Tony Blair was courted with such enthusiasm by Rupert Murdoch after he became leader of the Labour Party that he was even flown 10,000 miles by the media magnate to address the News Corporation conference on Australia’s Hayman island in 1995.
Blair later explained in his memoir, A Journey, that it was too good an opportunity to miss. ‘It seems obvious,’ he wrote. ‘The country’s most powerful newspaper proprietor, whose publications have hitherto been rancorous in their opposition to the Labour Party, invites us into the lion’s den. You go, don’t you?’
This week, it was Sir Keir Starmer who stepped into the ‘lion’s den’.
I hear that the Labour leader was entertained lavishly at the summer party given by Rupert, 92, and his son, Lachlan Murdoch, 51, at Spencer House, the magnificent townhouse in St James’s, London, owned by Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother.
No doubt to the horror of Labour’s Corbynistas, Sir Keir mingled with such betes-noires of the Left as the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, former prime minister Liz Truss, ex-culture secretary Nadine Dorries, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.
‘Gallons of Pol Roger were poured,’ one guest tells me of the champagne on offer. ‘We were served bowls of beef and dauphinoise potatoes sprinkled with rocket. The floral arrangements were beyond lavish. And someone had obviously spent a long time artfully scattering oranges on the stairways and borders.’
Wearing a ‘rather odd’, open-necked black shirt, Sir Keir arrived with the super-ambitious Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who may see himself as Starmer’s successor.