The world according to Rupert

In an extraordinarily frank interview on American TV the media baron has revealed what he really thinks about Britain, the US and Tony Blair
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The Independent Online

Few except his close family and a small number of top News Corporation executives have ever heard Rupert Murdoch speak as candidly as he did in a new hour-long interview on American public television.

Questioned by Charlie Rose, one of America's most accomplished interviewers, Mr Murdoch was open, friendly and likeable, punctuating his off-the-cuff answers with a wry smile and the odd chuckle, but spared no one - least of all Tony Blair and David Cameron - in his frankness.

He admitted he was unashamed of wielding the enormous political power given to him by way of The Sun to keep Mr Blair's government on track. "Right now we are giving them a bad time," he said. "We've supported him, but we fought him pretty hard on Europe. We said, stay away from there. He's come around." And he admitted using The Sun to force the PM to address "the breakdown of law and order in Britain and the thuggishness and the social behaviour that has come about through mistaken changes in the law".

"[Mr Blair] made a big mistake after the last election. He said, I won't stand for election again, and he became a lame duck that day. And you can feel within his own party the old left rising up and challenging him."

Isn't the Iraq war at the root of Mr Blair's unpopularity? "Probably, a little bit." But that wasn't the main reason. "It isn't to do with the war but an intense anti-Americanism," he said, "and it is in my view ignorant and ugly and wrong."

He attributes this to an old Murdoch enemy - the British establishment. "You have always had an elite attitude of looking down their noses at Americans. But I would say the average working people are very pro-American. They come here for their holidays. They go to Disney World. They like this country."

How would he like to see Mr Blair end his time at Downing Street? "I would like to see him go out with one more great achievement rather than go out in tears." Will he switch his allegiance to Gordon Brown? "I like Brown very much - on a personal level." It is clear, though, that the mogul's mind is not yet made up on which party to throw his weight behind at the next election.

What does he think of David Cameron? "Not much. He's bright. He's quick. He's totally inexperienced. I do not know what substance is there or what he really believes. He's a rich young man, educated at Eton and Oxford. Nothing wrong with that. I went to Oxford and didn't get nearly as good a degree as he got. Then he went lobbying for a few years; four years ago he became an MP and now he's an alternative prime minister because he gave one good speech at the party conference. I would like to see, well before the next election, a match up between Brown and the new Conservative leadership and just see how they look."

Mr Murdoch takes a similarly blunt view of US politicians and, notwithstanding his holding a fundraising event for Hillary Clinton at News Corporation's headquarters this week, he cannot see himself supporting her for president.

"I'd be very surprised if I found myself doing that," he said. "You have got to watch what she's saying. Has she sincerely become a moderate and a centrist or is she the old Hillary Clinton?"

And the Republican front-runner, John McCain? "I like him very much. He's a great natural hero and he talks a lot of sense. I do not agree with him on everything, but he's a fine man. He would make a fine president."

How much political power does he wield personally? "It is overstated. We can do things to help set the agenda, starting debates going in newspapers, having investigations by Fox News."

He looks back at shutting out the printers from his Wapping printing plant as a high point of his career, a time when he gambled the whole of his company on the outcome. "It was an ugly period, but it was wonderful." Did he work closely with Margaret Thatcher to ensure victory? "I never spoke to her before. We knew there would be a lot of police protection."

On abortion and gay marriage, Mr Murdoch is clear. "I'm not on the extreme right on abortion, in terms of a [US] constitutional amendment. I think everyone's against abortion." Who should decide when an abortion should take place? "Individual states and individual people."

As for gay marriage: "I believe it is wrong. I'm considered homophobic and crazy about these things and old fashioned. But I think that the family - father, mother, children - is fundamental to our civilisation."

Can he think of anything he would have done differently? "I do not look back enough to do that." However, he added: "One thing I resent is the slur that I just support political candidates because of the business. Or that our policies are designed to line our pockets. It wouldn't take long to show you that we have taken positions that aren't favourable to us as a company."

He said the family squabble over the division of spoils upon his death has been settled amicably between the six children of his three marriages. "They will all be treated the same financially." Does he intend to retire? "No. Unless someone taps me on the shoulder and says I'm losing it and I have to make way."

"I would like to be remembered, if I am remembered at all, as being a catalyst for change in the world, change for good."

RUPERT ON WENDI

" When an older man marries a younger woman, it is a revitalising experience "

... ON BLAIR

" He made a big mistake after the last election. He said, I won't stand for election again, and he became a lame duck that day "

... ON CAMERON

" He's bright. He's quick. He's totally inexperienced. I do not know what substance is there or what he really believes "

... ON BROWN

" I like Brown very much - on a personal level "

... ON MAJOR

" Pretty hopeless in every way "

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