OCTOBER 12, 2008
Tony Blair and F1 - the truth
Newly-released documents in Britain have revealed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair did intervene in the British government's tobacco policies, just hours after a meeting with Bernie Ecclestone back in 1997. The Labour government has always argued that the meeting had no influence at all on the policies but Whitehall briefing notes published last night cast doubts on the official story. Blair instructed his chief of staff Jonathan Powell, to signal his support for an exception to be made just hours after meeting with Ecclestone.
The following day, Downing Street wrote to the then public health minister Tessa Jowell stating: "The Prime Minister would like your ministers to look for ways of finding a permanent derogation for sport, in particular F1."
On October 24, Jowell wrote to Blair setting out possible options, which included the idea of an exemption, but also contained alternatives such as a longer phase-in period for the ban. Five days after that she received a letter stating that Blair's view "remains that we should seek to negotiate a permanent exemption for Formula 1."
Jowell then wrote to the EU seeking a total exemption for Formula 1.
After the scandal blew up Blair denied that the policy had been changed.