Tony Blair advised Rebekah Brooks to launch a “Hutton style” inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World at the height of the scandal over the issue, according to an email that has emerged at the Old Bailey trial. The revelation emerged in an email that was read to the jury in the hacking trial on Wednesday, and followed what Brooks said was an hour-long phone call.
According to the email, sent the day after the News of the World’s final issue and six days before Brooks was arrested, Blair also told her he was “available” to her and Rupert and James Murdoch as an “unofficial adviser” on a “between us” basis. The advice was said to have been given on 11 July 2011 and contained in an email she sent at 4.20pm to James Murdoch, the then executive chairman of News International.
According to Brooks’s note, Blair advised her to set up an “independent” inquiry, suggesting it could have “outside counsel, Ken Macdonald [the former director of public prosecutions], a great and good type”. He said the inquiry would be “Hutton style” – a reference to Lord Hutton’s inquiry into the death of David Kelly – and would “clear” her, but warned that “shortcomings” would have to be accepted as a result of the report.
Tony Blair could face legal action amid claims he “connived” with Colonel Gaddafi to block a multi-million pound compensation claim by IRA victims. An email is said to show the former prime minister intervened in a long-running legal action from victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism.
The email suggests Mr Blair helped to broker an agreement between Gaddafi and US President George W Bush, which saw Libya pay a one-off £1bn in compensation to US victims of terrorism to settle all actions. A spokesman for Mr Blair branded the claims “malicious”.
The Libyan regime supplied Semtex for IRA attacks, said to include the 1987 Enniskillen bomb which killed 11 people. Lawyers said the disclosure of the email, reported in the Sunday Telegraph, could form the basis for legal action in the UK.
Tony Blair has reignited debate about the west’s response to terrorism with a call on governments to recognise that religious extremism has become the biggest source of conflict around the world.
Referring to wars and violent confrontations from Syria to Nigeria and the Philippines, Blair, writing in the Observer, argues that “there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith.”
Identifying religious extremism as an ever more dangerous phenomenon, the spread of which is easier in an online age, he says: “The battles of this century are less likely to be the product of extreme political ideology, like those of the 20th century – but they could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference.”
The former prime minister, who led the country into the Iraq conflict in 2003, appears to acknowledge that previous aspirations to export liberal democracy focused too much on political objectives.
A barman tried to put Tony Blair under a citizen’s arrest while the former Prime Minister was out having dinner.
Blair was eating at Tramshed in east London when Twiggy Garcia approached him.
The part-time producer said he put his hand on his shoulder and said ‘Mr Blair, this is a citizen’s arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq.’
Mr Garcia told Vice magazine how Blair then attempted to engage in a debate before one of his son’s went to get security. The worker then left the restaurant to avoid any trouble.
Mr Blair’s office said today there ‘was nothing to report’ about the incident.
Mr Garcia was inspired to approach the former Prime Minister after reading website arrestblair.org.
This site encourages people to try and arrest Blair for ‘crimes against peace.’
Two businesses owned by Tony Blair have amassed a cash pile of more than £13m after a key part of his empire enjoyed a jump in profits.
New accounts filed with Companies House reveal that one venture in the former prime minister’s complex network of financial legal entities saw profits jump almost 50% to just below £2m.
Since stepping down from politics in 2007, Blair has received millions of pounds from a mix of business interests that include advising governments, consultancy work for US investment bank JP Morgan and the lucrative international speaking circuit.
He has insisted he does not want to be “super-rich”, and has said his income pays for philanthropic projects, including development work in Africa and an inter-faith charity. But after rapidly becoming one of the highest paid public speakers in the world and flying around by private jet he has faced some criticism for his lifestyle.
He rarely misses a chance to make new friends or to nurture his already extensive network of contacts.
So it should come as no surprise that even at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair introduced a prospective client to President Barack Obama.
Mr Blair facilitated a three-way conversation between himself, Mr Obama and Victor Ponta, Romania’s prime minister, in the stands of Soweto’s FNB stadium.
The discussion lasted 15 minutes, according to a post on Mr Ponta’s Facebook page, although he said nothing official was discussed.
Mr Blair, who runs the Government Advisory Practice which works with several regimes, has travelled at least twice to Bucharest this year to meet Mr Ponta.
Mbeki alleged that the former British prime minister pressured him to join a “regime change scheme” as Zimbabwe plunged into a political and economic crisis in the early 2000s. But the claim was strongly denied by Blair’s office.
Both the UK as its former colonial power, and South Africa, its most powerful neighbour, have long played an intimate role in Zimbabwean affairs. But their leaders were divided on how to act when it descended into chaos following the violent seizures of white-owned farms. Blair, who had made a triumphant military intervention in Sierra Leone, was determined that Mugabe should step down whereas Mbeki was ready to accommodate him.
Tony Blair took his earning power to astonishing new heights yesterday when he pocketed £150,000 for just an hour’s work.
The former Prime Minister, who is said to have amassed a £50 million fortune since leaving office, was paid the staggering sum for conducting two 30-minute events in Dubai.
His fee for talking about global affairs in the fabulously wealthy Gulf state worked out at £2,602 per minute.
His work as a Middle East ‘peace envoy’ is unpaid but his latest trip to the region was as guest of honour of Arabian Business magazine, which is presided over by its chairman, journalist and BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil.
Tony Blair’s multi-million-pound deal to boost ‘good governance’ in Kazakhstan has resulted in civil rights and freedom of the Press getting worse, it was claimed yesterday.
The former prime minister was accused of helping to preside over heavy reversals in human rights as he advised the Kazakh regime led by dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev. The two-year contract has come to an end but could still be renewed.
Hugh Williamson, of Human Rights Watch, said Mr Blair’s main achievement had been ‘positive spin’ for the oil-rich regime.
He added: ‘Blair says human rights issues are critical to his work but he has downplayed new limits on basic freedoms and widespread concerns on the rule of law and torture, in favour of focusing on economic and geopolitical achievements.
‘From what we know, he has been indifferent to those suffering abuses and has given a veneer of respectability to the authorities during a severe crackdown on human rights. Rights campaigners take issue with this positive spin.’ There had been curbs on peaceful public assembly and religious freedoms, the human rights group warned.
There had also been the prosecution of journalists who dared to ‘insult’ officials, and torture in detention was common.
Contents of key conversations between Tony Blair and a bellicose George W Bush, who declares he is ready to “kick ass”, are thought to be among documents relating to the Iraq war that the government is withholding from publication.
It emerged this week that the Cabinet Office is resisting requests from the Iraq inquiry, the body set up to draw lessons from the conflict, for “more than 130 records of conversations” between Blair, his successor, Gordon Brown, and Bush to be made public. In a letter to David Cameron, published on the inquiry’s website, the committee’s chairman, Sir John Chilcot, disclosed that “25 notes from Mr Blair to President Bush” and “some 200 cabinet-level discussions” were also being withheld.
The standoff between the inquiry and Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, has been going on for five months and has meant that the “Maxwellisation process”, in which politicians and officials are warned that they will be criticised in the report, is on hold.
As a result, a date for the final publication of the report has yet to be agreed, more than four years after the inquiry started.
Two artists who created a montage of Tony Blair apparently taking his own photo in front of a burning oilfield in Iraq have accused advertising firms of banning the artwork from billboards.
Peter Kennard and Cat Phillips created the image, titled Photo Op, in 2005.
It was chosen by the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester as the image for a poster campaign to promote a new exhibition about modern art and war.
But two of the UK’s biggest advertising companies refused to carry the image.
Kevin Shields has raised the notion that Britpop was part of a government conspiracy. Speaking to the Guardian in an exclusive interview, to be published online later today and in the G2 Film&Music section tomorrow, the My Bloody Valentine leader reacted angrily to a mention of the Cool Britannia phenomenon.
“Britpop was massively pushed by the government,” he said. “Someday it would be interesting to read all the MI5 files on Britpop. The wool was pulled right over everyone’s eyes there.”
In the early years of Tony Blair’s premiership, Britpop luminaries such as Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn were vocal supporters of the Labour government, and visited 10 Downing Street. Shields said he would only have attended “on condition we could play a song”.
Hundreds of emails from the two rivals’ staff shed light on the power struggle that took place in Downing Street between the two architects of New Labour. One email suggests that Mr Brown told Mr Blair that he should resign because the public “hate him”. Another suggests that Mr Blair allowed members of his staff to describe the attempt to oust him as “blackmail”.
The emails were released by Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, a former director of the strategic communications unit in No 10 under Mr Blair.
Their publication appeared designed to pre-empt a memoir by Damian McBride, one of Mr Brown’s key aides, that will disclose how Mr McBride smeared ministers and destroyed political careers to burnish Mr Brown’s position.
The Middle East peace envoy will receive the Dan David Prize for “his exceptional leadership and steadfast determination in helping to engineer agreements and forge lasting solutions to areas in conflict”.
The award is presented by the Dan David Foundation, which is based at Tel Aviv University. Previous recipients include former US presidential candidate and environmental campaigner Al Gore and playwright Tom Stoppard.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said the money will be donated to the former Labour leader’s charity for religious understanding.
Mr Blair is an envoy of the international Quartet on the Middle East peace process, which comprises the US, European Union, United Nations and Russia.
His entry as a Dan David laureate on the prize’s website hails him as “one of the most outstanding statesmen of our era”.
It praises his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and his “steadfast determination and morally courageous leadership” over Kosovo, but there is no mention of the controversial decision to support the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The citation states: “Early in his prime ministership, he came to two beliefs that guide him to today: first, that it is a mistake for the world to wait for America to solve all of the tough questions, and second, that there are some things a state may do within its borders that justify intervention even if the actions do not directly threaten another nation’s interests.”
The award will be presented in a ceremony on May 17 at Tel Aviv University.
In his first intervention since the chemical weapons attack last week, the former prime minister said the west should not be neutral in protecting Syrians from the Assad regime and “affiliates of al-Qaida” seeking to exploit the instability.
He wrote: “Western policy is at a crossroads: commentary or action; shaping events or reacting to them. After the long and painful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil, to watch but not to intervene, to ratchet up language but not to engage in the hard, even harsh business of changing reality on the ground. But we have collectively to understand the consequences of wringing our hands instead of putting them to work.”
Blair, who was humiliated by Assad during a trip to Damascus after the 9/11 attacks, when the Syrian president likened Palestinian suicide bombers to the Free French, said it was time to intervene against the regime.
“I hear people talking as if there was nothing we could do: the Syrian defence systems are too powerful, the issues too complex and, in any event, why take sides since they’re all as bad as each other?” he wrote. “It is time we took a side: the side of the people who want what we want; who see our societies for all their faults as something to admire; who know that they should not be faced with a choice between tyranny and theocracy.”
The Lockerbie bomber’s release was linked to a £400million arms deal with Libya, secret documents reveal.
They show ‘reprehensible’ connections between the Labour government boosting business and freeing the man convicted of Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity.
An email sent by the then UK ambassador in Tripoli to former premier Tony Blair explained how a prisoner transfer agreement will be signed once Libya ‘fulfils its promise’ to buy an air defence system.
The disclosure, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, reignites a row which is hugely embarrassing for Labour.
Britain’s Former Top Spy Threatens To Expose The ‘Dodgy Dossier’ Used To Push Iraq War ~ Business Insider
A former head of MI6 has threatened to expose the secrets of the ‘dodgy dossier’ if he disagrees with the long-awaited findings of the Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s role in the Iraq War.
Sir Richard Dearlove, 68, has spent the last year writing a detailed account of events leading up to the war, and had intended to only make his work available to historians after his death.
But now Sir Richard, who provided intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) that was apparently ‘sexed up’ by Tony Blair’s government, has revealed that he could go public after the Chilcot Inquiry publishes its findings.
Foul play vs suicide: Ten years on, the row still rages over the death of Dr David Kelly ~ Independent
We have never met, but I know that articles I have written in the past about the death of Dr David Kelly have prompted you to inform your Twitter followers that I am a “Daily Mail conspiracy theorist”.
That’s a lazy cliché if ever there was one.
I simply believe it is necessary to have a full coroner’s inquest into Dr Kelly’s death. The law decrees that any sudden or violent death should be examined by a coroner … it has been this way for hundreds of years.
A coroner must satisfy themself “beyond reasonable doubt” that the suicide was the result of an intended act. The standard of proof required is deliberately high.
In the case of Dr Kelly, the then Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner opened an inquest on 21 July 2003, but on 13 August 2003 the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer ordered it to be adjourned indefinitely.
Falconer used an obscure law to suspend proceedings, and in a very unusual – perhaps unique – move he replaced the inquest with a non-statutory public inquiry. Lord Hutton, a 72-year-old Law Lord with no coronial experience, was asked to chair the inquiry… within two hours and 40 minutes of Dr Kelly’s body being found on Harrowdown Hill on 18 July, long before it had even been established officially whose body it was.
The inquest into his death was replaced by a politically appointed examination of the “circumstances surrounding” his death.
This was improper.
Experienced doctors and senior legal figures – including Appeal Court judges – remain uneasy about the lack of an inquest.
Questions have also been raised about the safety of the police investigation.
by Edward Malnick, and Robert Mendick
Lianne Pollak, who has led intelligence teams in the Israel Defence Forces, was recruited as a private consultant between October 2012 and April this year.
The 30-year-old was previously a policy adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, working with security agencies and senior officials.
Mr Blair has been involved in sensitive negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority. The former prime minister is the unpaid envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet – the group that represents the US, Russia, the United Nations and Europe.
His role includes encouraging development in Gaza and the West Bank and helping to forge a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, having been appointed when he left Downing Street in June 2007.
The disclosure of Miss Pollak’s appointment follows calls for the former prime minister to be more transparent about his complex business network.
Mr Blair, the former Prime Minister, said that the civil war in Syria has caused more deaths that the conflict in Iraq since 2003.
“Personally I think we should at least consider and consider actively a no-fly zone in Syria,” Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Blair said: “A refusal to engage, as you see from what’s happening in Syria at the moment, where, after all, as a proportion of the population there’s now been more people that have died in Syria in a civil war that shows absolutely no sign of ending than in the entirety of Iraq since 2003. So, you know, inaction is also a policy and a decision with consequence.”
Tony Blair says the Egyptian army had no alternative but to oust President Morsi from power, given the strength of opposition on the streets. The military were confronted, writes Blair in the Observer, with the simple choice of intervening or allowing chaos.
The former prime minister’s comments come as Egypt faces prolonged civil conflict after the removal from power of Morsi, who came to office with 51% of the popular vote at the country’s first democratic presidential election, held last year.
As the Middle East envoy representing the US, Russia, the EU and UN, Blair’s intervention will be seen as provocative among the region’s Muslim population, which views last week’s dramatic events as an indefensible coup organised by the Egyptian military establishment.
by Max Blumenthal
Beneath the radar of the US media, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded in blocking a statement by European Union member states that would have included sharp criticism of illegal Israeli settlement activity and of the general direction of the peace process. Kerry and Netanyahu depended on Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of Foreign Affairs for the EU and a proxy of Quartet Special Representative Tony Blair, to prevent EU member states from delivering the statement at a June 24 Council gathering in Brussels.
by PETER GEOGHEGAN
Albania’s new government is set to hire Tony Blair as a consultant, after the opposition Socialist party won a landslide victory in elections on Sunday.
Socialist leader Edi Rama’s left-wing coalition recorded a resounding victory in the parliamentary polls, securing 84 of 140 seats in the Albanian parliament and a return to power for the Socialists for the first time since 2005.
Mr Rama, who won international plaudits as mayor of Tirana, met Mr Blair at the former prime minister’s office in London last month. A formal contract has not been drawn up, but it is expected that Mr Blair will advise on attracting investment, promoting tourism and boosting the European Union integration process.
A video broadcast on Albanian TV in the wake of last month’s meeting showed a smiling Mr Blair telling Mr Rama: “I will be very happy to help you, I am very interested in your country.”
by ANDY MCSMITH
George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein’s regime by flying a United States spyplane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memo of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.
The two leaders were worried by the lack of hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions, though privately they were convinced that he had. According to the memorandum, Mr Bush said: “The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.”
He added: “It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam’s WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated.” The memo damningly suggests the decision to invade Iraq had already been made when Mr Blair and the US President met in Washington on 31 January 2003 when the British Government was still working on obtaining a second UN resolution to legitimise the conflict.
The leaders discussed the prospects for a second resolution, but Mr Bush said: “The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would ‘twist arms’ and ‘even threaten’. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.” He added that he had a date, 10 March, pencilled in for the start of military action. The war actually began on 20 March.
by Dipesh Gadher
The Sunday Times
TONY BLAIR’S government considered asking the Queen to bestow an honorary knighthood on President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, official papers reveal.
The decision to court Assad came despite the Syrian leader attacking Israel and comparing pro-Palestinian terrorists to the French resistance at an event attended by Blair.
Discussions about the honour took place ahead of Assad’s visit to Britain in 2002 during which he sought “as much pomp and ceremony as possible”. The Arab leader was granted audiences with the Queen and the Prince of Wales, lunch with Blair at Downing Street, a platform in parliament and many other privileges.
Documents obtained by The Sunday Times under freedom of information laws show for the first time the lengths to which the government went to accommodate Assad.
Tony Blair Urges Syria Intervention: ‘The Cost Of Staying Out May Be Paid At Higher Price Later’ ~ HuffPost
The Huffington Post
The former prime minister said the “predominant emotion” in the West was to stay out of Syria, where rebels are battling to oust Bashar Assad and his regime, and avoid becoming embroiled in the politics of the region.
But in a speech on political leadership he warned that the cost of staying out “may be paid in a higher price later”.
The Mail on Sunday
Tony Blair has warned Ed Miliband not to resort to the ‘politics of anger’ by seeking to inflict ever-increasing taxes on the wealthy.
The former prime minister told the Labour leader that taxing the rich more ‘won’t necessarily change the nature of your society’.
And he failed to apologise for the rise of the super-rich during his time in Downing Street, saying it was ‘the way the world goes’ for some people to do better than others.
Mr Miliband, the son of a Marxist academic, has sought to draw a line under the New Labour era, with warnings about the danger of ‘predator’ capitalism and against ‘tolerating the wealthiest taking what they can’.
However, in an interview with The Times yesterday, Mr Blair – who is worth an estimated £80 million – also appeared keen to distance himself from his successor.
by PAUL SCOTT
The Daily Mail
With every passing month, Tony Blair looks more and more like a deposed emperor who has systematically set up his own government in exile.
How else should we view the inexorable rise of his shadowy and quasi-political network of businesses, whose tentacles stretch from his smart offices next to the American Embassy in London into every corner of the globe?
SEE ALSO: Blair’s dirty money (Daily Mail)
by Conal Urquhart
The former prime minister said the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government and the involvement of Iran in the civil war meant intervention was necessary.
“You’ve got the intervention of Hezbollah, at the instigation of Iran. The other big change is the use of chemical weapons. Once you allow that to happen – and this will be the first time since Saddam used them in the 1980s – you run the risk of it then becoming an acceptable form of warfare, for both sides,” he told the Times.
by GLEN OWEN
The Daily Mail
Tony Blair today makes his most powerful political intervention since leaving Downing Street by launching an outspoken attack on ‘the problem within Islam’.
The former Prime Minister addresses the shocking killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich by going further than he – or any front-rank British politician – has gone before over the issue of Muslim radicalism.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, he departs from the usual argument that Islam is a peaceful religion that should not be tainted by the actions of a few extremists.
Instead, Mr Blair urges governments to ‘be honest’ and admit that the problem is more widespread.
‘There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam,’ he writes.
‘We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.’