Got my eye on News Corpse
We live in heartless times. Once, we revered our elders as fonts of wisdom and continuity. Today we discard them like so many overflowing colostomy bags. For evidence of this callous attitude, look no further than the recent care homes scandal. But there is an even starker example that I wish to address: the vicious attacks on a frail old codger who can no longer defend himself - Rupert Murdoch.
It wasn't always thus. When Rupert and I first met, I was an eager Thatcherite pup, and he was a vigorous Aussie magnate who bestrode the world of press and politics like a . . . like someone with extremely long legs. We used to meet every Friday night to share a bottle of cognac and stick pins in Neil Kinnock. Not a figurine - the real thing. Neil didn't like it, but he knew that if he objected, the Sun would go to town on him.
I took to Rupert straight away; I knew he was someone I could do business with. Throughout the 1980s I was able to sell provide his titles with exclusives, re: my fellow politicians' wayward penises. That the Murdoch press happily destroyed the reputations of David Mellor, Jeffrey Archer and Cecil Parkinson undermines the misconception that Rupert is right-wing. Like me, Rupert is essentially apolitical, interested in the pursuit of personal power for the sheer joy of it.
Where Rupert and I differ, however, is crucial to his present difficulties. Rupert has children; I do not. Rupert wishes to perpetuate his dynasty; I don't give a toss. Contrary to what some commentators say, Rupert doesn't believe he's immortal. If ever he were tempted into that mindset, one stare from the turtle in his shaving mirror would put him right.
As he enters what is probably his final decade, Rupert should already have placed day-to-day control of his vast empire in the hands of competent professionals. Instead, he chooses to pick his top people from a very small cadre - those who bear the surname Murdoch and were created out of his sperm. (He made an exception for Rebekah Brooks, of whom he thinks, it is said, as his daughter. I do hope he thinks of her that way; the alternative is just too hideous to contemplate.)
I fear his lamentable affection for his children will be his undoing. Large investors in News Corpse, including me, have protested at his decision to pay over £400m to buy Shine, a small independent television production group. Coincidentally, Shine Group was co-owned by his daughter, who reinvested a fraction of her windfall in turning her Cotswolds country home in an enormous converted former priory into party central this month.
Now poor Rupe is falling so far and so fast that his friends are wondering if he will be forced to offload his British newspapers. But who, they ask, would buy them, even at a knockdown price? Who has the money, the drive, the ego? Funny you should ask . . .
As told to Marks and Gran