12 Apr 2013

It seems wrong that Murdoch won’t be at St Paul’s

A spokesman for Rupert Murdoch told me last night that the media tycoon will be “unable” to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral next week.

This will be a great disappointment to many admirers of both individuals, who in their different ways over the last forty years, for better or worse, have done so much to revolutionise life in Britain and beyond.

Thatcher and Murdoch were great allies and friends.  Earlier this week Murdoch took the rare decision to write an article for his own Times newspaper – a personal tribute: “Mrs Thatcher was cast as the Iron Lady, an epithet that reflected her strength, but not her undeniable warmth.

“She was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the 20th century,” he wrote.

During the Thatcher premiership Murdoch would regularly visit Downing Street or Chequers when he was in Britain.  He was a huge fan of her policies at home and abroad.

Both had a remarkable ability to capture the feelings of ordinary working class and lower middle class Britons.  Both were despised by the British intelligentsia, and both regarded themselves as anti-establishment figures.

Their anti-establishmentarianism had its limits, however, for they were both keen on the hereditary principle in later life – Murdoch in promoting his children to run his multinational empire; Thatcher in getting a baronetcy for her husband Denis which was subsequently inherited by her son Mark.

Thatcher and Murdoch agreed on almost every political issue – they were both free-market; anti-Communist; hostile to unions; pro-Israel; pro-America (Reagan especially); highly Eurosceptic; and pro-family.  Both believed Britain had become too firmly set in bad old ways.

Thatcher’s election in 1979 was helped by the decision of the Sun newspaper, and its editor Larry Lamb (whom Thatcher later made Sir Larry), to back the Tories.  Until then the Sun had been a Labour paper (and Murdoch a Labour supporter).

Thatcher, in turn, helped Murdoch buy  Times Newspapers, when her government decided not to refer the proposed takeover to the Monopolies Commission.

Thatcher was even more supportive of Murdoch with the hugely  controversial move of his British newspapers to Wapping, and mass sacking of members of the traditional print unions.

And later the Thatcher government also helped Murdoch establish his hugely lucrative Sky Television service.

It seems wrong that Rupert Murdoch won’t be at St. Paul’s on Wednesday.  He may have business abroad somewhere, but he’s always shown a willingness during his career to fly around change his plans at short notice.  Perhaps Murdoch feels his presence would be too controversial, an unwelcome distraction from the main event.

Follow @MichaelLCrick on Twitter