UK Government Reveals Blair's Calls to Murdoch on Eve of Iraq War

20 July 2007

LONDON: Rupert Murdoch, it seems, carries more weight with the UK government than its electorate or the UN - a revelation that may not be lost on Dow Jones' controlling Bancroft family when they meet Monday to discuss the mogul's bid to take over Dow and The Wall Street Journal.

And in particular, perhaps they will ponder the extent to which Murdoch will honor his undertakings with regard to the Journal's editorial integrity.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the British Cabinet Office admitted Thursday that ex-prime minister Tony Blair called Murdoch on no fewer than three occasions in the days immediately preceding the US-Anglo aggression against Iraq in 2003.

The calls were made on March 11, 13 and 19. The hostilities commenced March 20.

In the light of these revelations, the Bancrofts might speculate on the chances of WSJ editors, journalists and executives in standing up to the News Corporation chairman given that he is able to wield such influence over the British prime minister?

Although the nature of the Blair-Murdoch conversations is unknown, their existence was finally revealed this week under the Freedom of Information Act after four years of government ducking and diving.

There were other, later, conversations between the prime minister and the kingmaker, whose dates coincided with matters such as a blazing row between the BBC and NewsCorp's UK satellite monopoly BSkyB.

Other calls were made immediately prior to publication of a major report [Hutton] on the Blair administration's alleged "sexing-up" of an Iraq intelligence dossier.

Few were suprised that the report's findings had appeared exclusively in NewsCorp's best-selling UK tabloid The Sun on the previous day.

The revelations were obtained by Liberal Democrat parliamentarian Eric Lubbock (aka Lord Avebury) who first requested details of contacts between Blair and Murdoch in October 2003.

Four years on, he commented: "Rupert Murdoch has exerted his influence behind the scenes on a range of policies on which he is known to have strong views including the regulation of broadcasting and the Iraq war."

Commented a spokesman for Tony Blair: "No comment."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff