Whatever James wants, James gets – and that includes bringing 'The Sun' out for the Tories

Michael Wolff on why Rupert Murdoch turned against Brown

The truth is, Rupert Murdoch really adores Gordon Brown, despite The Sun's endorsement of David Cameron. There may not be another politician in Rupert's nearly 60 years of helping to shoehorn the leaders of three countries into office who has personally appealed to him as much as Gordon. Rupert's voice changes when he talks about him. He gets ruminative (and Murdoch is not a ruminative man), and sentimental, and almost glassy-eyed.

This is in spite of the fact that there is much they disagree about, not least of all Europe. But when it comes to Gordon, political positions are beside the point. It's temperament and heart that are important. Rupert believes Gordon, is all the things a proper man should be: serious, unaffected, unpretentious, down to earth, direct, square (really square). Even his dubious qualities – his remoteness, dullness, frequent inarticulateness and indecisiveness – are, for Rupert, signs of Gordon Brown's good value.

This is partly atavistic. In the same way that Rupert reflexively prefers Australians over everybody else – trusts them more, enjoys them more and can push them around more – he'll eagerly take a Scotsman over any other kind of Brit. He's moved by dour Presbyterians because so many of his own relatives have been similarly dour and Presbyterian. Gordon Brown seems like family to him.

Tony Blair had the advantage with Murdoch of the Scotsman thing too. But Murdoch, while appreciating Blair's attentions, and swayed by his wife Wendi's enthusiasm for Tony, has never really seen him as a kinsman. He admires Blair for his acumen and trickiness, but is wary, too – Murdoch wouldn't want to turn his back with Tony around. Whereas he seems to trust Gordon absolutely. "He keeps his word," Murdoch said during one of our discussions when I suggested that Brown might be, to say the least, inept.

It's not happenstance that one of Wendi's dearest friends is Sarah Brown: Wendi's friends form a Kremlinology of Rupert's alliances and affections.

The truth is that Rupert can't stand David Cameron. He physically reacts to his name. He gets a sour face. His shoulders twist away. The way David looks annoys him: "He's too sharp." The way he talks bothers him: "It's happy talk." His entire mettle as a man, Rupert doubts: "I don't take him seriously. Who would?" And he doesn't trust his politics: "He'll say anything." There's only one mitigating factor in his view of David Cameron: "James quite likes him."

And there's the rub. While he might, in any event, have looked at the prospective fortunes of his friend Gordon Brown, and held his nose and gone for the Tories (Murdoch, who dislikes backing losers, did back John McCain in the US presidential election and is still kicking himself), The Sun's early and critical endorsement of Cameron, cruelly coming as Brown was gamely trying to rally his own troops, is all about Murdoch's son James.

Father and son, Rupert and James, are doing a little dance. The father is proudly trying to accommodate the son; the son is testing the father (and pressing his advantage).

It's a test that has been unfolding for some time: will Rupert let James run his own show? This particular part of the ongoing test – the Cameron part – began not so much with James, who is by nature ambivalent and sceptical about all politicians, but with Rebekah Wade (now Brooks after her marriage, celebrated grandly by the Murdochs, to playboy Charlie Brooks), The Sun's former editor, now the head of News International, best friend of Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and son-in-law, Matthew Freud, and James's closest personal and business confidante.

Rebekah has been pressing Cameron on James for more than two years. Having brought James over, James and Rebekah together have been pressing Rupert – somewhat to his irritation, but also to his bemusement. He knows Wade is always working him ("she plays my family"), but he likes her game. What's more, to be pressured by James, to be hectored by him, is pure pleasure for Rupert. He bursts with pride. There is almost nothing that James says that he doesn't think is absolutely brilliant.

Still, he really didn't want to forsake Gordon. Even as Gordon was screwing everything up, Rupert seemed to want to hang in there. "Give him a chance, he's smart. Very smart," Rupert said to me during one of Brown's early difficult moments. Equally, he didn't want to give in to Rebekah and James so easily. He liked their campaign. He likes to be courted. Although, each time Rebekah and James arranged for Rupert to be with David, Rupert would, for days after, mutter pointed disparagements about Cameron and the Tories.

When I interviewed Rebekah in the summer of 2008, she queried me closely about what Rupert thought of David. I told her I had yet to hear a positive word. And yet, more than a year ago, he was saying, ruefully, regretfully and begrudgingly, that News International would probably go for Cameron. "It will be James's decision," he said. "It's got to be," he added, as though to convince himself.

He was also coming to another realisation. He was less and less interested in British politics. He had already all but written off Australia politics, could no longer keep the issues and players straight. Now he was finding it harder to keep up with what was going on in the UK. During the London mayoral race, I had to explain to Rupert exactly who Boris Johnson was.

For Rupert Murdoch Gordon Brown represents, I believe, a kind of holding on. Brown is the true conservative candidate for Murdoch, representing the verities of the past. It pained him that James had so brutally timed The Sun's endorsement to embarrass Gordon – but the determination and bloodlessness of the move made Murdoch proud, too. The decision to support David Cameron, with all his modern slickness and frou-frou-ness, is Rupert Murdoch letting go.

Michael Wolff's The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch is published by Bodley Head

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits