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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.

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism