Tony Blair secretly offered to act as an unofficial adviser to Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch as the phone hacking scandal engulfed News International, it emerged yesterday.
The day after the final edition of the 'News of the World' rolled off the presses in July 2011, the former British prime minister held an hour-long conversation with Ms Brooks in which he told her to "tough up" and said the crisis would pass, the Old Bailey heard.
He allegedly suggested that the company should deal with the scandal by setting up an "independent unit" to investigate and publish a "Hutton-style report" to coincide with the closure of the police investigation. Lord Hutton's 2003 judicial inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the weapons inspector, was largely uncritical of the British government.
Mr Blair was also said to have advised Ms Brooks to take sleeping tablets to "keep a clear head". The disclosures were made during evidence given at the end of the prosecution case in the phone-hacking trial.
Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, took the jury through an email exchange Ms Brooks had with her then boss, James Murdoch, Rupert's son. It took place on the afternoon of July 11, 2011, a few days before Ms Brooks resigned as chief executive of News International,
In the first email, she wrote: "The NOTW sale is looking close to 4m. So much for a sales boycott."
Seven minutes later, James Murdoch replied: "What are you doing on email?"
Almost half an hour later, Ms Brooks sent another email, reading: "Only got 10 minutes before I see Charlie for confiscation. But I had an hour on the phone to Tony Blair. He said.
"1. Form an independent unit that has 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.
"2. Publish part one of the report at the same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process 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.
"He is available for you, KRM [Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us."
She closed the email by adding: "He is sending notes later."
Commenting publicly on the phone-hacking revelations at the time, Mr Blair described the scandal as "beyond disgusting". In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Blair's office said: "This was Mr Blair simply giving informal advice over the phone. The trial continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)