The phone hacking scandal roiling Britain has cast a fresh light on the cozy ties and outsized political clout of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of the sprawling News Corp. empire, which includes extensive media properties in Britain, the United States and other countries.
Murdoch, 81, has for decades enjoyed friendly relations with a succession of British leaders. Here's a look at the connections between Murdoch — sometimes referred to as Britain's permanent Cabinet member — and British political leaders of all stripes.
It was Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who in the 1980s allowed Murdoch to add The Times and The Sunday Times to his stable of media companies, which including The Sun and the News of the World. Murdoch has denied making any special agreements, but his papers strongly backed her conservative, anti-union policies.
Murdoch's The Sun tabloid was credited by many with helping Thatcher's Conservative successor, John Major, and his party win the 1992 parliamentary elections. When it looked like Major would lose to Labour's Neil Kinnock, The Sun published a bold front-page headline: "If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights."
Murdoch told Britain's judge-led inquiry into media ethics Wednesday that he regards former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the Labour Party as a personal friend. When he was in power, Blair telephoned Murdoch repeatedly before committing UK troops to the Iraq war in 2003 — a decision strongly endorsed by Murdoch's papers. Blair also reportedly was on good terms with Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch's former News of the World editor and his News International chief executive who resigned amid the scandal. Blair is also godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch's daughters.
Murdoch says he felt a "personal connection" with Brown, Blair's successor as prime minister, and holds him in "high personal esteem." But Murdoch admitted to the Leveson inquiry that his relationship with Brown suffered after The Sun switched its support from Brown's Labour Party to the Conservatives in September 2009. Brown had initially resisted Murdoch's influence, but later attended the wedding of Murdoch executive Brooks.
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