Former prime minister Tony Blair has defended his relationship with Rupert Murdoch, insisting he had never done a deal with the media mogul and that they only grew close after he left Downing Street.
Mr Blair told the Leveson inquiry that he and Mr Murdoch had a "working relationship" until 2007, but confirmed he is godfather to one of Mr Murdoch's children.
"I would not have been godfather to one of his children on the basis of my relationship in office," he said. "After I left office I got to know him. Now it's different. It's not the same."
Mr Blair admitted he had "flown half way round the world" to Hayman Island, Australia, to meet Mr Murdoch and News Corporation executives when he was Labour leader in 1995, in the hope of persuading the organisation against "tearing us to pieces".
The Leveson inquiry was set up by the government in the aftermath of the phone-hacking scandal to examine the standards and behaviour of the UK media. It is currently hearing evidence from witnesses on the subject of the relationship between the press and politicians.
Tony Blair was asked about his relations with the press, in particular Rupert Murdoch's News International, from when he became Labour leader in 1994, through his time as prime minister from 1997-2007, and in recent years up to the present day.
Here are some of the key points that emerged from his evidence:
- Mr Blair said he did not attempt to confront or reform the press when he was prime minister because he believed it would take up too much time and distract from his domestic policy agenda. He said: "My view, rightly or wrongly, was that if in those circumstances I said I'm going to take on the media... my view is that you would have had to clear the decks. This would have been an absolute major confrontation and you would have virtually every corner of the media against you. The price you would pay for that would push out the things I cared more about."
- With reference to hostile parts of the press, Mr Blair said: "You certainly do feel the power being directed at you. Once they're against you - that's it. Full-on, full frontal, day in day out, a lifetime commitment... You fall out with them - you better watch out."
- Regarding the Daily Mail, Mr Blair conceded he "wouldn't claim to exercise much objectivity" towards the newspaper, going on to describe how the publication "attacked me, my family, my children, the people associated with me, day in, day out. They [did] it very well, and it is very powerful."
- He added, with reference to a Mail article that accused him of being self-deluded: "I'm the one with self-delusion, am I?"
- Describing Rupert Murdoch, Mr Blair said that despite his reputation as being right-wing, "bits of him are very anti-establishment, meritocratic, and partly derived from his own thinking."
- Mr Blair insisted that there was "no great conspiracy" about people using the back door of 10 Downing Street.
- He wrote to Stuart Higgins, the former Sun editor, after the 1997 election saying the paper's support had been appreciated. "Frankly, it did make a difference," Blair said.
- At one stage during the morning's session a protester interrupted proceedings to accuse Mr Blair of being "a war criminal". The intruder was quickly escorted away.
- Mr Blair was asked about the three telephone conversations he had with Mr Murdoch during the nine days before the beginning of the Iraqwar. Mr Blair said he initiated one of those calls, but can only remember two of the three. He said the three calls lasted 45 minutes in total.
- Regarding the Sun newspaper, Mr Blair described the main decision-maker as being Rupert Murdoch. "Bluntly, the decision-maker was not Rebekah Brooks."
- He admitted that he did get "pretty close" to former editor of the News of the World and the Sun Rebekah Brooks, although added that towards the end of his time as prime minister "there wasn't a great deal of support left".
- He acknowledged he sent a consolation message to Rebekah Brooks after her resignation from News International in 2011 following the phone-hacking scandal. "I'm somebody who does not believe in being a fairweather friend... I have seen people go through these situations, and I know what it's like," he explained.
- He defended his government's approach to managing the media. "It's almost impossible now, even now, to dispute this issue to do with so-called 'spin'. I can't believe we are the first and only government that has ever wanted to put the best possible gloss on what we're doing, that is a completely different thing to saying that you go out to say things that are deliberately untrue."
- He described how the Daily Mail carried out a "personal vendetta" against his wife, Cherie. Her solicitors sent at least 30 legal warnings to the Daily Mail from mid-2006 to November 2011 over its coverage of her.