David Hencke and Rob Evans
Monday, Nov 3, 2008
A newly disclosed Downing Street memo has revealed how Tony Blair helped Rupert Murdoch overcome an official investigation which was jeopardising one of his big investments. It shows that Blair, while prime minister, immediately ordered his top officials to help the tycoon who was frustrated that a potentially lucrative scheme was being blocked by a long-running European commission investigation.
Blair told the media magnate that “he was instinctively sympathetic to what Murdoch was aiming to achieve”. The tycoon eventually won approval for the plan. BSkyB had teamed up with other big companies to develop an interactive scheme in which people could shop and manage their finances through their televisions.
The memo is the first to be disclosed under freedom of information legislation documenting the contents of meetings between Murdoch and Blair. Blair has been accused of granting political favours to Murdoch in return for support from his newspapers; Lance Price, a former Downing Street spin doctor, said Murdoch seemed to be one of the four most influential people in the administration.
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The memo reveals an episode in 1998 – a year after the Sun’s conversion to Labour – in which Murdoch appears to call in one of those favours. Murdoch had privately approached Blair when he feared that the European commission investigation was hindering his business opportunities.
Blair gathered members of his inner circle to see the tycoon – his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell; James Purnell, then a Downing Street special adviser on the media and now a cabinet minister; and his press secretary, Alastair Campbell.
This article was posted: Monday, November 3, 2008 at 12:01 pm