Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not Such A Pretty Straight Sort Of Guy

Blair was telling porkies about the notorious Ecclestone Affair when he offered himself up on TV as a "pretty straight sort of guy". The truth about Teflon Tony during New Labour's first big sleaze scandal has been revealed in secret government documents. What next, the dirty secrets behind the Iraq "sexed-up" dodgy dossier?

The Sunday Telegraph, in a long Freedom of Information battle, has disclosed that Blair personally intervened to secure Formula One's exemption from a tobacco advertising ban. That came just hours after meeting the motorsport's boss, Bernie Ecclestone.

The government has always maintained that the Tony and Bernie meeting did not influence the final decision to offer exemption.

But previously secret papers show that Blair did order ministers to find ways to implement the "derogation" for Formula One.

Parliament and journalists were told a very different story when the sleaze scandal first broke in 1997.

There were calls for Blair to go when it became clear Ecclestone had donated £1m to the New Labour Party coffers, just months before the tobacco advertising climbdown. 

But the prime minister popped up on the BBC's 'On The Record' programme to defend the exemption and to insist he was "a pretty straight sort of guy." He got away with it. Teflon Tony had arrived. 

At the time the government insisted the decision to exempt Formula One was not decided by Blair following his meeting with Ecclestone. They insisted it was a joint decision made with the Department of Health at a later date.

But the Telegraph maintains, "the newly released documents prove conclusively that Mr Blair ordered his Government to prepare for the policy change immediately following his meeting with Mr Ecclestone - a fact which was not revealed at the time of the scandal."

So now we know what we suspected all along. Blair was lying through his polished political teeth. And if he could get away with one porky, then Saddam's elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction would be a piece of cake. 

The Cabinet Office has yet to lift the lid on the Iraq "sexed-up" dodgy dossier, after the information commissioner's request to release documents on that shameful episode.

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