Byline: PAUL EASTHAM
TORY MPs demanded yesterday that Tony Blair explain his apparent involvement in Rupert Murdoch's negotiations over the purchase of an Italian TV company.
They spoke out after the Mur-doch-owned Times newspaper said the media tycoon 'used information obtained directly' from the Premier to 'inform his business decisions' during the negotiations.
The paper said Mr Murdoch telephoned Mr Blair last week. He wanted to find out what the political reaction in Italy might be to him buying a controlling interest in former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset group.
Within two days, Mr Blair rang back to say Italy's Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, had made it clear he would prefer an Italian buyer. Mr Murdoch then decided to pull out.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed Mr Prodi and Mr Blair had spoken on the telephone, but it was the Italian premier who had rung and their discussions were private.
The spokesman insisted there was 'no impropriety' about Mr Blair's contacts with Mr Murdoch, adding: 'The Prime Minister would want to help British business when he can, across the spectrum of business.
'Of course he can have phone conversations with businessmen. Why on Earth not?' Tories replied that Mr Murdoch's newspapers swung behind Labour at the General Election and claimed any suspicion that Mr Blair was intervening on behalf of the tycoon's business interests would smack of impropriety. …