The Blair essentials: how a mating porcupine became a point of habit | Media | The Guardian
Labour was after political support of the kind that had eluded it for a generation, while ministers may have had an eye on columns and book contracts too. Murdoch and his allies wanted high-class gossip, a healthy supply of scoops, and generally to be left alone owning the biggest newspapers and what was becoming the largest broadcaster. Nobody needed to write down the terms; it just evolved and was understood.Labour may have blocked the Man Utd takeover, although buying the club would have been a monumental distraction, and chucked a bit of cash at the BBC, but hardly enough to stop Sky seizing more sports rights. Blair enjoyed the longest of political honeymoons, although perhaps it was the backing of the Murdoch press that helped give him the reassurance that he could meet his promise to president Bush over the need to join him in invading Iraq, the war that ultimately finished off his popularity.So it is entirely unsurprising that a fresh generation of ambitious politicians – David Cameron and George Osborne – and Murdoch media executives – James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks – picked up the old red playbook and aimed to turn it blue. Except, by then, News International and Sky had grown relative to their rivals – and five years of hubristic phone hacking had been allowed to fester largely unnoticed. Plus the company had grown more overtly aggressive under new management, switching sides in the middle of a Labour conference and crying foul if things didnt go their way.What emerged then was a culture of private, unminuted, intimate socialising. It was a given that the top echelons of News International could fix up dinners or other meetings with the top Conservatives. James Murdoch could meet Cameron for breakfast and quietly promise him that the Sun would swing round to him three weeks before it actually did in September 2009. Or James Murdoch could ring up Hunt in November 2010 in an effort to get round the annoying Vince Cable, and sound so unhappy that the culture secretary feels impelled to tell the prime minister how furious he is. There were dinners too for Osborne and Michael Gove, and a flight to Santorini for Cameron thrown in.Perhaps all this social intimacy is enjoyed as frequently by executives from BP, Barclays and Vodafone. But it is more likely that the mutual interests of the media and politicians give rise to an inevitable closeness. Which is why, in a world of so many opinions, it matters that there is a media more diverse than competition law allows. It is too easy for prime ministers to give the best seats to the most powerful media types – and become part of each others families too.