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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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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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