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Blair's advice to Rebekah Brooks during the phone-hacking scandal: full details

The former PM allegedly advised Brooks to "publish a Hutton style report" and offered to act as an "unofficial adviser".

The phone-hacking trial has come to life with the revelation that Tony Blair offered extensive advice to Rebekah Brooks at the height of the scandal. According to an email sent by Brooks to James Murdoch (who had earlier replied to another message: "What are you doing on email?") on 11 July, the day after the News of the World was closed, she spent "an hour on the phone" to Blair, who advised her to launch a "Hutton style" inquiry. The former PM also allegedly offered to act as an "unofficial adviser" to her and the Murdochs on a "between us" basis. Here's her five-point summary of the conversation to James Murdoch: 

"1. Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton style report," she said.

"2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over.

"3. Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills. Need to have clear heads and remember no rash short term solutions as they only give you long term headaches.

"4. It will pass. Tough up.

"5. He [Blair] is available for you, KRM [Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us." 

So Blair was telling Brooks "it will pass. Tough up" as Ed Miliband was calling for her to resign and for a public inquiry into phone-hacking. Could there be a greater contrast? 

Update 1: Blair's office has just issued the statement below.

This was Mr Blair simply giving informal advice over the phone. He made it absolutely clear to Ms Brooks that, though he knew nothing personally about the facts of the case, in a situation as serious as this it was essential to have a fully transparent and independent process to get to the bottom of what had happened. That inquiry should be led by credible people, get all the facts out there and that if anything wrong were found there should be immediate action taken and the changes to the organisation made so that they could not happen again.

Mr Blair said that if what he was being told by her was correct, and there had been no wrongdoing, then a finding to that effect by a credible Inquiry would be far better than an internal and therefore less credible investigation.

Update 2: In an earlier email with the subject line "Plan B" to James Murdoch on 8 July, Brooks wrote of her hope that former News International chief executive Les Hinton and News of the World editor Colin Myler could be scapegoated for the scandal as she was vindicated. She wrote: 

A thought...and a Les [Hinton] situation could play well into this even if it was at a later date. Ie result of my report when published would slam Les [Hinton]. Colin [Myler]. Etc and it will vindicate my position (or not).

She added: "I am ring fenced clearly and properly. It will be written as a slippery slope for me but I hardly have a reputation left."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.