A question of judgement

 

It was an £8bn bid for control of a media empire.

A politician would have to take the ultimate decision about whether News Corp would be allowed to take full control of BSkyB - whether, in other words, the Murdoch family empire extended its media power.

Vince Cable lost responsibility for that decision when his private views became public after he was recorded by an undercover reporter declaring that "'I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we're going to win".

Yet now we learn that the man who replaced him, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, had expressed equally strident - albeit pro rather than anti Murdoch - views in private in a draft memo to the prime minister, before he took over responsibility for the bid. As the minister responsible for the creative industries he wrote that: "The UK has the chance to lead the way. But if we block it (the bid) our media sector will suffer for years."

This is ammunition for the culture secretary's critics who say his mind was made up to give the Murdochs what they wanted. Before today we knew that Mr Hunt had described himself as a cheerleader for Mr Murdoch's achievements but not that he had so enthusiastically supported the bid. It is ammunition too for those who say the prime minister should never have asked him to take the quasi judicial role in deciding the bid.

When the culture secretary gives his own evidence to the Leveson Inquiry next week he is likely to point to another line in his memo: "It would be totally wrong for the government to get involved in a competition issue which has to be decided at arms length."

In other words, whatever his views he believed in allowing independent regulators - and not himself - the final say on a bid which has become a nightmare for this Coalition government.

 
Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 211.

    210.Eddy from Waring
    13 Minutes ago
    "It would be totally wrong for the government to get involved in a competition issue which has to be decided at arms length."

    ===

    Politicianese for "we must not be found out to be doing just that" I'd say.

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Exactamundo, my friend.

    Imagine all the things that were said verbally, not in writing...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 210.

    "It would be totally wrong for the government to get involved in a competition issue which has to be decided at arms length."

    ===

    Politicianese for "we must not be found out to be doing just that" I'd say.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 209.

    JB @ 201

    I think Cameron knows that unlike the ridiculous Fox case, if Hunt goes then a lot of people across the spectrum will wonder if he was sacrificed for the sake of his boss. I still think the weight of evidence is stacking against Hunt - he could always have turned this part of the job down and didn't.

    A challenge from DD, hmmm, lets see what the 'silly season' brings.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 208.

    John 201

    I was thinking the same just the other dat when I took down the somewhat dated colonial picture (air-brushed of course) of David Cameron and relegated it to the spare room. Out comes an old favourite - WH and the baseball hat.

    DD - It would be like the Tories accepting they made a mistake and you know...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 207.

    The civil service must shoulder a lot of the responsibility. They should have advised the PM not to appoint Hunt and they should have advised Hunt to use his political adviser to advise him on political matters, not to liaise on matters of due process with News International.
    Alan

 

Comments 5 of 211

 

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