Giving evidence at the Leveson enquiry Rupert Murdoch has insisted that the process for appointing Tony Blair as godfather to his child was entirely transparent and fair and that no preferential treatment was given during that time to the detriment of others by the press baron to the former British Prime Minister.
‘Nor were any favours given in return, and none were asked for,’ insisted a defiant Mr Murdoch, ‘apart from being godfather, obviously.’
The new evidence sheds light on a series of backdoor meetings which took place at Downing Street, where christening robes and where to stand during the ceremony were discussed. They also reveal a further back-door appearance at the eventual christening of Mr Murdoch’s elder daughter with his latest wife Wendi Deng some years later, when Mr Blair was officially inveigled as ‘the chosen one’, wearing white robes and his customary omniscient grin.
A trail of emails suggests that at the time messages were exchanged between the head of News Corporation and Mr Blair which appear to give the impression that at all stages of the process Mr Blair was kept closely involved in developments, reassured that the situation was ‘edging towards a favourable outcome’ for him, despite stiff competition and not a few protests from Alex Salmond, and leaking in advance the arrangements for turning up on the banks of the Jordan when the cameras weren’t rolling, saying some choice words, becoming part of the family, and sneaking off again.
The row over whether politicians cosied-up too much with the media is once again centre stage in the spotlight where Mr Murdoch himself insists these matters should be when public figures are involved. As a result, the fresh public interest in the scandal has claimed another scalp, with the latest casualty being Mr Blair’s special advisor and christening dress coordinator Peter Mandelson, who has been forced to resign under a cloud, from whatever it is he does now, again.
But Mr Murdoch is adamant that he will be standing by his special ex-Prime Minister. ‘It’s not, and never has been, a commercial decision of course, but I’ll be sticking up for Tony. He has my full confidence. He’s going to need all the good press he can get. And I intend to help him with that. Because let’s face it, I can. For as long as it takes,’ he said.
‘Or at least until Labour gets a better leader.’