Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If it's Cable v Murdoch, I'm on Vince's side in the politician being honest shocker

To be fair, there aren't very many people I'd back if they were in a war against Vince Cable. This is the guy who gave this party economic credibility. His message wasn't so different to our long standing principles of delivering a sustainable, green economy, but he was able to articulate a credible, professional response to the economic turmoil of the credit crunch, that was absolutely right for its time. When he was acting leader, I respected his decision not to attend any events surrounding the state visit of the Saudi King on human rights grounds. He is a good man. End of.

I wrote earlier of my annoyance at the way he was duped by two Telegraph reporters posing as constituents who then reported his comments on life in the coalition told to them in confidence to the world.

This afternoon, the plot thickened when Robert Peston, the voice of economic doom at the BBC, announced that the bit the Torygraph hadn't published had been leaked to him. This involved Vince Cable making some rather inflammatory comments about Rupert Murdoch and his various companies:

"I am picking my fights, some of which you may have seen, some of which you may haven't seen.
"And I don't know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win."
This, apparently is scandalous because Vince, in his role as Business Secretary had responsibility for the decision on whether to allow Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to take over BSkyB giving the same company unprecedented control over print and broadcast media. Vince had already referred this to OFCOM. Now, to me, that was a total no-brainer. Any Minister with a shred of integrity was going to do that - and refer the whole thing to the Competition Commission as well regardless of what OFCOM said. Murdoch's Fox News in the US presents not so much news, but Tea Party/Republican/big business propaganda from morning until night. Sky News here has shown signs of going the same way. Anyone remember when they were the only news outlet to think Cameron had won the first debate when every single other one had Nick in the lead.

The big shock in all of this is that so few of us are angry about the potential dangers of any one rich, powerful organisation controlling a big chunk of the media. In my view, the very act of wanting to have that sort of domination should disallow you. Such an organisation will only print what they believe in. We are spoiled by having the BBC as a genuine public service impartial broadcaster. It's maybe a bit narrow minded and simplistic about our politics, but it's a million miles away from the iniquities of Fox News. 

A tweet which seemed to sum it up rather perfectly came from Toby Hadoke, about whom, you may remember, I raved when I saw him twice in a week at  the Edinburgh Festival this Summer. He said:
BBC, being impartial (as it is obliged to be) breaks story advantageous to Murdoch (a threat to the BBC). Would he do the same? I think not.
There was a time this afternoon when I was worried that the Government was going to lose this good man but thankfully, he was allowed to stay. Unfortunately, and here's the rub, he loses all power over broadcasting decisions to Tory Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt. It'll be interesting to see if the Today programme has managed to get his name right, at least. Sad thing is, though, he's generally tended to be fairly pro the sort of deregulation that Murdoch wants. And speaking after he took office, he took Sky's side against the BBC.  This is not a good thing.

What was absolutely incredible, though, was the way the Labour Party queued up to prostrate themselves to present Murdoch's case. In the olden days, when the Party had principles of sorts, they were all demonstrating against them and boycotting his publications. One might be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that they were trying to win back the support of the Murdoch tabloids that they lost last year.

The irony is that the Liberal Democrats never either wanted, or had any chance of getting the favour of the Murdoch press and the removal of those powers from Cable takes a minister, who is genuinely not beholden to Murdoch's quest for domination, out of the frame.

Sure, Vince should have toned it down a bit. His remarks had an odour of indiscreet pomposity, but they were also honest. There's little chance of the media giving him an easy ride, but perhaps the public will see that he was acting in their interest and was on their side. He's also on the side of ordinary people and businesses when he takes on the banks - and that's not the instinctive position of the Tories.  That is the reason he is an asset to this Government and needs to stay there.


Anonymous said...

Two comments:

1. Fox News is already aired in the UK. I think it is channel 509 on the Sky line-up.

2. Vince Cable was not looking at the entire transaction, just arguments concerning pluralism. What about this transaction would harm pluralism in your opinion? Anything specific?

Douglas McLellan said...

My concern is that he basically said I am going to ditch the Ministerial Code and that is totally unprofessional.


Related Posts with Thumbnails