Blair leads tributes at star studded Daily Mirror bash

Morgan makes a point to Blair and his press chief, Dave Hill; Cilla Black and Morgan; Morgan shows Blair around the Daily Mirror exhibition

 

Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to patch up his relationship with the Daily Mirror when he led the tributes at a party to celebrate the newspaper’s 100th anniversary.

The star guest joked that his heart scare two weeks ago nearly stole the thunder of the Mirror’s exclusive revealing that the Princess of Wales had written a letter predicting she would die in a car crash.

Referring to the newspaper’s recent anti-war stance, he said: “I thought it was only justifiable to pay back for what I’d been reading about myself in the previous year, although I think David Blaine’s publicist had the most to complain about.”

He added: “The 100 years of campaigning that the Daily Mirror has engaged in is a wonderful feat. It’s been a pretty remarkable achievement to keep a newspaper at the top of the industry.”

The Mirror’s close links with Labour were signified by the fact that much of the Cabinet were on the guest list for the party at the Science Museum – including Gordon Brown and David Blunkett.

Rumours of a continuing rift between Brown and Blair will have been fuelled by the fact that the Chancellor arrived 10 minutes after the Prime Minister had left the building.

Among the Old Labour contingent was MP turned live performer Tony Benn. He said: “The Mirror used to have ‘forward with the people’ on the masthead and I was sorry that came off. It was absolutely right about the war and it’s certainly the serious tabloid.

“Over the years I’ve been much struck by what it said and what it did – though it didn’t always agree with me.”

Publicist Max Clifford described the Mirror as part of the family saying: “It was the newspaper my family read every day when I was a boy and I still enjoy it. I just wish it had some of the millions that News International and Associated Newspapers have because then I could make even more money.”

As well as the likes of Simon Cowell, Cilla Black and Andrew Lloyd Webber, less glamorous partygoers included former Mirror telenews operator Bob Avery, 79.

His fondest memory of the paper was helping to secure the first pictures of Robin Knox-Johnson as he returned from a solo circumnavigation of the world in 1969. He recalled hiring a boat and using then state of the art technology to radio pictures of the triumphant yachtsman back to dryland.

He said: “All the time I was at the Mirror I remember it as a very caring company to work for.”

Newsreader Peter Sissons described the paper as “the tabloid with the most heart” and said: “You just back it against the others when it comes to having a bit of human feeling.”

Perhaps bearing in mind recent Mirror exclusives like the interviews with Tony Martin and former royal butler Paul Burrell, editor Piers Morgan summed up the ethos of the paper with a quote from 19th century Chicago Times editor William Storey: “It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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