It has been this column’s painful duty these recent years to pinpoint the extreme danger posed to anyone by friendship with Mr Tony Blair.
Call it a jinx, a curse or God paying them back, but the ranks whose lives have taken a turn for the worse after palling up with him includes Gaddafi, Assad, Berlusconi, Mubarak and, or course, Cliff Richard, whose supply of Christmas hits seemingly dried up after gifting him the use of his Bajan villa. Yet even this rigorous chronicler of the syndrome is shocked – shocked! – by yesterday’s Mail on Sunday splash, which ushers into the public domain an allegation that first circulated when the newly-divorced Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng announced the collapse of their wedlock in June. Some delicacy is demanded here, partly on legal grounds but primarily out of reverence for the sunshine boys who once merrily discussed British policy on the EU, and gathered by the Jordan for the christening of the junior Murdoch to whom Mr Tony stood godfather in his flowing white robes. Such happy days, I hear you budding Karen Carpenters sing, and not so long ago. Today, heartrendingly, the two are reportedly at DefCon 1 over Rupert’s suspicions about his former chum’s relationship with Wendi. Staff at the $20m Murdoch ranch in Carmel, California informed him, the MoS reports, that Mr Tony more than once stayed there but without his knowledge. A Murdoch spokesman tells the MoS that “Rupert Murdoch will have nothing more to do with Tony Blair. Not ever”. Another chips in with: “If you think Rupert made a decision to end his marriage and a long term friendship without just cause, you are sorely mistaken.” In a tough no nonsense counterstrike, someone dismisses Rupert’s allegations as “the ravings of a sad old man”. The MoS describes this unnamed character as “a close friend”. As an earlier Mr T often put it in The A Team, I pity the fool – I do, I do. I pity the fool – who would bear that ominous title. The last thing anyone sane would wish to be, as I believe we have firmly established, is a close friend of Mr Tony Blair.
Life’s full of surprises – but not in Ed Miliband’s case
In more cheering news on the Labour leader amity front, Ed Miliband claimed on Desert Island Discs that, despite lingering tensions, he and brother David are “best friends”. If true, this begs the question of who Ed’s second best friend might be. Damian McBride? Paul Dacre? The guy who egged him in the summer? But let’s take him at his word, and move on to the luxury item he requested from Kirsty Young. He could have had anything, from the Boston Red Sox stadium (with all his old baseball heroes mystically revived a la Field of Dreams), via the familiar blow-up doll, to the Rev Paul Flower’s addled head on a spike. But no, the younger Milibandroid contented himself with a chicken tikka masala from his local takeaway (an oddity on various levels, not least the traditional restriction on deliveries to within a two mile radius). I am one of about one and a half diehard Ed fans in the British press, but sometimes you could weep at the studied lack of imagination until the lachrymals run dry.
When I were a lass... young Liz Jones had it really bad
To mark the imminent Monty Python reunion, Liz Jones offers her bespoke version of the Four Yorkshireman – the sketch in which the quarter of wealthy Tykes strive to outdo each other with accounts of childhood poverty. “I grew up without central heating,” recalls Liz, who used to spend thrice her six-figure salary on special bottled water, while bemoaning the materialism of the age, “and was used to flannels in winter being stiff enough to snap... and reading a book holding it with one hand while other warmed on a worn rubber hot water bottle...” Luxury. I grew up eating nothing but moths plucked from Egyptian cotton sheets and cashmere pyjamas. Liz is still so poor, she convincingly claims, that she owns only two pairs of knickers. If you have any spare undies, preferably thermal and freshly laundered, you know where to send them.
Go west Mr Flowers, Mensch has plans for you
Another arch dispenser of sabbath wisdom underlines her profound grasp of American politics. A fortnight after bringing the next presidential election forward a year, Louise Mensch analyses the growing popularity of crack-smoking Toronto mayor Rob Ford as an opportunity for Paul Flowers. His reverence should apply for American citizenship, she advises in the Sun on Sunday, and run for the White House. Exactly how a man born in Bradford would qualify is not explained. Perhaps Louise means to use her close friendship with Rupert Murdoch – one that we pray endures longer than Mr Tony Blair’s – to campaign in his Wall Street Journal for a constitutional amendment scrapping the native-born citizen requirement.
Hats off to Labour high command for devising a compelling defence to the claim that its links to the former Co-op bank chairman are damaging. This is nothing but a wicked Tory smear, runs the line to take, and Yvette Cooper dutifully took it on Andrew Marr’s show yesterday. After scintillating with the synthetic outrage, the next step in the ice-pixie’s crusade against despicable smearing, we gather, will be the pillow talk instruction to Ed Balls to cease heckling David Cameron with babyish enquires about whether or not he ever took cocaine.