I would have sacked Vince Cable for standing up to Murdoch – what Ed Miliband said 16 months ago

Ed Miliband The SunJeremy Hunt is in hot water today following the revelations at the Leveson Inquiry of the closeness of his relationship with the Murdochs during their attempted takeover of BSkyB.

The culture secretary was handed quasi-judicial responsibility for handling the deal after Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable was snared by the Telegraph declaring war on the Murdoch empire before it became fashionable.

According to the Guardian, the Labour party ‘is likely to demand an urgent Commons statement from Hunt to set out the nature of his exchanges with News Corp both before and after he was given quasi-judicial responsibility for the takeover.’

Quite right too. But before we give Labour too much credit for belatedly hitching themselves to the anti-Murdoch bandwagon, let’s recall Ed Miliband’s initial response when Vince Cable was stripped of his media regulatory powers for standing up to Rupert Murdoch:

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would have sacked Mr Cable.

“Having apparently breached the ministerial code and having said what he said, he shouldn’t be remaining in office and I fear that David Cameron has made this decision not because it’s good for the country, but because he is worried about the impact on his coalition of Vince Cable going.

If politicians like David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt and Ed Miliband had been a bit braver a little earlier , maybe the Murdochs wouldn’t have got the impression they were above the law.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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47 Comments

  • What about David laws and vicky price briefing about cable to Murdoch,looking forward to your article about that.

  • Well, obviously “for standing up to Murdoch” are your words, not Miliband’s. I suppose it would be pointless to suggest that you shouldn’t put words into quotation marks and attribute them to people when they haven’t said them – though I can imagine how you’d howl about journalistic standards if someone played the same trick on a Lib Dem minister.

    Of course the problem with Cable’s comments about Murdoch was that his role with regard to Murdoch was a quasi-judicial one, and it’s generally not considered appropriate for a judge to see himself as having “declared war” on one of the parties appearing before him. And the result of those inappropriate comments is that Cable wasn’t in a position to stand up to Murdoch at all, because he was relieved of that part of his responsibilities.

  • Stephen Tall 24th Apr '12 - 4:48pm

    Fair comment on the quotation marks – I’ve removed them.

  • Sorry but what a misleading headline…. Speech marks denote a direct quote and articles like this do you no credit whatsoever.

    Cable broke the code by discussing these matters in the way he did, in the forum he did. Whatever his multitude of failings, Milliband did not call for his sacking for standing up to Murdoch.

  • Stephen Tall

    Even by your low standards this is a bad article

    Again it is an example of one of LDV lead contributors setting up a Labour straw man instead of the real issue about the fact that the Tories were undermining Cable at every opportunity and Hunt was behaving in a far worse way than Cable did.

    I like Vince and would not have called for his resignation about this although he showed very poor judgement. It was touch and go though seeing that Cable was acting like a judge in this case and I do not think it was unreasonable that the opposition called for his resignation. I am sure Clegg would have done the dame pre-2010 if a Labour minister was involved

    It would be nice for Stephen to comment on the real substance of today’s events rather than this poor attempt

  • David Allen 24th Apr '12 - 5:04pm

    Every so often, I think that there might be some hope of the Lib Dems recovering a little of the integrity and self-respect they used to have. And then an article like this comes along.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 24th Apr '12 - 5:29pm

    W hat Cable should have been sacked for is allowing the MMC case against BSkyB to be undermined by his completely unprofessional manner in which he behaved in blabbing his views to some journalists before the decision was to be made. This then allowed Cameron to pass the decision to a more pliable acolyte. The only person responsible for Cable not being able to stand up Murdoch was Cable himself. It seems that not content with putting words into Milliband’s mouth you are also confusing Cable’s words to the Telegraph with taking an effective stance against Murdoch rather than self emasculation.

  • The title of this post is misleading even now you’ve removed the quotation marks. Ed Miliband simply didn’t say anything containing the pro-Murdoch sentiment you’ve ascribed to him. He got out in front of the phone-hacking scandal, at considerable political risk to himself, and you should be grateful that he had the balls to do it. You should change the title of this post and add a note of apology to your post .

    By the way – given Nick Clegg’s willingness to jump into bed with the Tories I have no doubt he’d have jumped into bed with the Murdochs if they’d shown any interest. One thing I’ll say about them – they know how to pick a winner. They clearly didn’t see one in Clegg.

  • Jayne Mansfield 24th Apr '12 - 6:45pm

    Much as I admire Vince Cable, he should have been sacked for what he said in the position that he held.

  • It’s worth remembering that Cable’s loose lips nearly handed BSkyB to Murdoch on a plate. If it hadn’t been for the phone hacking scandal suddenly exploding Murdoch would have won control of the company, and Cable would have been to blame.

  • Stephen Tall……….Even by your low standards this is a bad article……..

    I concur. Vince Cable was ‘sacked’, not for standing up to Murdoch (as you put it) but for playing “Rambo” to a couple of young women. If he’d kept his ego in his trousers the whole Murdoch /Hunt fiasco would not have happened.
    Before anyone imagines that Cable ‘did us a favour’ it should be remembered that it is only because of the ‘happenschance’ of the phone hacking scandal that Cable’s unprofessionalism didn’t result in th BSkyB deal going through.

  • Nice photo of Ed reading page 3 to illustrate this article.

  • Here’s a Lib Dem blog post that makes the point about the quasi-judicial nature of the decision and the importance of not making public pronouncements supporting a particular outcome in such cases (it was written by Stephen Tall today, in fact):
    http://stephentall.org/2012/04/24/in-my-day-quasi-judicial-actually-meant-something-why-jeremy-hunt-should-never-have-been-allowed-to-decide-on-bskyb-in-the-first-place/

  • Don’t worry.

    Mr Ed, as someone said, has developed the ability to ride two bandwagons at the same time…travelling in diametrically opposite directions.

  • I think this is misleading too. Miliband gave his reason, and it was a good one. Nick Clegg made clear the remarks were unacceptable, and some stories suggested Cable offered his resignation, so I don’t think they can be spun as a great public service.

  • More examples of politicians who have poor judgement . If any memberof the Armed Forces , especially those involved in security,special forces or intelligence work during the Cold War or involved with N Ireland , would have been reprimanded or even court martialled for such poor judgement.

    It is time all politicians and civil servants are expected to show the same degree of judgement as those serving in parts of the Armed Forces which need higher security clearance .

  • Also, note Lib Dem Voice at the time had a rousing criticism of Cable’s behaviour – https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-vince-wasnt-just-wrong-to-say-it-he-was-just-wrong-22497.html.

  • While Vince Cable was certainly unguarded when being secretly recorded by journalists posing as his constituents, he was only speaking what was most of us have been thinking for years. I’m rather pleased Vince was aiming to stuff Murdoch. Unprofessional maybe, but good to see someone wanting to have a go at the Murdoch empire after all the years of Thatcher/Blair sycophancy.

    I’m rather nauseated by this puff about Ed Miliband as the gallant Murdoch fighter. I guess you have to admire his timing, jumping on the bandwagon a few days before it became the respectable position. Hats off to Tom Watson and others who had been fighting that fight while the Labour leadership was still desperately seeking Murdoch’s favour.

  • G – its also worth remembering New Labour and their closeness the the Murdoch empire. Slumber party anyone?

  • alistair, when the emails come out showing that Labour passed on confidential correspondence with OFCOM and Murdoch’s enemies to News International then that, in perspective, minor embarrassment can be brought up. Until then, best to focus on the high level corruption involving a minister & a Murdoch.

  • G – Labour were in power when the police miserably failed to investigate widespread wrongdoing. We now know that many emails were deleted, in my opinion, the Labour administration allowed that to happen. Who knows the content of those emails. I’ll be happy when Hunt goes, he is to culture what Atilla the Hun was to international peacekeeping. Mind you, the Labour shadow also has a tenuous connection with culture.

  • Stephen Gould 24th Apr '12 - 10:02pm

    The real reasons Labour now hate NI are:

    1. NI abandoned Labour after Brown lurched from incompetent disaster to incompetent disaster (note they’d been pro-Labour throughout the Blair and early Brown years). See Andrew Neill’s tweet about what Gordon Brown told Murdoch Snr on the ‘phone when told The Sun wouldn’t be backing him any longer – rough translation: I’m going to destroy you; and
    2. NotW’s spy in Brighton saw what a prominent Labour figure and fighter for truth and justice got up to during conference. See Guido Fawkes’ recent post on the subject.

    Funny how Britain’s media have totally ignored these things in the past year.

  • I think people are mixing two things up here. It is beyond doubt that Labour were dispicable in their closeness to Murdoch and it looks at though the Tories are even worse. That is a record that is easy to attack, and to do so with absolutely factual evidence and statements.

    But, and it is a big one, the title of this piece is totally misleading. Milliband is a terrible leader of the opposition and is, in my view totally tarnished by his time with Brown. He never wanted to sack Cable because he stood up to Murdoch. The article Stephen links to shows that clearly. Cable broke the rules of the game. You cannot act as he did when you have that quasi judicial authority. There is no credible argument that would have allowed Cable to retain that authority and frankly had he been a Tory or Labour Minister we would also have been calling for his head.

    The real travesty is that at a time when Hunt and Murdoch’s other pals are so exposed it is Labour that is attacked. There is loads to attack them on, but today it should be open season on Tories…..

  • Why was Hunt communicating with Murdoch even before Vince was replaced by Hunt?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 24th Apr '12 - 10:56pm

    If Stephen Tall cannot see the double standard of criticising Hunt for not acting in a quasi judicial capacity and then praising Cable for not doing the same when he was in the same capacity – although he expressed his bias in the other direction then he needs some help. I am more that happy to acknowledge that Labour when in power got to close to Murdoch – although I may be a LAbour Troll I am not as daft as to try and portray indefensible behavior as a virtue. I will more than happily justify Ed Milliband calling for Cable’s sacking – based on the grounds he actually stated at the time not those that Stephen Tall incorrectly acsribed to him.

    Ricahrd – if you have a sense of humour might I suggest a good laugh at the irony of Fishy’s comments, or at your Party’s opinion poll ratings precisely because the public has sussed that the Party doesn’t speak with a consistent voice.

  • Seriously, how can an incoherent mess like this even get published? Cable had to go because a bias in his quasi-judicial responsibility was revealed. Miliband is consistent in saying Hunt should resign for the exact same thing. Or is bias in the process ok to Stephen Tall as long as he agrees with it? Shocking article.

  • mark fairclough 25th Apr '12 - 9:19am

    only problem nobody will remember what milliband said,
    especially the proLABOUR fanatics in the LIBDEMS

  • Stephen GouldApr 24 – 10:02 pm……………The real reasons Labour now hate NI are………..

    Hardly! You have a selective memory; NI originally supported Labour, then became rabid Tory (“It’s The Sun Wot Won It”, when it was obvious Blair would win switched to Labour and again, when they believed a Conservative landslide would happen, switched to the Tories.
    All politicians hated NI; however, they feared NI far too much to say so. Like the ‘Lady from Niger’ they ‘Rode with a smile’.
    What is wrong with this thread (and most of Stephen Tall’s) is, that instead of dealing with the scandal, he morphs it into an anti-Labour rant.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 25th Apr '12 - 10:09am

    Perhaps there also be a question about Cameron’s judgement on this matter – to have one minister who doesn’t understand what is meant by “quasi judicial” might be regarded as a misfortune but to have two looks like carelessness.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 25th Apr '12 - 10:28am

    If LibDems are naive enough to think that it only Labour and Tory politicians that had an unhealthy relationship with the Murdoch newspapers (and other press for that matter) – might I suggest that they look at the email quoted in today’s Guadian from the PR creature about providing cover to Clegg because he had taken a decision about copyright which ran counter to his election promise. For those that watch these matters there have been numerous occasions when the Press have been used to provide cover to Clegg and other ministers when performing policy u-turns – I for one don’t put them all down to coincidence.

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Apr '12 - 11:18am

    @mark fairclough – we might not remember what Miliband says, but we the voters will remember the Lib Dems part in the attack on those in society who can least fend for themselves when times are good, let alone when times are bad. We will remember your part in tuition fees and the NHS and social care bill, and we will remember your part in the running of the economy when we are now in the first double dip recession since the 1970’s.

    You seem to have learnt a lot since your entry to government not all of it good. Pettiness and sneering is not a good look on the tories. I suggest the lib dems ( particularly the quad) desist from copying it.

    I for one, wish the left of the Lib Dem party would assert themselves rather more.

    Vince Cable did not behave in a quasi-judicial manner and he had to go. Jeremy Hunt should be given the opportunity to give his side of the story and if he is found not to have behaved in a quasi-judicial manner. He should go to.

  • Michael Clements 25th Apr '12 - 12:25pm

    There is a saying “every dog is allowed one bite” and likewise Vince Cable may be forgiven for one indiscretion which is overshadowed by a wider cause for concern exposed by the Murdoch affair. Where is the seat of power and who really runs our country ? Is it 1) Parliament because they have an elected mandate to make laws ? or 2) the ‘City’ because they can pull the rug from under the treasury (as proved by the banking crisis) ? or 3) News International and other media past, present and future, who have power to manipulate public opinion and thereby influence or even dictate to parliament?
    .

  • Stephen Gould 25th Apr '12 - 12:57pm

    Jason,

    I do not have a selective memory. Those facts are regularly trotted out. I merely pointed out two which the media and people like you have chose to ignore. It’s intellectually lazy to dismiss an argument by complaining they didn’t make a different one, especially when that different one is regularly made by others.

    You just prove my points for me. Thanks.

    Anti-Labour rant? You appear to have no problems with anti-Tory rants. That tells us much about you. Thanks.

  • Keith Browning 25th Apr '12 - 1:52pm

    I suspect this wasn’t the first time that they tried to catch out Vince. If they had failed this time they would have kept trying until they found an excuse to replace him with JH (which might not necessarily be the initials of Jeremy Hunt) !!!!

  • Stephen GouldApr 25 – 12:57 pm…………Anti-Labour rant? You appear to have no problems with anti-Tory rants. That tells us much about you. Thanks……..

    Indeed I don’t! I’m one of the ever decreasing number left on LDV who believe that becoming almost indistinguishable from the Tories is against the long term interest of the LibDem party.
    You, and those like you (as shown by the title of this thread) who are determined to turn any situation, no matter what, into a stick to beat Labour are a sad reflection of the position and direction of a party I have supported (with one exception) all my adult life.
    Thankyou

  • I disagree with this article as it focus’ on Ed Miliband reaction to Cable whilst glossing over the whilst the massive collusion between Hunt’s office and News International.

    Vince Cable, made an error of judgement and expressed an opinion and resigned. Jeremy Hunt shows much more complicity and bias and is still hanging on in his post. Why is that ?

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Apr '12 - 10:30pm

    Now that a light is being shone on the workings of government. I am starting to wonder whether Vince Cable’s position in relation to Sky2 B was being undermined before he made his error of judgement, for which he rightfully resigned.

    He was the front man, the man ostensibly in control, but were there machinations that he was unaware of.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 26th Apr '12 - 2:05pm

    Vince Cable, made an error of judgement and expressed an opinion and resigned. Jeremy Hunt shows much more complicity and bias and is still hanging on in his post. Why is that ?

    Simple answer – David Cameron .

  • toryboysnevergrowup 26th Apr '12 - 2:49pm

    Jayne

    That is probably one conspiracy theory too far – although as we know Cameron was encouraged to make telephone calls to the editor of the Telegraph on a daily basis and he may have already worked out how to exploit Vince’s weaknesses. I don’t think Vince resigned he just had the judges wig taken away from him.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 26th Apr '12 - 2:53pm

    Given that politicians seem to be serially incapable of acting in a “quasi judicial role” perhaps that is a good argument as to why they should not be granted such a role in the first place when it comes to mergers and acquisitions.

  • coldcomfort 26th Apr '12 - 3:06pm

    Let’s be clear – as politicians are fond of saying before being anything but – reading most of these posts confirms that the Tory & Labour tribalists are united by a burning passion to destroy the LibDems and nothing we say or do will be accepted as OK. The reality is that Vince was foolish to express an opinion. Those of us who are old enough to remember Rupert’s first arrival on the UK media scene would not trust an adverse opinion of him & his works to our own reflection. But the truth is that Vince’s removal from the decision was swift & decisive in the interests of ‘impartiality’ . The decision was given to Jeremy Hunt who, at that time, was on record as being a Murdoch supporter – which adds a whole new meaning to the word ‘impartial’. This weeks events – all of them including the frenzied efforts to save Mr Hunt’s skin – come as no surprise whatsoever.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Apr '12 - 10:27am

    @ Toryboysnevergrowup.

    I am not suggesting that there has been a conspiracy. Fact forbid. No I tend to believe that there were ‘understandings’.

    These understandings may well have begun before the Tories came to power. Vince Cable might have misunderstood the understandings..or understood them too well.

    Looking back, given what we now know, the reports of the Government cut back on Ofcom, the way that Ofcom were no longer required to review public service broadcasting and media ownership rules every three years with both functions being performed at the discretion of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt instead. The rejection of Ofcom’s advice to refer the BSkyB to the Competition Commission, the employment of Andy Coulson when he was still on the payroll of News International, do tend to make me wonder.

    I rather like the idea of being a conspiracy theorist though. It makes me sound more interesting than the, in my opinion, more descriptive term ,OAP with failing eyesight.

  • It seems to me that Ed Miliband is the only politician who has stood up to Murdoch. He is to be congratulated on having brought to an end the era of kowtowing to the media mogul. Well done, Ed

    For the record: Cable was stripped of his role on BSkyB for telling people he thought were his local voters that he was against Murdoch. But, of course, like so many things he told his local voters, there is absolutely no guarantee that this is how we would have behaved as a minister…

  • CODE OF CONDUCT FOR SPECIAL ADVISERS

    Status and conduct as temporary civil servants

    ‘The responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment. It is, of course, also open to the Prime Minister to terminate employment by withdrawing his consent to an individual appointment.’

    http://www.civilservant.org.uk/spadscode2009.pdf

    Jeremy Hunt’s special adviser quits, saying his behaviour went ‘too far’

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/leveson-inquiry/9225854/Jeremy-Hunts-special-adviser-quits-saying-his-behaviour-went-too-far.html

    Vince Cable made a mistake but at least had the integrity to resign with good grace. The comparisons of the two politicians (and parties) responses to mistakes in relation to the whole affair (and other mistakes and resignations) is very apparent.

    Can anyone explain to me why Jeremy Hunt is still in post. I don’t know how more clear cut it can be.
    Why has an inquiry has not been started into Jeremy Hunts conduct not be started as suggested by Simon Hughes ?

    If nothing happens, we may as well tear that code up as obviously anything goes.

  • @clempalme: “It seems to me that Ed Miliband is the only politician who has stood up to Murdoch. He is to be congratulated on having brought to an end the era of kowtowing to the media mogul. Well done, Ed”

    Apologies if you are being tongue in cheek and I have lost my sense of humour, but is this New Year’s Day or April Fool’s Day? Or is it 1984, and we have just received a bulletin from the shadow ministry of truth?

    Miliband was sucking up to News International from the Blair-Brown days well before the Labour leadership contest and his public attack on Vince Cable was a cynical attempt to curry favour with Murdoch. Miliband only dismounted and started shouting at the cavalcade when it became clear that Murdoch would be on the losing side after the NOTW scandal had proved Vince Cable, Simon Hughes and the Lib Dems right all along. He added nothing except some belated Labour votes to support Lib Dem demands for a proper inquiry and rejection of the BSkyB bid. If the narrative of Miliband the Murdoch-slayer is really going to be the Labour line at the next election, then they deserve no credibility. Stephen is quite right to expose Miliband’s opportunism.

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