention on the eve of the Iraq war is the second substantive example to raise questions over the News Corp chairman's claim that he never tried to influence any prime minister. John Major told Leveson on Tuesday that Murdoch told him in February 1997, three months before the general election, that he would withdraw support for the Tories unless the then prime minister changed his policies on Europe.

Major told the inquiry: "If we couldn't change our European policies, his papers could not and would not support the Conservative government."

Campbell told the Guardian that Murdoch's intervention on Iraq was a "very rightwing voice" that came "out of the blue" adding: "On one level [Murdoch] was trying to be supportive, saying I know this is a very difficult place, my papers are going to support you on this. Fine.

"But I think Tony did feel that there was something a bit crude about it. It was another very rightwing voice saying to him: look isn't it about time you got on with this? I think, as I recall Tony saying, he didn't think it was terribly clever."

Campbell also mentioned the Murdoch phone calls in a second witness statement to the Leveson inquiry last month. News Corp believes there was nothing improper about the phone call, one of three, because the support of the Sun and News of the World for the war was well known.

Lord Justice Leveson, whose lead counsel, Robert Jay, asked Murdoch about the calls, also indicated that it was "reasonable" for him to have views on such international matters.

Leveson told Murdoch: "You've mentioned that you talked about Afghanistan, and it would be perfectly reasonable for you to have a view on that. Lots of people will. And your view may be informed by your worldwide contacts through the businesses that you operate. That's merely your view."

Murdoch addressed the phone calls in his witness statement to the Leveson inquiry. He said: "As for the three telephone calls with the then prime minister, Tony Blair, in 2003, I cannot recall what I discussed with him now, nine years later, or indeed even if I spoke with him at all. I understand that published reports indicate that calls were placed by him to me. What I am sure about is that I would not in any telephone call have conveyed a secret message of support for the war; the NI titles' position on Iraq was a matter of public record before 11 March 2003."

He then cited four articles from the Sun and the News of the World which illustrated their "pro-war stance" before 11 March 2003 when the main phone call took place.

In his testimony to the inquiry said he did not remember the calls but added that the Sun's support for the Iraq war was well known. "I don't remember the calls. The [call on] 11th might even have been calling me for my birthday, but no, our position on the war had been declared very strongly in all our newspapers and the Sun well before that date."

The company said tonight: "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." your social media marketing partner


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+45 # lotuslover 2012-06-17 22:40
I have always felt the quote, attributed to the Blair folk was quite spot on: something like, The yanks are fitting facts to the policy. Very Republican, No?
+72 # SouthWind 2012-06-17 22:46
We were and maybe still are controlled by idiots, criminals, and Fox News. The whole lot should be in the dock.
+2 # brux 2012-06-18 01:40
Maybe? ;-)
+31 # bbaldwin 2012-06-18 07:29
"...controlled by idiots, criminals and Fox news,... lets throw in the dumbing down of the American citizens who have been influenced by the likes of Sara Palen, I am appalled at the mentality of the majority of people who just do not know and really do not care what is happening to our country. They will be the ones who will wake up one day and say, "well why hasn't anyone done someting about the mess our country is in" I am afraid it will be too late by then.
+10 # JSRaleigh 2012-06-18 12:12
Quoting bbaldwin:
"...controlled by idiots, criminals and Fox news,... lets throw in the dumbing down of the American citizens who have been influenced by the likes of Sara Palen,

You're mistaking cause & effect. It is because the American public has been dumbed down so much that Palin et al have influence.

The war on public education here in the U.S. began in response to Brown v. Board of Education
+4 # ayfkm? 2012-06-18 13:13
Quoting JSRaleigh:
Quoting bbaldwin:
"...controlled by idiots, criminals and Fox news,... lets throw in the dumbing down of the American citizens who have been influenced by the likes of Sara Palen,

You're mistaking cause & effect. It is because the American public has been dumbed down so much that Palin et al have influence.

The war on public education here in the U.S. began in response to Brown v. Board of Education

You need to go back much, much further than that citation. Please read John Taylor Gatto's book: "The Underground History Of American Education" and you will then realize we have been in the "school" mill for a very, very long time. This is a very well written book and worth every penny!!! Contact me for other reading material that will explain why none of what we are seeing is accidental.
+8 # lemscar 2012-06-17 23:30
Is anyone surprised?
+28 # cordleycoit 2012-06-18 00:47
There is no Liberal Media hasn't been any of that since the forties. We have had a mild facist state since befor the turn of the century.
Murdoch is you typical self made psychopath and Blair his sock puppet backed by a parliament of whores crying out for Guy to come and cure the ills of our time.
The same forces behind the Bush are pushing Obama-Romey into another failed war. Look at the circle jerk on the money they are paying off to the current press lords.
+3 # X Dane 2012-06-18 14:35
cordleycoit, which is why we have to YELL VERY LOUD, THAT WE WILL NOT HAVE ANY MORE WAR.
We MUST be alert and not slide into war, because the neocons are pushing, pushing for it.

Our biggest production is weaponry, so they are itching for war. That is where they make their money. So it is up to us the CITIZENS to let them know. THAT WE DON"T WANT IT
+27 # X Dane 2012-06-18 02:19
Why are we not surprised?? Murdock has always been a nasty, dishonest meddling criminal. I do hope he can finally be unmasked. Now all can see, what he really is up to.

Do you think they will talk about this on Fox and friends??? I wonder which of the republicans he was working for, when he was pushing Blair>
+16 # ekogaia 2012-06-18 04:38
Well Duh - BLiar was misled from the get go and Murdoch, behind the fox fool the fools network, was just one of the many feeding a barrage of misinformation to those who would be misinformed.
Is this news?
What is ironic is that BLiar thought that Charles was captured by right wing interests - meanwhile he could not see the beam in his own eye.
No doubt he will finesse his way out of the doo.
+18 # fredboy 2012-06-18 05:16
I also recall the reporting of The New York Times alleging Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Many journalists I know began calling it "The Times war."
+20 # pernsey 2012-06-18 06:24
Murdoch and Fox news take propaganda, lies, and control to a whole new level. If only the brain washed sheeple could see that they are being totally duped and not told the truth. Murdochs money and control is far reaching, and needs to be stopped.
+7 # X Dane 2012-06-18 14:07
pernsey, you mentioned in some other comment, some time ago, that the sheeple, Fox watchers, are WORSE than uninformed. They are MISINFORMED, and the problem is, they may NEVER realize it, for they will NOT listen to ANYTHING other than Fox.

That disgusting outfit has so totally brainwashed them, that there is no brain left. And the awful truth is that there are SO MANY OF THEM. It is terrible for the future of our country. The KNOW NOTHINGS are in power, for they are the majority. Fox has the most viewers!!!!
+3 # pernsey 2012-06-18 16:28
Yes X Dane, I have said that because its a fact. People who dont watch any news at all are better informed then people who only watch Fox News. They think they are right so they wont listen to anything except what they want to hear, it is a shame that Fox is the most watched news channel.

As I said in a previous post also, when I was down south this spring, Fox News was on all the TVs at the gym, in restaurants and even in the gas stations. They were on 24/7 pumping the propaganda out. I know the people who believe them arent bad people just so misinformed and saturated in Fox lies its hard to reach them with any other information, they dont want to hear it. They think the lies are the truth, and they never bother to go outside of Fox to find out that real news is not the liberal media. Since the real news doesnt agree with Fox news thats how they reconcile the difference of information that its liberal media. The sheeple follow the lies to their own slaughter. Thank you X Dane for your post!
+13 # telebob 2012-06-18 06:34
For those who remember their history, do you recall "Mr Hearst's War;? Nothing ever changes.
+17 # dick 2012-06-18 07:19
Too much concentration of economic power undermines democracy; Octopi corporations must have tentacles & more cut off. There is no known alternative.
+14 # genierae 2012-06-18 09:54
Rupert Murdoch stands by his testimony, a liar standing by his lies. When Republicans get caught lying, they tell more lies to cover it up. They lie so much that it makes me wonder how they keep track? Do they have a lie register where they write down every falsehood? If Tony Blair, who began his career with some integrity, had said "NO" to Murdoch and Bush, he would be a hero now, and just maybe the Iraq War would not have happened. I loved the movie, "Love, Actually", it portrays what we wanted Tony Blair to do. God bless those who do what's right, even when it gets them in trouble!
+14 # Broger 2012-06-18 09:56
Most Americans are duped over a long period of time. When we were young we were told to "not rock the boat", and to "keep out of others' business". The history books, with the exception of the one true history book "People's History by Howard Zinn"
were a glorification of our positions even when we were awfully wrong. Do we remember the saying "My country, right or wrong!"
On top of that war and empire were about lots of money for those who played the game. Just previous to the start of war with Iraq, I worked in a high school computer lab training students and teachers to use the new computers and peripherals. Almost everyday for a number of weeks we got indiscriminatel y targeted offers to buy stocks in war companies who were all jockying for position to make huge gains. How many people were only interested in the money. I'm sure none of them cared if people would be bombed and shot. It was all justified in the news and therefore fair game. This is America the beautiful gone ugly thanks to the last twenty years of corruption and lies aplenty.
Let's finally break wide open the JFK case and work toward a society that cannot keep these kinds of criminal secrets from us ever again. Enough lies!
+15 # reiverpacific 2012-06-18 10:28
No excuse in Blair's case; he has always been far too personally greedy, materialistic ambitious and purchasable to hold high office and modeled his political idea of a "New Left" (not!) on Clinton's "New (Milquetoast) Democrats". He's now a holy-holy Catholic convert, which will just take him further into a reactionary mindset.
As for his association with MUD - Doch, if you hang with slime, you'll get all slimy.
Murdoch has IMMENSE power in Australia, so his assertion that he "Never asked a Prime Minister for anything is only partially a lie. He TELLS them what he wants! At least the UK is going after him. Pity the US and Australia aren't.
He is the Koch Bro's of the press.
They ALL belong in jail with Dimwits Bush, Dickless Cheney and Co, preferably Gitmo or better still, Abu Grahib, where they can reflect on their crimes between bouts of hard labor.
+5 # X Dane 2012-06-18 14:26
reiverpacific, I do hope, that seeing how The Brits are going after Mud Doch (great name, it fits) OUR justice department will follow the lead. There is obviously a lot of THERE, there!

The British politicians realized they were sunk, if they didn't "play ball" with Mud, and unfortunately power is more important to politicians than truth and honor. Which is one reason they are so disrespected both there and here.

Can you imagine the "earthquake" if Blair or the present P M had gone on TV and said: We are not getting the support from the press, because we refuse X Y Z, we will not dance to the tune of Mr Murdoc!! I would almost bet, that they would have won by a landslide.
Personal courage is unfortunately in such short supply in politics.

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