Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Pressing The Nuclear Button

In amongst the heat and fog surrounding Vince Cable’s comments regarding the Dirty Digger, there are two things that strike me.

Firstly he did not say “I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win” – the quote is the very definition of taken out of context with the full quote being “No, he has minority shares and he wants a majority - and a majority control would give them a massive stake.

"I have blocked it using the powers that I have got and they are legal powers that I have got. I can't politicise it but from the people that know what is happening this is a big, big thing.  His whole empire is now under attack... So there are things like that we do in government, that we can't do... all we can do in opposition is protest."

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." .

I might be alone in this but I think that Cable meant that the News International perception was that he had declared war, by referring the bid in the first place (as opposed to waving the bid through as has been the precedent for the past 30 years).  Had he not opened his mouth, i suspect that “we” would have won.

The second point is about the impartiality issue.  News International owns “The Bun” and the “News of The Screws”, both of which are influential among key voters.  For this reason, politicians have been bending over backwards to accommodate the requests from News International, starting with the purchase of The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981.  New Labour were just as bad as the Tories when in office, so it is sad, but not a surprise, to see the Blairites John Denham & Hilary Benn rush to suck up to Rupe by sticking the knife in so quickly. It’s hardly consistent for the comentariat (those who have taken the Murdoch shilling in the past or now) to bleat on about impartiality.

Cable has blundered badly by revealing his thoughts and views to two strangers.  We shall see whether Cable will remain in post and for how long.  However the bigger punishment though will be paid by a broadcasting sector that will see a further strengthening of a dominant player.  Remember as well that Cameron & his then shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt were happy to shape their policies to the Diggers wishes – they advocated the scrapping of OFCOM and the reigning in of the BBC in columns penned for The Sun.  I think that we will now see News International given the green light to buy the rest of BSkyB, especially as it looks like Hunt has been given the decision over BSkyB.  Impartial huh!

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