Monday 5 September 2011

Blair was 'godfather to Murdoch's daughter'


Former prime minister Tony Blair is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch's young children, sources said on Monday, raising fresh questions about British political links to the media mogul's empire. The revelation first emerged in a Vogue magazine interview with Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng, which also contains claims that Blair was present when Murdoch and Deng's two daughters were baptised beside the River Jordan in March last year. A spokesman for Blair's London office and a spokeswoman for Murdoch's US-based News Corporation both refused to comment on the story in Vogue's October UK edition, which is due out on Thursday. But sources close to News Corp confirmed to AFP that Blair was godfather to Grace, aged nine, Murdoch's eldest daughter by third wife Wendi. A source close to Blair also confirmed the Vogue story was true. News of the link between former Labour premier Blair and Australian-born Murdoch comes two months after the tycoon was forced to close down his News of the World tabloid amid a scandal over phone-hacking. The Vogue article, extracts of which were published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, says Blair attended the ceremony "garbed in white" and describes him as one of Wendi Murdoch's "closest friends". Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman were named publicly as godparents to Murdoch's young daughters at the time of the ceremony on the banks of the River Jordan, but Blair did not feature in photographs that were released. Jordan's Queen Rania hosted the baptism of Grace and Chloe, eight, Vogue said. A spokeswoman for Vogue UK confirmed that all the information and extracts published in the Daily Telegraph were accurate. They said it was an exclusive arrangement with the newspaper to release it in that way. The phone-hacking scandal dragged in Prime Minister David Cameron when his former media chief Andy Coulson, an ex-News of the World editor, was arrested in July on suspicion of hacking and bribing police. But it raised wider questions about the British establishment's cosy links with Murdoch, especially as Labour, who are now in opposition, made huge efforts to win over the elderly mogul's stable of newspapers.