Political Promise

Lesson for Vince: Never Take on Murdoch

In Will Obeney on December 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Vince Cable has enough enemies as it is, without adding Murdoch to the list, says Will Obeney.

The intriguing Vince Cable story has been one featuring many heroes and villains. It is unusual to see an exposé being exposed, but that is exactly what BBC’s did yesterday. Let us cast our minds back to 2009 and the Parliamentary expenses scandal, where the Barclay brothers-owned Daily Telegraph brought Westminster to its knees with eight weeks of exposal. Their columnists and reports said that we couldn’t trust MPs any more. Now we know that we can’t trust the Telegraph, either.

But the newspaper is not the first villain of our yuletide yarn. That role was played by Vince Cable. Thought to have been the saddest man in Westminster at the start of the coalition government, he had surprised many onlookers with his more cheery demeanour of late, and with the way he quietly coped with the tuition fees crisis. It seemed as though the man had got used to a position of power, but perhaps it has gone to his head.

What Vince Cable said was very wrong. Although it is nice to see a politician speak his mind and a Lib Dem not bowing down to the Conservatives, his words undermine the whole legal process and made his position as sole arbiter of the BSkyB prospective takeover untenable. It is worrying to see a minister display such bias. Whilst I agree that ministers should have opinions, some believe that Cable’s words show his eyes are like tunnels. If this is the case, he should almost certainly have resigned from his position. A minister must be open to all ideas and be good at taking advice from his/her civil servants.

But Cable’s remarks do not show tunnel vision, they show a man who was boasting and having a friendly conversation with some people he perceived to be honest and trustworthy. I say this because if Cable was so determined to impose his personal agenda, he would not have rolled over so easily for the Tories regarding tuition fees. His words are far from being the ones of a megalomaniac, these are the words of a desperate Lib Dem trying to boast and impress his loyal constituents.

The biggest villain of the whole wintry saga though is the Daily Telegraph. As mentioned above, they have actively deceived the whole country and have been completely hypocritical. They quite obviously decided to remove the BSkyB discussion from the “full transcript” because they are on the same side as Cable in wanting to stop the takeover. Why? Well, along with the rest of the non-Murdoch media, they cite the idea that a takeover would weaken the free press in this country. They call it a blow to democracy. But by holding back hugely important information about the government that could have legal consequences, are they not guilty of exactly that? What I would like to see is a public apology from the Daily Telegraph, who has so far only tried to explain its actions by saying it was an editorial decision”. The newspapers would be up in arms if Vince Cable hadn’t apologised for his actions, so maybe it is time that they listened to their own rhetoric.

The heroes of this Christmas political tale are unquestionably the member of staff who passed the true full transcript over and the BBC. It is refreshing to see that the government-funded organisation had no doubts over whether to release the potentially-huge information out into the open immediately. It made me realise that even if Murdoch does take over BSkyB and other news outlets, we will always have the BBC to rely on the produce quality, unbiased and expert news.

And what of the sequel to this Noël fable? David Cameron had two choice in the wake of the scandal: a) sack Cable or b) move over the arbitration privileges to Jeremy Hunt. He chose the latter. Politically speaking, this is probably the correct decision. Cable made a silly mistake but to sack him (or force his resignation, as it is known nowadays) would not put the coalition in good light. Despite this, I fear that Hunt may well live up to his naughty nickname. I say this because of an article on the MP’s own website, published before the election, where he seems to show much support for Murdoch and Sky. Time will tell, but this saga has played right into the hands of the media baron. It would be awfully helpful for the Conservatives if the BSkyB takeover was allowed to happen without opposition, and now we have a Tory in charge of the process, I’m sure Murdoch will be having a very merry Christmas.


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