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Protestor interrupts Blair's evidence to Leveson Inquiry

by LLB Editor
28th May 12 3:04 pm

Tony Blair has said he did not believe his government was the first to try to put a “gloss” on policies, as the Leveson Inquiry was disrupted by a protestor.

The former Labour prime minister stressed the importance of a “solid media operation” to political leaders and said his administration was not the first to present policies in a favourable light.

But Blair was interrupted when a protestor, who told reporters his name was David Lawley-Wakelin, burst in and shouted “this man should be arrested for war crimes”.

Lord Justice Leveson immediately ordered an inquiry into how the protestor managed to dodge security and get through security-coded doors to get into courtroom 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Blair, who served as prime minister between 1997 and 2007, said he opted not to confront the issue of media relations while he was in Downing Street.

He told the Inquiry: “My advice to any political leader would be, ‘you have got to have a very, very solid media operation.”

The media issue was “extraordinarily difficult” to be objective about, he said, even though he has been out of office for five years.

Blair said he “cared more about” issues such as education, crime and health than confronting the media, which he worried could “push out” his priorities.

“I decided as a political leader that I was going to manage that and not confront it,” Blair said.

Labour’s election defeat of 1992 was “etched” in his memory and he was “absolutely determined” the party would not face the same “media onslaught” while he was leader.

“I cannot believe we were the first and only government which has wanted to put the best possible gloss on what you were doing,” said Blair.

“That is a completely different thing from saying you should go out and say things that are untrue, or bully and harass journalists. I read a lot of things we are supposed to have done and I dispute them.”

Earlier in the day, Blair was greeted by two dozen or so protesters when he arrived to give evidence at the inquiry into the relationship between the press and politicians.

Protesters waved banners saying “Bliar”, “Troops home” and “Afghanistan out”, but the former prime minister would not have expected to see further demonstrations in the courtroom.

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