Reports of a Murdoch-Blair feud are good news for Labour

The question of whether Labour should have accepted the support of his media empire as a gift, or spurned it as a poisoned chalice, retains a certain relevance

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Many people in the Labour Party will be relieved by reports that the once rock-solid alliance between Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair is now in tatters, the alleged offence being Mr Blair’s continuing friendship with Mr Murdoch’s former wife, Wendi Deng.

The bust-up has no immediate ramifications for the party that Mr Blair once led, as he has long since abandoned an active role in Labour’s internal affairs. His successor, moreover, champions a different style of politics and a different relationship with the media.

But even Ed Miliband has not entirely escaped the long shadow of the man who led the Labour Party to three consecutive election victories, and who did so, some say, thanks in part to his warm relationship with Mr Murdoch. It is why the question of whether Labour should have accepted the support of his media empire as a gift, or spurned it as a poisoned chalice, retains a certain relevance.

The dilemma that faced the party recalls the choice once presented to the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa who, when offered a part-share by Russia in the partition of Poland, “wept – but still took it,” or so it was said. Labour’s attitude to the Murdoch empire was similar. More sensitive souls in the party felt deeply tainted by association with it, but the Labour leadership knew when to park its convictions when a good opportunity came its way.

Since then, of course, much has changed, and Mr Miliband makes of a virtue of his principled opposition to the now damaged and scandal-tainted Murdoch empire.

Still, one should remember that it was Mr Murdoch, not Labour, who ended the affair in 2009, when he turned on Gordon Brown’s leadership and somewhat tepidly embraced the cause of the Conservatives instead.

After that, copies of Mr Murdoch’s newspapers were theatrically torn to shreds at the Labour Party conference. The deeper the affair, the more dramatic the parting. No wonder Labour wants to move on and forget the whole business. Following news of Mr Murdoch’s reported feud with Mr Blair, it can finally consign the affair to history.

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