Tony Blair’s tanned and confident appearance before the UK government’s media ethics probe today was briefly interrupted when a heckler entered the proceedings and accused the former prime minister of profiting off the Iraq war through a contract with JP Morgan.
“This man should be arrested for war crimes,” the man said, moments before he was tackled and removed.
Lord Justice Leveson apologized to Mr. Blair, wondering aloud how a protester had gotten into the meeting through a “secure corridor.” He raised his eyebrows and promised to have the incident investigated immediately.
Mr. Blair said that, for the record, the JP Morgan-Iraq story was untrue.
Mr. Leveson assured him that he didn’t need to respond to the heckler’s accusations, but Mr. Blair said that, in his experience of how such events were covered by the press, even a brief protest ends up stealing the show.
“Someone gets up and shouts something, that’s the news,” Mr. Blair said. “The other 999 people might as well have not showed up.”
Indeed, protester Johnnie Marbles made headlines at the first round of the Leveson Inquiry last summer by throwing a pie in Rupert Murdoch’s face.
Mr. Blair told members of parliament that his close relationship with Mr. Murdoch and other newspaper executives represented a decades-long strategy to “manage” press rather than “confront” it. Explaining that his relationship with Mr. Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks had become more relaxed since he left office, Mr. Blair told MPs that he would never have become a godfather to Mr. Murdoch’s daughter Grace while he was still prime minister.
Watch the rest of Mr. Blair’s testimony live here: http://bcove.me/g445vx7i