Although Rupert Murdoch told British inquirers that, "I've never asked a prime minister for anything," former Prime Minister Tony Blair's media chief disagrees. His newly-published diaries allege that Murdoch joined American Republicans in trying to prod Blair into moving faster toward going to war against Iraq in 2003.
The Guardian, which has serialized the diaries of Blair's former communications director, Alastair Campbell, writes:
In another blow to the media mogul, who told the Leveson inquiry that he had never tried to influence any prime minister, Campbell's diary says Murdoch warned Blair in a phone call of the dangers of a delay in Iraq. The disclosure by Campbell, whose diaries are serialised in the Guardian, will pile the pressure on Murdoch in light of his evidence to the Leveson inquiry.
...Campbell wrote that on 11 March 2003, a week before the Commons vote in which MPs voted to deploy British troops to Iraq, Murdoch intervened to try to persuade Blair to move more quickly towards war. "[Tony Blair] took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc," Campbell wrote. "Both TB and I felt it was prompted by Washington, and another example of their over-crude diplomacy. Murdoch was pushing all the Republican buttons, how the longer we waited the harder it got." The following day, 12 March, he wrote: "TB felt the Murdoch call was odd, not very clever."
...Campbell's disclosure of Murdoch's intervention on the eve of the Iraq war is the second substantive example to raise questions over the News Corp chairman's claim that he never tried to influence any prime minister. John Major told Leveson on Tuesday that Murdoch told him in February 1997, three months before the general election, that he would withdraw support for the Tories unless the then prime minister changed his policies on Europe.
Whether these comments by Murdoch represented improper behavior or a reasonable expression of his views that reflected the well-known views of his papers is still open to debate.