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Unanswered questions about Cable

Robert Peston | 10:22 UK time, Wednesday, 22 December 2010

What I still feel bemused about is why the Telegraph, for which I used to work, did not publish the one story that would have unquestionably legitimised its under-cover exercise to elicit the private views of Lib Dem ministers.

Vince Cable

 

Pretty much everything these Lib Dems have been caught saying about their Tory colleagues is what one would expect them to say to their supporters in private. And readers of my blog, among others, say there are questions to be asked about whether democracy is best served by hounding MPs to such an extent that perhaps in future they will feel safe to speak their minds only in the matrimonial bed.

But Vince Cable's remarks that he had "declared war on Mr Murdoch" were in a different category. And that's not because there is anything special about Mr Murdoch that should protect the media billionaire from the criticism of ministers or from anyone else for that matter.

It's because there was something very special about Mr Cable's legal status as business minister, in respect of his dealings with Mr Murdoch's News Corporation and its attempt to buy the 61% of BSkyB that it doesn't already own.

The important point is that Mr Cable was the final judge - on his own, with almost absolute power - about whether this takeover should be allowed to proceed. This would have been a personal decision, not a cabinet one, under the terms of the 2002 Enterprise Act.

And Mr Cable was supposed to exercise that authority in a dispassionate way, having heard the evidence and listened to the advice of regulatory bodies and his own officials.

So in saying, even in private, that he's out to get Mr Murdoch, he undermined due process: he allowed News Corporation and its lawyers the ability to say, with considerable credibility, that the case was rigged against them (which of course they have said).

Mr Cable's remarks were like a judge telling a defendant that he is going down, weeks before prosecution and defence have presented their cases. They were straightforwardly inappropriate, as the prime minister said yesterday, which is why Mr Cable and his department were yesterday stripped of all responsibility for media policy and regulation.

So whether you like Mr Murdoch or hate Mr Murdoch, it was straightforwardly and unambiguously in the public interest for Mr Cable's remarks about Mr Murdoch to be put in the public domain.

Why didn't the Telegraph publish these remarks when it exposed much of the rest of what Mr Cable said to undercover reporters overnight on Monday? Why weren't these remarks included in what it called, on its website, a "full transcript" of the secretly recorded interview?

The whistleblower, who yesterday gave me the full recording, told me that the Telegraph's omission of these sections about Mr Murdoch was a commercial decision, motivated by the fact that the Telegraph - like Mr Cable - would rather News Corporation does not end up as 100% owner of BSkyB.

I of course put this to the Telegraph. And rather late in the day, at 19:19 last night to be precise, the Telegraph's external media adviser sent me a statement attributed to an unnamed "spokesman for the Daily Telegraph". The statement says:

"It is utter nonsense to suggest that the Daily Telegraph did not publish comments from Vince Cable on the Rupert Murdoch takeover of BSkyB for commercial reasons. It was an editorial decision to focus this morning on Cable's comments on the Coalition because they were of wider interest to our readers".

Well, some would say that was a slightly eccentric editorial decision for an editor, Tony Gallagher, widely regarded as one of the sharpest in the business. I rang Mr Gallagher to discuss this, but he directed me to the Telegraph's internal PR spokesperson.

Also, you may have noticed that the Telegraph has not yet put out any clear and unambiguous statement that it was ever planning to publish Mr Cable's remarks about Mr Murdoch (though it has now published them, after they were put out by the BBC).

Maybe I am being a bit naive and silly to think any of this matters. Maybe most of you think that what we do as reporters is so obviously and constantly subject to commercial interference that there is no particular benefit to be gained from asking the Telegraph to explain itself in this case.

But actually that's not been my experience in 27 years as a hack. And I still think the question of what news organisations put into the public domain, and how they do it, matters.

And there is one other thing. Which is that we have surely learned beyond reasonable doubt that it is quite difficult for any single individual to be dispassionate about Mr Murdoch and his expansionist ambitions.

Some love him, some hate him.

And since it surely matters to democracy who owns our major providers of news and mass culture, is it really sensible that a single politician should have the final say about whether a takeover as important as that of BSkyB by News Corporation should go ahead?

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will doubtless endeavour to be impartial in that adjudication, now that the power has been passed to him.

But if he allows News Corporation to own all of BSkyB, critics of Mr Murdoch - and they are not small in number - will accuse Mr Hunt and the government of repaying the support given to the Tory Party by Mr Murdoch's newspapers in the last election.

Even the perception that favours can be earned in that way is bad for the reputation of government.

Which is why there is probably a debate to be had about whether media takeovers should become subject to the same rules as almost all other takeovers - which is that ministers have no say at all, and decisions on whether to allow deals are taken by independent regulators (who are, of course, accountable to parliament, but not to the executive).

 

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    And no one in a court has ever heard a judge reading out his opinion of the rogue as he sentences him to life in the outer reaches of society, I guess.....

    Perhaps Vince had all the evidence he needed. Has he ever been to Australia or the US? If so, it's an open and shut case, is it not?

  • Comment number 2.

    The Telegraph does seem to have scored a spectacular own goal. Were it not for these revelations, Cable would have been quite likely to deliver exactly what they wanted (ie the blocking of the Murdoch takeover).

    That said, it is absolutely right that Cable has now been unceremoniously removed from the decision making process. In truth, he should have been fired. He only clings to office due to the paucity of alternative candidates from within the LibDem ranks.

    Cable appears ill at ease within the coalition - which is fine for a backbencher, but not so good for a senior minister.

    Following the tuition fees debacle and the refusal to vote on the promised euro referendum during the last government, LibDems have proved once again they have no honour and cannot be trusted.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Arguably a pro right wing UK Murdoch media empire is required to give balance to the brigt red socialist publicly financed BBC? But that is not the right way to do things in a heavily contorted/distorted UK competition environment

    The Cable fiasco is a distraction from the underlying UK media competition issues which are not being addressed ... the constitutional rights and privileges or more to the point their absence and/or abuse?

    Channels 4, 5 and possibly Channel 6 ... give them a chance?

    Cable promised so much and has delivered so little by messing up ... this all plays in favour of all of the big vested interests ... banks, Murdochs and BBC included?

  • Comment number 5.

    BBC journalist 'bemused'? - well it's not the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last.

    It's all worked out nicely for the Torygraph - they have managed to rid the Cabinet (effectively) of the only minister who was prepared to take the corporations on - whether it be banks or media moguls - and had the effect of moving the cabinet further to the right.

    Don't worry however - the bringing down of the corporations was never going to be achieved by this Government who are in fact planning a fascist state (merger of corporation and Government) - that job has already been left for the people to do.

    It's time the people of Britain woke up and chose their sides - are you going to side with the Corporate controlled Government who have the interests of the minority at heart - or are you going to join the people - who by definition have the interests of the majority at heart?

    "War on Rupert Murdoch" on facebook - sign up and bring along your friends. We'll show this Government how a war in the 21st century is waged and won.

  • Comment number 6.

    "Some love him"

    Really? I think even his wife only thinks he's ok.

  • Comment number 7.

    Mr Cable: What he thinks about the Telegraph

    Yes ... the BBC have had to move on quickly from the previous post as your Moderators been caught red handed censoring my posts unfairly when post 25 on there contains a swear word.

    BTW - I proof read every post before posting!

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    So whether you like Mr Murdoch or hate Mr Murdoch, it was straightforwardly and unambiguously in the public interest for Mr Cable's remarks about Mr Murdoch to be put in the public domain.
    -------------
    I agree. I have been rather surprised at the level of criticism for revealing the information in the way you did, even though I agree with many who say it plays into Murdoch's hands and anything that plays into his hands worries me. The Telegraph probably agree but since we for some reason accept gross impartiality from our newspapers it is to be expected. People choose to buy certain papers and so I presume like to get their favoured political slant(I couldn't afford to waste money on daily papers for years, so lost the habit), but we expect more from the BBC, and we got it with the first reveal at least, even though it was not necessarily in their own interest to disclose.

    The principle concern was the drivel that followed the revelation and the naked political opportunism that turned what was an embarrasing but easily solved gaffe (as it has been resolved in fact - again, embarrasing, but not much of a humiliation as some would have it, compared to him being hounded from office by a pack of jackals never dropping the issue) into an attempt to create a media frenzy which, whatever the rights or wrongs, would lead to a minsiterial resignation, which many commentators are saying would have happened were Cable not a senior member of the LD.

    Cable put himself forward in the best possible light, as he saw it, to a constituent. All politicians would do this. It made his ability to rule on this matter untenable, but the furore that developed to inflate the issue was ridiculous and had little to do with the original disclosure from Robert Peston.

    Reveal = correct. Media circus thereafter = incorrect. Simple enough, I feel.

  • Comment number 10.

    Does anyone else think Vince looks a bit "Darkman" in that hat?

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    The Telegraph obviously have some reason and they don't want to admit it.
    The other most likely reason apart from what RP suggested is that they wanted to leave the killer information until later - once Cable had denied any wrong doing and Clegg et all were giving unconditional support. This would no doubt have ended Cable once and for all and given the Telegraph a longer and more financially attractive scoop.

  • Comment number 14.

    Like I said before. Honey trap. And Cable is not fit for office.

    How many others are there?
    Of all persuasions...

    No wonder the Dirty Digger is finding life just so so so easy.
    Like shooting fish in a barrel.

    And we fall for it. Lap it up.
    Meanwhile what is really going on, will we ever know? Who cares?

  • Comment number 15.

    A massive own goal - he's effectively manoeuvred himself out of being able to 'stop' him, and got Murdoch-friendly Tory Jeremy Hunt into the seat of power instead. It was an absurdly immature, naive error of judgement by Vince, a schoolboy error. Not his best day. I'm putting my money on him going in the new year, with one newly 'cleared' Mr David Laws taking his place.

    If I was the Telegraph, I'd be falling over myself to say, "we were going to release the Murdoch revelations", claiming they wanted to spread the story out over a few days, rather than just one. They come out of this looking bad; it's undeniable they'd rather have had Vince 'in place' rather than anyone else, as far as their commercial interests go. It rather looks like they were playing games with the truth in order to achieve this...

    It has to be said that we already have one massive media monopoly in this country already, bigger even in its reach than NewsCorp - it's the BBC. Love it or loathe it, we should remember that it is huge and its size gives Murdoch an argument that he too needs to be, to counterbalance it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Politics has changed, the press has not.
    Please keep reporting everything, Robert.

    And did Murdoch support the Conservatives at the last election?
    Only after it was obvious to all that Blair/Brown was dead and that it was in Murdoch's own dubious interests to support the winner.
    But a coalition government is not so easy to manipulate.

    Give new politics a chance.
    The BBC should always act to curb immoderacy.
    Remember Andrew Gilligan and Greg Dyke.
    With all the benefit of hindsight, one of those two should now be given one of those coveted places on the BBC Trust (Please not another corrupt politician).
    And keep reporting Robert, more of you is only good that is for sure.

  • Comment number 17.

    Giving Mr Murdoch what he wants is a difficult one for the Lib Dems but it is what is likely to happen - even if by default. It will be yet another fault line in this creaking and fractious coalition. Come on Ed make an offer to Vince that he will feel more comfortable with.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think we could manage quite nicely without Murdoch AND Cable

  • Comment number 20.

    Have you asked Rupert (off the record) why he is so passionate about this takeover?

  • Comment number 21.

    Vince has revealed his true underlying nature.
    And it is all good, and his reputation as a man of sense has soared once again.

    Now I know why he fobs off the media in interviews.
    Because all his pronouncements are twisted by the press.
    Can the press not handle coalition politics?
    Do they want the UK to become unstable?

  • Comment number 22.

    You don't get it RP.

    The only intent here was to publicly discredit Vince Cable due to the widely known views he has 'expressed' on the excesses of the financial sector in the UK (only rhetorically of course). I am not saying Vince didn't play a role in his humiliation but he has been the victim of a honey trap of a kind (now we've heard that phrase used elsewhere recently).

    I'm highly suspicious of this story, especially following the 'cash for influence scandal' earlier this year where ex ministers were secretly recorded. Vince would surely have known that he could be secretly recorded at any time.

    Ex-ministers in 'cash for influence' row under fire
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8578597.stm


    Is this all just a narrative being played out for public's consumption?

    I don't think there is any intention of this libertarian coalition government to crack down on the financial sector. Vince is just another actor with ulterior libertarian motives of his own.

    'They' certainly knew what you would do with the information once received. Why else do you think the leaked information found its way to you?

    You've been played like a kipper on this one. Whistleblower indeed.

    Remember, do not judge the political class by what they say to the media and elsewhere. Only judge them on their outcomes. It's all about their behaviour not their rhetoric.


    They are quite literally - born liars.

  • Comment number 23.

    Congratulations, quite a scoop, Robert. You haven't had many (any?) since the last misgovernment passed you information about the banks.

    Will your mole in the Telegraph now be joining you on a fat salary at the Beeb, or is he/she worth more to you there under cover?

  • Comment number 24.

    Did I spot an election in Oldham in January the LibDems think they can win?

  • Comment number 25.

    What I fid so amusing is that the Conservatives seem so keen to suck up to Rupert & Son.

    No other media organisation has done as much to humiliate the Royal Family and the traditional aristocracy.

  • Comment number 26.

    "And since it surely matters to democracy who owns our major providers of news and mass culture"

    It does indeed Robert - but isn't it more worrying that we have to pay for one particular provider whether we like it or not?

  • Comment number 27.

    Yesterdays YouGov results
    CON 40%, LAB 42%, LD 9%;
    Approval rating for this conservative led coalition -19%
    Personally i think 19% is a bit high.

  • Comment number 28.

    I understand indiscretion to a trusted friend - regrettable, but forgivable.
    But indiscretion at this level shows astonishing lack of judgement - nobody's remarked that the imposters sounded like giggling 20 something girls - testosterone fuelled showing off perhaps - a bit sad.

  • Comment number 29.

    The biggest question of all is where is Nick Robinson when all this is going on, surely the BEED has not gone into recess for Christmas already?

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    Can the press not handle coalition politics?
    Do they want the UK to become unstable?
    -----------
    1) It would seem not. 2) I would hope not.

    The fact that Cable and others have expressed reservations about policies, even argued with Tory colleagues over them, but that this does not mean the Coalition is doomed (it was always going to be a struggle, involving putting through things you disagree with on one issue to get something you do want and the other side do not want on another) to collapse imminently, is one the media as a collective seems to have trouble grasping.

    Not that there cannot be some real, serious divisions which threaten its very existence, but as this very incident has shown, the slightest hint of disagreement behind closed doors - which is inevitable in a coalition and a deal can be hammered out to resolve - or slightest embarrassment is being presented as evidence, as irrefutable proof, that it cannot possibly work. You get it with majority governments, but not to the same degree. I find it laughable, quite frankly - there will be severe disagreements and painful compromises in any coalition, so get over it and let the pubic decide if those compromises deserve to be punished at the next election.

    This story should have been about questionable reporting from the Telegraph and a clever scoop by the BBC revealing this, as well as a minor slip up by a minister, but has been turned, even hijacked, yet again, into an attempt to create a narrative whereby the integral processes of coalition politics, between any parties, is presented as destructive and dangerous.

    I suppose the real story of the story here was swallowed by the media's love of political squabbles. Blair/Brown kept speculators going for a decade and it was officially denied at every turn, but with a coalition you can be even more speculative and they cannot deny the existence of squabbling: it must be great. Here's hoping Robert's suggestion regarding media takeovers does go ahead so we can avoid business deals being hijacked by political hacks and opportunistic attackers.

  • Comment number 33.

    8. At 10:58am on 22nd Dec 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    Of all the things you could campaign about at present.... How sad, how sad

  • Comment number 34.

    I dont get the fuss about vince cable, im not a supporter of his but obviously he is quite useful in the coalition and cameron isnt going to fire someone who is potentially dangerous but lets face it, he was obviously blowing his own trumpet, showing his naivety in power and he has allowed his own ego and vanity to get himself into trouble, a bit of a "my dads bigger than you" in as much as he was boasting about how powerful he now is. That is what power does to people im afraid, i truly dont think he would have executed what he said he was going to do he was just bigging himself up to people he thought were inferior to him and that he would impress.. just silly!

  • Comment number 35.

    Two things will come from this:

    1. Murdoch will win
    2. The Bankers/Business will win because Cable's "authority" to shove and push them towards some compensation being paid back to the tax payer will now be handled in a more tory way - i.e. nothing will now happen to stop the bonus culture and nothing will now happen to stop the tax avoiding culture of business.

    Cable's arguments for more fairness have now been completely eradicated as he is side lined and ridiculed. No more fighting speeches.

  • Comment number 36.

    25. At 11:35am on 22nd Dec 2010, Cassandra wrote:

    "No other media organisation has done as much to humiliate the Royal Family and the traditional aristocracy."

    I'd hate to break your dewy eyed view of the royal state scroungers - but I think they did that mostly themselves.
    Never mind, I'm sure you can buy a nice plate to commemorate the day we will all pay for despite the majority not wanting it.

  • Comment number 37.

    For anyone who is on the payroll of the BBC to complain about NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch and concentration of journalistic power really is a case of the kettle calling the pot black. I don't particularly care for Murdoch or Sky, but were he to be denied the right to buy the stake in BSkyB, then the BBC should broken up into separate radio and TV channels, sold off and privatised.

    As for Vince Cable, have we already forgotten that just two weeks ago he thought he would abstain and possibly vote against his own policy on student fees. He is increasingly demonstrating a clear lack of judgment in all his political dealings. He should stick to funny one liners in PMQs because he's becomging a bit of a joke.

  • Comment number 38.

    I do hope that someone gets up in the Commons and makes a cheap and memorable remark pointing out that in a matter of a few days Mr Cable seems to have gone from "St Vince" to Mr Bean.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    At least Murdoch found out in time that Cable had declared war on him. What about other business leaders, who may be the subject of an important decision by him- they will never know if he has already decided their case on the basis of some strange personal prejudice, rather than the evidence? How can anyone have confidence in him? And if he is only now doing half of his job, will he be going on half pay?

  • Comment number 41.

    I try to care, but to be honest, politicians exist to exercise power, nominally for the good of the electorate. Mostly I suspect for idealogical reasons. This is why we have an independent judiciary, to challenge the decisions of politicians if necessary.

    Due process in Government is a noble idea, I suspect that it is rarely practised that way.

  • Comment number 42.

    The question I would ask is why is the Secretary of State for Business expected to act in a dispassionate, logical and fair-minded way? He's a politician, he SHOULD have opinions and be biased, otherwise why he is even in politics? For the money I hear the cynics cry... but seriously, if an unbiased and logical decision is required then don't give the power to a politician.

    In a similar vein, and as tweeted by at least one Lib-Dem MP - why is the Telegraph making headlines out of the fact that not everyone in the government agrees with everyone else - whoop-do-doo, scoop of the century!!! And to think they had to get some pretty girls to deliberately LIE and DECEIVE an elected representative, acting in their role not as a government minister but a local MP, to find that out. Rather pathetic journalism if you ask me - is that why you left Robert?

    It's pretty obvious to me that the Telegraph has it in for the Lib-Dems - they wish to bring the coalition down so that the Tories can have full rein to introduce banker-friendly policies. We can't have those woolly-minded pinko Liberals threatening the banks, who do they think they are, I imagine them saying. I'm no lover of Clegg and co. personally but I'd rather have them constraining the Tories from within the cabinet than from the opposition benches, so I really rather hope the Telegraph fails in this very transparent attempt to disrupt democracy.

  • Comment number 43.

    33. At 11:51am on 22nd Dec 2010, Chris London wrote:

    "8. At 10:58am on 22nd Dec 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    Of all the things you could campaign about at present.... How sad, how sad"

    Really - so you obviously don't think that the independence of our media is important - prefer something more like Italy and Berlusconi would you? How can any campaign be given a fair hearing whenthe majority of our media is controlled by a single corporation?

    I think that's sad.

    ...and don't worry, I'm not a "one campaign guy" - I am actively involved in many campaigns so they will not suffer.

    What have YOU DONE in the war Chris? - done a bit of moaning on BBC blogs and hope that will change the world?

    Sad.....how very sad....

  • Comment number 44.

    Robert - you can't really apply the same rules to media mergers as to other mergers, and just put it in the hands of the OFT (or Ofcom) and the Competition Commission as you suggest.

    That's because most mergers raise economic questions (simplistically, will the price of the product may rise due to the reduction in competitive constraints). But media mergers raise media plurality issues which are fundamentally political in nature - whether or not it matters whether a single person controls a lot of media outlets, whether its corrosive to democracy and so on. Egghead economists and other technical experts only have a limited amount to contribute to the debate.

    I think it's unfortunate that there is now an obsession with turning genuinely political questions into bogus questions of professional expertise - as if a clever economist thinking about it hard enough and with adequate information could reach a theoretically "right" answer. It doesn't make for good policy. Vince Cable should be free to say he is suspicious of Murdoch and dislikes his influence on public life, and that he is making a political decision to block the merger. We can then as voters all judge whether that's right in the interests of democracy or a restriction on business freedoms. It's different if you're looking at, say, a merger of widget makers as that is fundamentally an economic rather than political question.

    Experts do have much to contribute to policy. But - and I'm afraid journalists like you have fallen victim to this - there is a big move to deify them and apply their undoubted skills in a bogus way to areas which really aren't at core about their field of knowledge.

  • Comment number 45.

    Where on earth was this experienced politician's antennae when he was being questioned by two strangers in his surgery about the deepest detail of Lib Dem policy? The giggling girl in the background of the clips was hardly able to contain her delight at what he was revealing. Cable's hubristic proclamation of bringing down the coalition says it all.

  • Comment number 46.

    Vince Cable has some powerful enemies, he is the most openly critical mainstream politician when it comes to the Banking sector (not just the taxpayer subsidised ones) and his views on the monopolistic Murdoch empire are no secret. He has been foolish to speak so openly when he is such an obvious target for a smear campaign, but that is all. Lets have some thorough investigative reporting from the BBC on matters of finance and business, you are currently just mouthpieces for the vetsted interests.

  • Comment number 47.

    37. At 11:55am on 22nd Dec 2010, Kevin S wrote:

    "For anyone who is on the payroll of the BBC to complain about NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch and concentration of journalistic power really is a case of the kettle calling the pot black. I don't particularly care for Murdoch or Sky, but were he to be denied the right to buy the stake in BSkyB, then the BBC should broken up into separate radio and TV channels, sold off and privatised."

    Kevin - are we confused about the difference between 'public' and 'private' ownership?

  • Comment number 48.

    #37

    "then the BBC should broken up into separate radio and TV channels, sold off and privatised."

    Why exactly would you want to do something that completely idiotic?

  • Comment number 49.

    "So whether you like Mr Murdoch or hate Mr Murdoch, it was straightforwardly and unambiguously in the public interest for Mr Cable's remarks about Mr Murdoch to be put in the public domain."

    I strongly disagree.

    The most likely outcome now is that Murdoch's takeover will be successful. I predict that, within 5 years or less, we'll have a UK version of Fox "News" that will be well on its way to tearing apart the UK in the same manner that the original's done to the USA.

    And that is most decidedly NOT in the public interest.

  • Comment number 50.

    Widow Twanky at war with the Dirty Digger, what an interesting scenario.

  • Comment number 51.

    40. At 12:00pm on 22nd Dec 2010, barrystir wrote:

    "At least Murdoch found out in time that Cable had declared war on him. What about other business leaders, who may be the subject of an important decision by him- they will never know if he has already decided their case on the basis of some strange personal prejudice, rather than the evidence?"

    Do you mean like the sheffield steel works loan?

  • Comment number 52.

    If Cable is the only one able to stand up to the corporations in LibDems, what does that say about the party?

  • Comment number 53.

    Regarding the Sky decision, in the FT Andrew Hill says that “...the presiding minister has limited ability to wrench the regulatory machinery in a different direction”.
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/11c629e2-0d41-11e0-82ff-00144feabdc0.html

    Robert Peston says in his blog “The important point is that Mr Cable was the final judge - on his own, with almost absolute power - about whether this takeover should be allowed to proceed. This would have been a personal decision, not a cabinet one, under the terms of the 2002 Enterprise Act.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2010/12/unanswered_questions_about_cab.html

    These views seem orthogonal. Which is correct?

  • Comment number 54.

    This war on murdoch 'leak' looks like a stage managed event. Cable has lost a lot of credibility after allowing the bankers to pile more debt on the students. He would lose even more credibility if he gave Murdoch what he wanted. He can't be seen to do this so this has been passed on for someone else to sanction while Cable partially repairs his people's champion image..

  • Comment number 55.

    Good to see that the Boris Johnson trick of 'blaming the last guy' is being adopted by the coalition - unfortunately this trick only works for a short period - as Boris is finding out with his incompetence of running public transport in London - you cannot blame the last guy forever!
    -------------
    I'm sorry, but are you suggesting that Boris Johnson invented blaming the previous incumbent? And suggesting this cannot be kept up forever? That is absolute twaddle, on both counts.

    Labour used that tactic for 13 straight years (we called it the 'previous conservative government argument' in my family, for the stock response to any question on any issue when another argument was deemed inadequate), only at the end mixing it with 'fear what they will do next' and I am sure the Coalition will use it for as long as they possibly can as well.

    It has nothing to do with Johnson, Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems or any other party. It is just a standardized piece of political behaviour. See also the common criticism of Tories for years being they didn't have their own policies with Labour now claiming that is not what opposition is about - again, not taking sides, but it is done by all.

    Oh, and downgrading growth figures isn't lying - they are always adjusting these things, up and down, as new data emerges, and seem to be only marginally more reliable than economic forecasts, whoever is in charge. I watched an old HIGNFY recently with Robert Peston as a guest commenting how it had been years since the Treasury's estimates had been(pause) accurate. Not a political point, despite your efforts to make it so. Much like the politicising of the main bit of this Telegraph story in fact.

  • Comment number 56.

    This is clearly an over complicated method to publises the Christmas Strictly Come Dancing show.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm astonished at Robert Peston's naivite´ re the nature of politicians in office. How anyone would expect a minister in office to have an utterly dispassionate attitude to matters relating to the possible takeover of the UK's major commercial media by a man with Rupert Murdoch's track record, is beyond me. Vince Cable should be saluted for his views and attitude, not pilloried!

  • Comment number 58.

    WOTW you say you speak for the majority in the UK? Hilarious.

    The other Sunday evening 17 million people saw fit to watch the final of X factor (you can count them out of your revolution in case you were wondering - they are quite happy being entertained by Simon Cowell et al). At the same time another 5 million were watching antiques roadshow (again not convinced they are a constituency that up for storming the barricades). Statistically another 2 million or so were at the pub getting drunk and another 2 million were watching Sky Sports. You hopefully take my point by now. If not, I'll be clear, you speak for a disaffected minority and that's it. Sorry to disappoint you.

  • Comment number 59.

    Robert Peston wonders whether he is being naive. I'm afraid he is. Just as during the banking crisis he came on TV night after night emphasising all the negatives and playing down any positives (cause and effect), now his actions re Vince Cable will (a) undermine the coalition (b) reinvigorate the Labour Party which deserves to be in opposition for much longer and (c) hand BSkyB to Murdoch on a plate.
    Mr Peston must realise that as a senior figure in the BBC he has wide responsibilities. Judging by remarks of Murdoch senior and junior, they are out to get the BBC. Now the decision rests with Jeremy Hunt, who doesn't appear to be any friend of the BBC.
    Probably Mr Peston will get a job with the Murdochs when they finally establish their monopoly, but many of us will not welcome that day.

    With friends like Mr Peston, does the BBC need enemies?

  • Comment number 60.

    The laugh is "Cable goes to war with Murdoch" is actually a non-story. Did anyone 'not' think Vince was loading himself up against Murdoch?

    The bigger story is that Vince practically admitted that the Lib Dem strategy in dealing with the Tories is to pick their battles. Now, I'm generally a Lib Dem sympathiser and Vince 'was' my local MP for several years. Picking your battles is the smartest strategy there is in this situation but with all due respect to Nick, Clegg and the rest of them...they've picked the wrong battles.

    Say what you will about Murdoch...my opinions on Sky are very much mixed. The fact is that no one was counting on the Lib Dems to take on Murdoch. And yet, they've not gotten in the way of Tories concernng tuition fees despite election promises.

    In one way, Vince and the Lib Dems have regained some credibility by showing that once and for all they are operating with some principles within the coalition government. However they really would have been better off leaving Murdoch be for the time being and concentrating on the business they said they'd take care of.

  • Comment number 61.

    It does seem a bit strange that both Vince & the Telegraph would part with their best shot. It's hard to believe that old Vincy could be beguiled by a winning smile from a cub reporter. More to the point it's also odd that one person should have this decision in his own hands. Maybe it's more roundabout than we first imagine. Maybe cunning old Vincy has actually done this on purpose to rally the Lib Dem riotous troops who are all ready to bring the house down ? I hope so. This travesty of neo-Thatcherite "coalition" has not long to run and it is possible that Vince thought this might be a way to hasten it's eventual demise.

    Power mad, greedy Murdoch would have probably had his was anyway, he always does. I am sure if Vince had vetoed the take over he would have found a way to discredit him and ensure his own way, he just throws money at everything until he gets his way. The decision on the take over should be decided by parliament and not by a single person who's mind one never knows. These are very important issues and a matter of freedom of speech should be debated by everyone.

    Someone else here posed the question "when will the British people wake up", Carl Marx gave up on the British saying that they were all too aspirational and all wanted to live in a castle with a mote. Perhaps it's time we became aspiration about the things that matter for our people. Poverty, we are one of the five richest countries on the planet and people are still living in misery and squalor. Health, we still spend less per head on health than any other developed western country. Education, we are about to be the most expensive university provider in the developed world. Housing, we are about to try and throw thousands of people out on the street as a result of cuts to housing benefit. I could run the list to the bottom of the page.

    The Lib Dems did have a vision of more equality,less involvement in policing the world, taking revolting bonuses from bailed out bankers etc and I believe Vince was at the front of that vision. Unfortunately, they made the wrong turn and should have ignored overtures from the Tory party and if needs be forced another election. Still it's not too late and I believe this could be the beginning of the end for this tawdry lash up.

  • Comment number 62.

    So it looks like the revelations from the Telegraph were selective.

    Perhaps it is a good time to ask whether the revelations from Wikileaks are selective?

    Nothing yet of any relevance to American Israeli relations.

  • Comment number 63.

    # 39 writingsonthewall

    You are quite right to point out the disgraceful sponsorship deal Boris has done with a 'loan' company that charges 2600%.

    This demonstrates the need for a strong 'Business Secretary', not the lame duck we now have in Cable.

    It also demonstrates the mistake of having a Mayor in the first place - the role puts far too much power in the hands of one person. Most Londoners breathed a sigh of relief when Red Ken was sent packing, but Boris has proved to be a huge disappointment.

    This coalition wants to give more 'power to the people' but in reality this means more power to local politicians or inept unelected officials.

    This country is crying out for proper management - and this includes a strong Business Secretary, not the token LibDem stooge we now have.

  • Comment number 64.

    In business jargon I would have thought a WIN/WIN for the CON part of the CONDEM's, I mean having that one nuisance bull castrated! Simply the GAME of politics, for sure it can be more devious than YES MINISTER! What was that other TV programme called, HOUSE OF CARDS was it? sorry my memory is failing but I think that the actor chap? played eh URQUHART....Anyways the real life stuff is better...BRING BACK SPITTING IMAGE.........

  • Comment number 65.

    Murdoch can't win if the people don't bother with his rubbish.

    People are going to have to learn that their power, their choice about what kind of country they want isn't something decided only at the ballot box.

    I hear the new Volunteer Revenue and Customs people are always looking for volunteers. Any tax accountants who are worried about retribution can always call Julian (while he is still in the country) or talk to his mates at wikileaks.

  • Comment number 66.

    The fact that most people get their 'news' from the BBC or the Murcoch press is reflected in the numbers of people that watch soaps,X Factor, football and the rest of the trivia. These are the modern day bread and circuses to appease the masses and thereby control them. These small intrigues regarding Cable and Murcoch are the bread and circuses for the slightly more informed Radio 4 audience..

  • Comment number 67.

    Two points:
    .what do we know about Jeremy Hunt. Why are the majority who comment say he is a supporter of Murdoch? I'd like somebody to tell me a bit about his track record.
    .What would be the real impact of 100% Murdoch ownership? Sky fees rise with remarkable regularity today. Nobody insists that Sky make their stbs (set top boxes) 'open'. Nobody insists that Sky satellite material be available on non Sky sourced stbs.
    Nobody seems to be able to influence Sky's editorial stance, even without 100% ownership.
    Everything Sky does seems influenced by the Murdoch dynesty already!

  • Comment number 68.

    "They were straightforwardly inappropriate"

    Might they also be illegal? What woudl the shares in news corp have done, had the Tel reporters fed that info to the city? Cable is an utter fool. He was what he has always looked - a doddering old prat, totally out of his depth.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think you have to separate the controversy of the topic being discussed (the BSB merger) and the conduct of the participants. I won't comment on the politics of the merger. Whether you are for or against the merger, you can't use it to condone or condemn the conduct.

    In terms of conduct neither Mr Cable nor the Telegraph have demonstrated integrity. And both should be shamed.

    - Mr Cable has demonstrated he has pre-judged an important political and economoic issue, for which his governmental role is to be the impartial decision maker. He has to put his ministerial principals before his party principals first now that he is in government.
    - Mr Cable has demonstrated a lack professional discretion on revealing aspects of this senstive topic to complete strangers.

    - The Telegraph have demonstrated dishonest subtefuge in trying to make a story. This behaviour is not in the interests of democracy. Just because it revealed Mr Cable's lack of integrity doesn't justify these dishonest tactics.
    - The Telegraph have demonstrated that their own political interests trumped their journalist principles by trying to hide the big issue they uncovered (albeit by dishonest means).

    The Telegraph's lack of journalistic principles is just as worrying as Mr Cables lack of integrity and discretion.


    The BBC were right to publish it ... and should persue the Telegraph conduct further.

  • Comment number 70.

    Vince Cable is that extremely rare thing - a decent policitian with convictions. It seems clear that he has been stitched up by the Telegraph for their own purposes. Rupert Murdoch will no doubt be delighted but Cameron and his cohorts must be embarrassed by the whole debacle - and if Cable decides to walk away, as he is clearly aware, the coalition would become highly unstable.

  • Comment number 71.

    Qhatever you may feel about Mr Murdoch, you can always vote with your wallet. I understand he only does it for money.

    TYIW

  • Comment number 72.

    Robert,
    You must excuse me but from where most of us are sitting one is is inclined to come to two rather worrying conclusions from the comments that you have made to date. Firstly, your initial article appeared to champion a rift in the coalition and one has to question why you felt that to be your role - a dispassionate agenda? Secondly, it won't have gone unnoticed by many that, once it became clear that the decision on Sky had now passed away from "Vanity Vince", there was a distinct possibility that it might not go the way that the BBC might like - a bit of a shot in the foot? Your third from last para leaves little doubt as to how you would wish to "encourage" Mr Hunt in his new duties.

  • Comment number 73.

    No need to attack the Telegraph. They are, after all, a commercial organisation and you can't expect them to be totally disinterested in their commercial interests in the name of "good journalism". In particular, we shouldn't let this side issue distract us, in any way, from what is a complete disaster for the Government. Cable's performance means that whatever decision the Government takes, on the Murdoch takeover, it will be tainted and lack authority. His performance is such that he should have done "the honourable thing" rather than leave his fate in the hands of Cameroon and Clegg, who, themselves, are now exposed as weak by not putting him out of his misery.

  • Comment number 74.

    Should the BBC have revealed the leak? Yes.

    - Once a journalist uncovers, discovers or happens upon an important truth, he/she cannot bury just because it conflicts with their own political interests (as the Telegraph has tried to do). He/she has a professional, moral obligation to report it, else he undermines his whole raison d'etre.

    Should the Telegraph have attempted to entrap Mr Cable? No.

    - Journalist should not act as prime movers to generate / create news stories, or as catalysts to move "stories along" at a pace to suit the needs of 24 hour news channels, or as provocatuers goading other parties to make ever more conflicting statements.

  • Comment number 75.

    I can't see what the problem is.

    Vince has three hats, Minister in the government, constituency MP and the personal one he is wearing in the picture.

    Wearing his Business Minister hat he makes decisions/statements on Business without prejudice or regard for his constituents or his cat.

    Wearing his MP hat he makes decisions/statements on constituency matters without prejudice or regard for his cat.

    Wearing his own hat he decides what flavour kitty crunchies to buy.

    As long as he identifies which hat he is wearing when he decides\speaks then everything is fine.


  • Comment number 76.

    Ironically, we had some Australian friends staying with us when this all broke. They commented that in Australia no one individual or organisation is allowed to own a newspaper AND a television station. They reckoned that is why Rupert Murdoch gave up his Australian citizenship to become an American.

    I lived in Hong Kong when Murdoch had the (monopoly) early satellite transmission into China and it included BBC World Service at that time. The BBC did a documentary that was critical of Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese government told him that if we wanted to keep his service into China then he would have to drop the BBC - so without a murmur he did just that. What hope of independent journalism from him if commercial pressure is applied?

    oldchinahand

  • Comment number 77.

    Vince Cable seems happy to be the beneficiary of politics over convictions. Whatever your views on Murdoch how can someone accept a role requiring impartiality when their private view is to go to war before even bothering to read the cases. This is about as honest as having a responsibilty in preparing policy but saying he may not vote for it.

  • Comment number 78.

    Is the question about Rupert Murdoch not actually twofold?

    1. The Market Dominance Question - Should any individual own or influence so many newspapers and broadcasters?

    2. The Extremism Question - Is the way that Rupert Murdoch directs, runs, or allows to be run, the editorial policy of some of his outlets in the the USA contrary to the principles of free speech and so (right wing) extremist that he (and his organisation) are rendered unfit persons to own or control 'any' media in the UK?

    Perhaps Jeremy Hunt should address both of these questions....

    We need to maintain both a free press and a non-extremist moderate press to ensure social cohesion in the trying economic decades ahead. We can no more afford left wing, right wing or religious extremists if the country is to saved from further social polarisation, disintegration and the real threat of revolutionary change (The Daily Telegraph should also remember this too!)

  • Comment number 79.

    Sorry Robert, this sounds like you're trying to justify your actions and stance to yourself, when you have at least some doubt as to whether you did the right thing by not only publishing the comments, but by backing the attack on Cable too.

    You didn't. Publishing the comments is fine, but your suggestion that Cable shouldn't have made his mind up is stupid, and wrong. The vast majority of the people in the country know full damn well that Murdoch's news corporation is too powerful, specifically ever since that fateful election in the US, Bush vs. Al Gore where the declaration of Bush as president was influenced by Murdoch's media outlet despite the fact that Al Gore seemed to be the actual winner people have known that Murdoch's media empire definitely cannot be allowed to get any bigger.

    Your assumption that Vince needed any feedback to know what the rest of us already know is ludicrous.

    As an aside, I'd just like to say shame on David Miliband and Labour, shame of them for rather than producing any actual policy announcements, they so rabidly attack the opposition that they're willing to cut their nose off to spite their face and attack the government in defence of News Corporation. This is evidence if anything is that despite a new leader Labour are definitely not fit to govern still, the fact they can't come up with policy but would rather defend an organisation many feel is detrimental to society, and even helped influence the last election against Labour if it means they get the slightest opportunity to attack the government shows how shallow they are. This Labour, is precisely why you were not, and still are not electable.

    Still, perhaps when Murdoch's Tory friends enable the takeover to go through, perhaps when his empire has succeded in further weakening the BBC through lobbying, you'll be able to apply for a job there Robert. Or is that what you were after all along? Maybe you've got what you wanted out of this, but don't expect the public to like or respect you as a journalist for much longer.

  • Comment number 80.

    This may lead to a stronger Rupert Murdoch and a weakened BBC but the corollary is that Robert Peston has demonstrated that as a news source the BBC can be trusted to break the story irrespective of its vested interests. This stands in shining contrast to the Telegraph which would not. It also stands in shining contrast to the Murdoch press too as it is inconceivable they would publish anything that damages the commercial interests of their owner.

    I think we all know that the world's free press will publish a story in a particular way in order to push a particular agenda and we know that they frequently claim they publish in the public interest but this story highlights the fact that sometimes that same press will withhold a story for its own ends and implicitly suggest it is not in the public interest to know. They must think they are God. This, I think, goes to the very heart of concerns about media ownership and the control of information - it is not just what we are told and how or why we are told it, it is also about what we are not told and why we are not told it, and by whom.

    Well done, Robert. A good story to break even if Murdoch gains to the detriment of the BBC. You are also right to keep a focus on the Telegraph here. A thorough debate needs to be had.

  • Comment number 81.

    55. At 12:14pm on 22nd Dec 2010, Kieran wrote:

    "I'm sorry, but are you suggesting that Boris Johnson invented blaming the previous incumbent? And suggesting this cannot be kept up forever? That is absolute twaddle, on both counts."

    Not to the extent which Mr Johnson has.

    "Labour used that tactic for 13 straight years (we called it the 'previous conservative government argument' in my family, for the stock response to any question on any issue when another argument was deemed inadequate), only at the end mixing it with 'fear what they will do next' and I am sure the Coalition will use it for as long as they possibly can as well."

    Now that's twaddle - you see the difference between Labour blaming the previous Government was there were actually policies which they reversed - however Boris tends to bring in the policy and then blame the previous encumbant for it - whilst having the audacity to claim credit for everything good the previous encumbant started which was completed during his reign.

    You'll find out just how effective this has been when you are finally told what the cost of replacing the bendy buses is to the taxpayer.

    "It has nothing to do with Johnson, Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems or any other party. It is just a standardized piece of political behaviour. See also the common criticism of Tories for years being they didn't have their own policies with Labour now claiming that is not what opposition is about - again, not taking sides, but it is done by all."

    Labour couldn't really blame the previous Government as they continued with the same pspending plans that previous Government had. Can you provide any instances when Labour blamed the Tories during the last Government?

    "Oh, and downgrading growth figures isn't lying - they are always adjusting these things, up and down, as new data emerges, and seem to be only marginally more reliable than economic forecasts, whoever is in charge."

    ...but strangely the initial 'positive' figures are presented with a large media fanfare - which is noticeably absent when the revisions come. I've also noticed a much greater number and size of revisions since the recession started - coincidence? - or evidence of an attempt to manipulate public opinion?

    "I watched an old HIGNFY recently with Robert Peston as a guest commenting how it had been years since the Treasury's estimates had been(pause) accurate. Not a political point, despite your efforts to make it so. Much like the politicising of the main bit of this Telegraph story in fact."

    ....so why does Robert (and others) not publicise caution when commenting on the initial figures? - Strange I have never seen a warning accompanying them stating "these numbers may be inaccurate and should not be relied upon"

    Maybe the reason the revisions keep coming is because of the way in which CEO's lie to themselves as well as us - right up until the point of going bust - the news is always supplemented with a positive outlook.

    http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=514142&in_page_id=2

  • Comment number 82.

    Cable being honest - how stupid!

    I agree with WOTW
    18. At 11:20am on 22nd Dec 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    "Smear, smear, smear - the game is getting nasty - the state is lying to us at all levels now."

    Unfortunately WOTW does himself no favours in using the patronising "sheeple" (31) which makes it appear that he thinks he's the fount of all knowledge and everyone else is a blind fool.

    Actually, the true losers in all this are the constituents (what's new?)......"The Business Secretary thought he was meeting constituents but they were actually Telegraph journalists."
    Like em or loath em MPs do have a use in sorting out intractable problems for their constituents although WOTW no doubt thinks they are just "sheeple" too incompetent to do it for themselves. Anyway, in future if you need to see your MP you had better take your passport, rates bill, bank statement, car tax demand with your address on it, NI number, tax reference etc.

    It'll make proving your identity with a bank a piece of Christmas cake by comparison.

  • Comment number 83.

    Initially Cameron and Clegg held a press conference to explain that they had met with Mr Cable, did not agree with his comments and that he apologised unreservedly. However, the ‘Murdoch’ news broke much later and as far as I can see no one has asked why Mr Cable did not mention this revelation when he first met with Cameron and Clegg given that it all took place at the same time with the same undercover journalists.
    Mr Cable must be asked why he did not spill all of the beans at the same time.

  • Comment number 84.

    Something is seriously wrong here. Why are we in a situation where an important decision, which is supposed to be taken in an impartial way, is left to a politician? Politicians are not impartial, and are not supposed to be impartial.

    Why can't the decision on Murdoch and Sky be made by a court?

  • Comment number 85.

    I think despite the hopes of neutering Murdoch' empire building in the UK, it was right for this to come out. What was most egregiously amusing was Cable's obnoxious posturing that if he resigned, the government could be 'brought down'. Even if that ludocrous assertion were true, whose interests would that be in Vince? Certainly not the voters, and not business either as the value of the pound crashes through the floor. What an ego...I'm certainly glad he has been taken down a peg or two. Aside from some wonderful analysis of the credit crunch at the time, he has since been sulky and ineffective once actually being elected to office.

  • Comment number 86.

    "The important point is that Mr Cable was the final judge - on his own, with almost absolute power - about whether this takeover should be allowed to proceed. This would have been a personal decision, not a cabinet one, under the terms of the 2002 Enterprise Act."

    Absolutely. Whatever one feels about Cable's competence, or the lack thereof, it is this crazy power focus on a single politician that is at the root of the problem.

    Business mergers are for business reasons and should never be left to politicians to control in the first place as they are driven by subjective politics rather than long term business goals. We are not short of mouthy politicians in the UK but we are short of sound businesses.

    The number of appalling business decisions made by elected politicians over the decades is legion and the country really need some more objective way of handling routine matters like mergers without suffering from the random, loose cannon effect of meddling politicians playing to the popular crowd.

  • Comment number 87.

    82. At 13:05pm on 22nd Dec 2010, pietr8 wrote:
    Anyway, in future if you need to see your MP you had better take your passport, rates bill, bank statement, car tax demand with your address on it, NI number, tax reference etc.
    ========================
    Yes, it is a great shame that they cancelled Identity Cards!


  • Comment number 88.

    58. At 12:17pm on 22nd Dec 2010, a_sensible_comment wrote:

    "WOTW you say you speak for the majority in the UK? Hilarious."

    Well clearly accuracy isn't your forte - I said "the people" who speak for the majority - not myself.
    Maybe you like the Murdoch empire because you're not so keen on facts....

    "The other Sunday evening 17 million people saw fit to watch the final of X factor (you can count them out of your revolution in case you were wondering"

    Really? - do you have any idea how TV ratings work? - Time you took an education in the counting of ratings statistics and all the major holes there are in their collection. There weren't 17 million people watching X-factor last week - I mean have you ever been offered a ratings box?
    What do you think it records when those who are signed up for ratings leave the room and let the TV 'talk to itself' for hours? - don't you think the huge number of repeats of the same programme make this effect multiply the ratings somewhat? - or did you really think 17 million people signed a questionairre stating they watched it?
    "At the same time another 5 million were watching antiques roadshow (again not convinced they are a constituency that up for storming the barricades)."

    You need to learn a little more about collecting statistics for TV ratings before you use the viewing figures of antiques roadshow as evidence of apathy. I watched antiques roadshow last week - am I included in the 'constituency' your prejudice describes?

    "Statistically another 2 million or so were at the pub getting drunk and another 2 million were watching Sky Sports. You hopefully take my point by now. If not, I'll be clear, you speak for a disaffected minority and that's it. Sorry to disappoint you."

    You have disappointed nobody - except your school maths teacher - who will be very disappointed in your inability to understand statistics and the importance of recognising the pitfalls of making such assumptions.

    Still - we're all here to learn - and now you have learnt (I hope).

  • Comment number 89.

    84. At 13:07pm on 22nd Dec 2010, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:
    Why can't the decision on Murdoch and Sky be made by a court?
    ---------------------------------------------------

    I am sure that in the end it will be.

  • Comment number 90.

    84. At 13:07pm on 22nd Dec 2010, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:
    Why can't the decision on Murdoch and Sky be made by a court?
    ==========
    Have not the European competition authorities already ruled? in favour of News International I believe

  • Comment number 91.

    The power has NOT been passed from Vince Cable to Jeremy Hunt, but from and to their respective Departments of Government.

    If I was even a junior employee at BIS, I would be furious that my Department had been emasculated as a consequence of the Minister's indiscretion.

    Cable is NOT the linchpin holding the coalition Cabinet together, and Government would function just as well (better?) if he was to depart the scene.

    I strongly hope that any LibDem get-together over the festive season will be used to advise Cable of the error of his ways, and that he will do the decent thing and resign - no longer with dignity (he should have gone immediately his role was diminished by the Prime Minister).

    If he wants to see how far he has fallen in the public esteem, he should reflect that whereas he has almost invariably been referred to as "Vince Cable" he is now merely "Cable" (to be known by surname only is rarely a mark of respect or admiration).

  • Comment number 92.

    The real issue is the complete naivety of Vince Cable in speaking about confidential ministerial issues during a constituency surgery. The same goes for the other ministers shopped by the Telegraph.

  • Comment number 93.

    63. At 12:30pm on 22nd Dec 2010, DistantTraveller wrote:

    "Most Londoners breathed a sigh of relief when Red Ken was sent packing, but Boris has proved to be a huge disappointment."

    ...only those who love their cars did - and of course all those who were fooled by the (now unfounded) allegations against the LDA (perpetuated by a 1 Andrew Gilligan I believe - someone who clearly others think is a 'good man' despite his record of getting things spectacularly wrong (Dr David Kelly) and his total dislike of public transport.

    The election of Boris was like that episode of the Simpsons when Homer gets elected to run the town council. He smears his opponent (a man who actually delivered things in a non-fanfare way) and finds that the voters are more easily fooled than he thinks - and he wins the post.

    he then embarks on a crusade to ensure that the "garbage man can do everything for you" - popular with the voters but which ends in total budget meltdown.

    Sound familiar?

    That's what London is in line for - voting in celebrities never works - it failed with Arnold Schwarzenegger (ending in total budget meltdown) and it's going to be the same result with Boris.

  • Comment number 94.

    The entrapment thing here is really worriesome and eats away at the very basis of our democracy.

    I mean if an MP cannot safely discuss matters with constituents in his/her surgery then that's not all that far off finding out your GP has secretly video'd your medical consultation, or that the confessional has been wired up for sound.

    I mean who said that Vince Cable's remarks were "for the record"?

    Congratulations, Tony Gallagher and the crew at the Telegraph, another part of society that we will no longer be able to trust safely thanks to your need to "get a story" and "sell newspapers".

    Will we find MPs and Councillors surgeries cut down due to fears of covert recording of their comments and actions? What a help to democracy that will be for everyone .... not.

    Will MPs and Councillors just listen to their constituents and mutter "No comment" rather than offer any advice or support for fear they are being recorded and that they are unable to ever make a comment to anyone that is "off the record"?

    And why have any sort of debate about whether "media takeovers should become subject to the same rules as almost all other takeovers"? Such debate would probably be hi-hacked by some media organisation for its own purposes before it had even started.

  • Comment number 95.

    73. At 12:54pm on 22nd Dec 2010, trippingpoint wrote:

    "No need to attack the Telegraph. They are, after all, a commercial organisation and you can't expect them to be totally disinterested in their commercial interests in the name of "good journalism"."

    ...and by extension the Murdoch press is only going to present stories in a way which benefits his own empire.
    It's funny how the 'laws of corporatism' are soon forgotten when it comes to politicans standing up to media moguls.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    I must be missing something...

    Murdoch already controls Sky even if he doesn't own it all. There's already a channel called Sky News that no-one pays any attention to, so who cares if owns the rest of the shares?

    Does Murdoch really have the kind of power in the UK that the politicians think he has? He controls the Sun which is a disgusting rag that has no credibility, and whatever bias it has is countered by the Mirror...

    As long as the BBC is public owned and impartial I don't care what Murdoch does. Even if that were to change the public has so much access to a variety of news sources these days that I don't really see him as the threat he once was, are people like Vince Cable trying to fight yesterday's battle?

  • Comment number 98.

    Robert,

    How about this for a conspiracy...

    Could it be that the Tories orchestrated the whole honey trap so they could strip poor old Vince of his powers?

    After the election, the Tories were as keen as mustard to get into government and Vince was the Lib Dem's shining star. But in their rush to power, they forgot all about the up and coming News Corp/ BSkyB deal, and Vince got the job of business secretary.

    Now, after a few months in power, they have been reminded by Murdoch that he wants his pound of flesh for backing the Tories, but as Vince had sole responsibility to veto the deal, they could do absolutely nothing about it. They couldn't sack him for fear of the coalition collapsing and they couldn't move him (at least until the next cabinet reshuffle)

    Until now.

    It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see that the Tory central office has it's fingerprints all over this.

    Ironically for Vince, he is now a hundred times more popular than his boss Clegg with grass-roots Liberal Democrats and voters. Could there be a leadership challenge around the corner?

  • Comment number 99.

    82. At 13:05pm on 22nd Dec 2010, pietr8 wrote:

    "Unfortunately WOTW does himself no favours in using the patronising "sheeple" (31) which makes it appear that he thinks he's the fount of all knowledge and everyone else is a blind fool."

    I don't know what gives you that impression? Clearly I am disappointed with the number off people in denial about the ongoing situation, but I don't think they're not clever enough to work it out for themselves.
    What the sheeple do is put their self interest before the facts - their crime is to not see where this will end up. Everyday the 'sheeple' dwindle in number as they are awakened to crisis unfolding.
    I may be totally wrong and infact the sheeple are already planning their fightback - there is always hope that the people of this 'so called great nation' actually demonstrate their greatness by overthrowing this shambolic and corrupt system which is conspiring against them.

    "Like em or loath em MPs do have a use in sorting out intractable problems for their constituents although WOTW no doubt thinks they are just "sheeple" too incompetent to do it for themselves."

    Not at all - I think this is the only worthwhile activity that MP's do - it's a shame so many of them dedicate so little time to it. I do agree it's scandalous that reporters are wasting valuable consultancy time with MP's trying to engineer a story.

  • Comment number 100.

    When I first read about VC’s remarks I thought it was ‘something and nothing’ i.e. not really important. Yes VC was naive but to me what he said was reflective of many meetings where different views are made around a table to enable the best strategy to emerge. When a leader surrounds themselves with yes people and people who agree with the leader there are signs of dictatorship. Thatcher and Blair being prime examples in their final years, which is why they had to go, the same could not be said for Brown because he had to go with who ever would sit with him!

    I now feel that I am being made to think that it is a big deal and ‘take sides’, perhaps many people like me felt it was something and nothing originally, so therefore action was needed to make the subject come to life and gain importance, hence RP’s Blog. Sorry Robert I think you wrote this blog in error, pinning your colours to the mast.

    I have complained that VC as not turned out to be what I expected or wanted. His lack of standing up to the plate and becoming the peoples champion is disappointing, so perhaps the only thing he did incorrectly was saying these things on the quiet and not on the podium.

 

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