It’s Personal: The Blair Murdoch War of Words over Wendi Deng

So the air war continues. While the hacking trial has revealed how central the politics of personal destruction were to the now defunct News of the World, the Mail on Sunday has continued its campaign to yoke Tony Blair into Rupert Murdoch’s divorce from Wendi Deng.

Both front page splashes, from last Sunday and yesterday, seem to come from briefings from within News Corp, or sources close to the 82 year old media mogul, so should be taken with a boulder of salt. Though even the internal sources admit Deng’s friendship with Blair isn’t the cause of the divorce, they’re happy to keep the rumour mill rolling with a mixture of innuendo and guilt by association – a classic tabloid technique.

As George Monbiot suggested, that Deng and Blair had an affair is dubious and has been vigorously denied, but Blair and Murdoch did have a political liaison that lasted nearly 20 years. Indeed, in the famed public rapprochement at Hayman Island News Corporation summit in 1995, as the new Labour leader Blair flew half way around the world to court Britain’s most powerful press baron,  Murdoch compared their political dalliance to “two porcupines making love…. very carefully.”

This much is sure: that affair is now over, and Murdoch’s flirtation with New Labour seems to have ended in recrimination and vendetta. While tabloids blind us with the personalisation of politics, it’s worth looking at the politics of this personalisation.

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Murdoch’s feud with Blair over wife Wendi: ‘Terminal’ end of friendship over claims of ‘multiple encounters’ between ex-PM and tycoon’s wife | Mail Online

This is from the Mail Online and so should be taken with a boulder of salt. However, rumours of a Deng affair were circulating before the the hacking scandal in early 2011. They have been denied by her, and all those associated.  The one point that remains entirely credible is Michael Wolff‘s below: after all, he met most the player involved while writing his biography of Murdoch. Dan Sabbagh, formerly of the Times and now writing for the Guardian, has an interesting take on the Mail splash

Claims of an affair between Mr Blair and Ms Deng swept the internet when Mr Murdoch filed for divorce in June. They were sparked by a tweet from BBC journalist Robert Peston who said: ‘Am told that undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping and hate myself for wanting to know what they are.’

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