According to various media reports Gordon Brown called Rupert Murdoch earlier this week to complain about bullying in The Sun’s campaign against the government’s handling of the Afghanistan war. Whilst some may see the irony, the prime minister’s phone call to
his old boss the NewsCorp chairman underlines the rapid deterioration in relations between the government and the Murdoch media group.
Murdoch clearly saw the writing on the wall for the Labour Party and jumped ship. Meanwhile over at the Guardian they have announced 10% job cuts as they try to reduce the £61m loss that they accumulated last year. Unless they were paying each of those staff £400k they are unlikely to wipe out their losses with that level of cuts and matters are only going to get worse if the Conservatives win power and cut the Guardian's primary source of advertising revenue by scaling back on public sector recruitment advertising. Clearly times are not good for the wood pulp based commentariat and Labour risks losing its loudest mouthpiece.
Of course it would have helped the Guardian's readership numbers if they avoided such pisspoor opinionated articles such as last Saturday's telling the world how unattractive the Lloyds rights issue was. Clearly the world does not read the Guardian for its financial insights because today we hear that the Lloyds rights issue has been increased to satisfy demand.
But enough of the Guardian's problems. Unlike Murdoch they do not have the flexibility to switch sides, but also unlike Murdoch they never had any leverage over the Labour Party. Guardian readers were mostly in the bag for Blair, but Sun readers needed to be convinced, but there may be even more to it than that.
I used to work in the city with Jon Norton, late husband of the late Mo Mowlem, before and during the '97 election. He he told me at the time that the then Labour Shadow Cabinet were terrified about a story coming out about Blair and a woman, probably Anji Hunter, from when TB and pals paid a trip to Murdoch in Australia in 1996 to talk about how Murdoch could stitch up the election for Labour. According to Mr Norton, Murdoch's henchmen saw Blair and Hunter, um, "frolicking" in or beside Murdoch's pool and caught it on video.
I have no evidence that this is true but at the time I was told the story the sainted Mo was in the Blair inner clique, and when I repeated this juicy morsel at a dinner in a London Club, one of my fellow diners said he didn't believe it, but he had "friends in Fleet Street" and would check it out. Sure enough, the story was apparently well known on the Street of Shame and probably true.
Then again another husband of a Labour government minister told me that his brother-in-law and tennis partner, Alan Rusbridger of the Grauniad, lunched with Spedding (MI5) and Dearlove (MI6) in early 2003 who told him they didn't have a clue why we were going to war with Iraq. Doubtless they told him full well knowing that it would never be printed.
P.S. I love to watch the ISP's that turn up in the log after a post like this.