By Raphael SatterLONDON -- Former Prime Minister Tony Blair testified Monday that he never challenged the influential British press because doing so would have plunged his administration into a drawn-out and politically damaging fight. Blair led Britain from 1997 to 2007, and his Labour Party government has been criticized by many -- including some of Blair's former colleagues -- as having an unhealthy relationship with the country's press. Blair, speaking under oath at an inquiry into media ethics, said the issue wasn't that he and Britain's journalistic elite were too cozy, but that he had to tread carefully where press barons were concerned. "I took a strategic decision to manage these people, not confront them," he told Lord Justice Brian Leveson, who is leading the inquiry. "I didn't say that I feared them ... (but) had you decided to confront them, everything would have been pushed to the side. It would have been a huge battle with no guarantee of winning." > > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll Leveson's inquiry was set up following revelations of phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, a scandal which has rocked the British establishment and raised questions about whether top politicians helped shield Murdoch -- and the media in general -- from official scrutiny. Blair's time in office was marked by unusually strong ties between Blair's left-wing Labour Party and Murdoch's News Corp. ( NWS - Get Report) -- a company whose holdings include the populist The Sun newspaper and the right-wing Fox News network. Blair became a godfather to one of Murdoch's children and his government has since been described by several colleagues as having been too close to the media mogul. The former prime minister made no apologies for courting Murdoch, saying he was just one of several media tycoons who could make life difficult if they weren't happy with a position he was taking. But he denied doing any kind of deal with Murdoch, "either express or implied."
|In this image from video, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is grilled on his relationship with the press and Rupert Murdoch at an inquiry into media ethics in central London on Monday May 28, 2012.|