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Leveson Inquiry: Rebekah Brooks Met With Tony Blair '30 Times'

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REBEKAH BROOKS
Brooks appeared before Leveson on Friday | Supply

Rebekah Brooks met Tony Blair 30 times between 1998 and 2007, including three times in June 2008, the Leveson Inquiry heard on Friday.

Giving testimony to the inquiry into press standards and media ethics, the former News International executive disclosed details of her meetings with senior politicians over more than a decade, although she stressed that they were merely from her secretary's diary and "very incomplete".

Brooks told Robert Jay QC, council for the inquiry, that only around three occasions did she and Tony Blair dine alone.

After Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in 2007, they met or dined at least five times including once at the Browns' home.

Brooks recorded one lunch and four dinners with Cameron in 2010, after he had taken power. One was the widely-reported Christmas dinner party at the Brooks' Oxfordshire home on 23 December.

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After she became editor of the Sun, in which she admitted Rupert Murdoch had a hand, she spoke to the mogul "frequently", Brooks said.

She revealed that the tycoon "liked X Factor", despite arguing for coverage of serious issues over celebrity, and also quashed a rumour that the pair used to swim together when he was in London.

Brooks also denied that, after she was arrested in 2005 over an alleged assault on her husband, Murdoch sent a dress to the police station where she was being held. She was later released without charge and the police took no further action.

The inquiry heard that former prime minister Tony Blair attended a surprise party thrown for Brooks by Murdoch, but she said she could not remember whether Cameron was there, though it was possible he was.

She told the inquiry she met Blair in 1995 after he became leader of the Labour Party, and their meetings became more frequent throughout his decade as premier.

They met formally, informally and socially, and often spoke on the telephone, she said, admitting they became "friendly".

But she said there were no emails or texts because "he did not have a mobile phone or in fact I think use a computer when he was prime minister".

In a written statement she said she became close friends with Blair and his wife, Cherie, as well as his spin doctor Alastair Campbell and his partner, Fiona Millar.

Earlier, Brooks said she did receive "texts and indirect messages" from politicians after she resigned as News International chief executive over the phone hacking scandal.

On Thursday, her successor at the now defunct paper, Andy Coulson, appeared before the inquiry. He said that he had told David Cameron and George Osborne that his News International background "could not be seen as a factor" in guaranteeing the support of those newspapers after he joined the Downing Street staff.

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