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Thursday, February 20, 2014 

Blair today, gone tomorrow.

When it comes to getting advice on how to deal with a crisis, not many people would think a certain ex-PM would be the best option. Hardly anyone would be able to afford him in the first place, before you start to factor in how Mr Tony handled the loans for peerages so effectively he became the first party leader to be questioned by Inspector Knacker since Jeremy Thorpe. Not many people though are Rebekah Brooks, who sought out the wisdom of the great man the day after the News of the World published its final edition, as the phone hacking trial heard yesterday.

Not for Blair any qualms about continuing to advise the people the new Labour leader was calling to be investigated, with many thinking the Screws had been sacrificed both to save Brooks and also the News Corporation takeover of Sky. Indeed, he was more than happy to be an "unofficial adviser" to James, Keith and Brooks, so long as the arrangement remained just between them.

More interesting though is precisely what Blair recommended. He suggested an independent inquiry, although whether he specifically mentioned the Hutton report as a model or that was more a flourish on Brooks's part we don't know. Also unknown is whether, as Brooks put in her email, he suggested this independent inquiry would clear them, but he apparently did say they should release the first part of the report just as the police finished their inquiries. For those who remember the curious way a whole range of government reports and interventions took place on the same day as the Old Bill came to visit Downing Street, this might sound more than a little familiar.

While it isn't the most startling revelation that internal corporate reviews are often a complete and utter stitch-up designed to save the bosses while deputy heads roll, it's more that this email marks the last knockings of the nexus between not just Labour and the Murdochs, but "Yes he Cam!" Dave as well. Even more tragic is that the relationship between Tone and Rupe has since broke down completely, in the main due to Wend's apparent crush on the globetrotting behemoth. Whether it was just a spell of unrequited lust on the part of Murdoch's third, much younger wife or something more serious no one seems willing to tell, although naturally there is much speculation.  As those good people over at B&T also note, this break down of connivance between the Murdoch press and the establishment was in the main thanks to a certain Ed Miliband, who also, intentionally or not, had a major hand in stopping our involvement in another wretched Middle East adventure.  Not bad for someone still often mocked rather than respected.

Nor did Blair's advice do much for Keith, Jim and Becca.  While the latter is still putting on a stiff upper lip, continuing to deny today in her first day in the witness box that she had ever heard of Glenn Mulcaire, News International (as was) did through solicitors Hickman and Rose ask the "great and good" Ken Macdonald to review the previous investigation by Harbottle and Lewis into Clive Goodman's accusation that the News of World had "full knowledge" of his actions and also supported them.  Macdonald promptly informed the board of News Corp that while Harbottle and Lewis's review seemed fair, the emails they trawled through contained clear evidence of the paying of police officers, something that had to be reported to the Met at once.  Brooks, lest we forget, continues to face a charge of making unlawful payments to public officials.

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