What was it about the relationship with Murdoch that made Tony Blair feel it was appropriate to take a phone call from a newspaper proprietor just hours prior to the most momentous decision a prime minister can make: ordering the country's armed forces to war?
By Robin Beste
Stop the War Coalition
18 July 2011
When Rupert Murdoch appears before the parliamentary committee on 19 July 2011, here are ten questions the MPs certainly will not ask about the relationhip he had with Tony Blair during the run up to the Iraq war, when Murdoch was, in the words of Blair's former press officer Lance Price, "the third most powerful figure in the Labour government", after Blair himself and Gordon Brown.
- In 2002-3 all of your 127 newspapers around the world, with a combined circulation of 40 million a week, supported the Iraq war. We now know you were often in direct contact with the then prime minister Tony Blair, who you said at the time was "extraordinarily courageous and strong" and who had "shown great guts" in planning the war on Iraq. How much coordination was there between Downing Street and News International on the media presentation of what was widely regarded as an illegal war?
- You said when interviewed in the run up to the war that Iraq's oil was central to the rationale for overthrowing Saddam Hussein: "The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy...would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country." Tony Blair always insisted in public that Iraq's oil played no part in the decision to attack Iraq. To what extent did he agree with you in private that getting control of the world's second biggest oil reserves was at the heart of the war aims?
- All of your newspapers used Tony Blair's "dodgy dossier" of September 2002 to try and generate a war fever with the bogus claim that -- in the words of The Sun headline -- "BRITS 45 MINUTES FROM DOOM". The hand of Alistair Campbell, Blair's press officer, is widely regarded as having been responsible for the dossier's fabrications. There was no coverage in the Sun or the rest of News International's outlets, when it was revealed that some of this dossier, which was supposed to present a cast iron case for attacking Iraq, was drawn from a 12-year old thesis, published on the internet by a PhD student. Was this because you and Blair made a pact that News International would be relentless in promoting the war, even if this meant using lies and distortion?