When I interviewed lobby journo-turned PR man Jonathan Oliver recently, I pressed the former political hack on his controversial question to Tony Blair following the suicide of David Kelly.
In 2003, working for the Mail on Sunday, Oliver abandoned protocol by sticking his hand up at the end of a Tokyo press conference and asking. ‘Have you got blood on your hands, Prime Minister? Are you going to resign over this?’
The clip of a shocked and speechless Blair was picked up by grateful TV news bulletins. Oliver instantly became a hate figure for Alastair Campbell and legions of uber-loyal Blairites.
Oliver, who hasn’t spoken publicly about the incident before, told me: ‘The Mail on Sunday was very keen that Tony Blair, who was then travelling, was put on the spot. I was told by the editor that the normal ethics or rules of engagement of the parliamentary lobby no longer applied and I had to do whatever it took.’
That much is reported here. What I didn’t manage to squeeze in to the profile was the source of the ‘blood on your hands’ phrase.
So here goes.
Oliver also told me: ‘The actual form of words I ended up using actually came out of a conversation with Nick Robinson…
‘I said to him look something like, “Nick I’ve got to say something that really puts Tony on the spot, what do you think I should ask?”
‘He said, half in jest, “Why don’t you ask him if he’s got blood on his hands?” I said: “Ok that’s pithy.”
‘I then used those words and there was this extraordinary moment where Tony Blair stared at me while I stood up at this press conference for what felt like an age.’
You read it here first. Another person for Alastair Campbell to call a w****r…