LibLink | Vince Cable: I declared war on Murdoch… now everyone agrees with me

Business Secretary Vince Cable has an interview in the Evening Standard, in which he discusses his declaration of “war” on Rupert Murdoch, his referral of the BSkyB takeover bid to Ofcom and Murdoch’s role in the phone hacking scandal:

…the Business Secretary also reveals for the first time that he considered resigning from Cabinet during the furore when he said he was “at war” with the media tycoon.

“I certainly felt rather low at the time because I was heavily criticised,” he said at the end of a week that has seen the tables comprehensively turned between the two men.

“And I had broken the strict procedures that I could not discuss this [the BSkyB takeover bid] with other people, even though I thought it was a private conversation. So it was very awkward and there were queues of journalists outside my house for days on end.

“But I was persuaded to stick in there by family and various colleagues and I’m glad I did.”

The furore broke when the Daily Telegraph secretly taped him telling an undercover reporter whom he thought was a Twickenham constituent, “I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win”. Mr Cable was at the time in charge of media regulation, including the £8 billion BSkyB bid.

He was humiliatingly rebuked by David Cameron and responsibility for media policy plus some 60 civil servants were all handed to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a Tory who admired Mr Murdoch.

Today, however, Mr Cable feels vindicated. His spirits fully recovered, he joked of being “delighted to discover that everyone in Britain and the House of Commons now agrees with me”.

Read the full interview in the Evening Standard.

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26 Comments

  • Bill Chapman 16th Jul '11 - 6:15pm

    Good for you, Vince. Perhaps it’s time for the Lib Dems to leave the coalition, in view of Canmeron’s appalling behaviour linked to the Murdoch empire..

  • Vince’s vanity is clearly a long way from disappearing yet, then.

  • I’d like to express my admiration to Vince Cable for sticking with the coalition, even as the less than honourable leader who had humiliated him was dining with James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks.
    Looking at the timeline in The Guardian, that would have been two days before The Sun launched a full scale attack on Vince, with doubts from” various cabinet sources ” about his age and judgement within a mean piece headed “plonker.”
    I draw my own conclusion as to whether a now diminished David Cameron approved this smear. Of course not, he just approved of it.

  • Colin Green 16th Jul '11 - 9:54pm

    The thing with Vince is that he’s usually proved right. He’s usually dismissed at the time or worse derided but then when the full facts become public, he’s proven right. As has been said elsewhere, had he handled the telegraph sting with more discretion, he would have been allowed to refer the BskyB bid to the competition commission as he had planned. When the current scandal erupted, he’s have been crowned a hero. Because of his indiscretion, He’s currently being ignored and Ed Miliband is receiving the plaudits. Vince was right on Murdoch though.

  • I am glad Vince has spoken out – I think our other Cabinet members should have been in action already supporting him. That way it could pile the pressure on Cameron as much as the questions as to whether he should have dined with Rebekah etc. To try to force an apology or admission he got it wrong on this would be pretty damaging.

  • The response from the LibDems has been, unsurprisingly, rather pathetic. This company, who wanted 100% control of BSkyB and owns, what? 40% of the newspaper market has been engaged in illegal activity on an industrial scale. This is the most serious scandal to hit the UK for decades and the corruption reaches from the lowly bent copper to the Prime Minister himself. We are seeing the corruption of the Establishment laid bare. Cameron cannot lead or “fix” this, obviously, because one of his closest friends has just had to resign over her involvement (and we still don’t have the full story on Brooks). His other “good friend” Andy Coulson, who was recently employed at great expense to the taxpayer, was arrested last week and questioned about his activities while working for NI. And now we find Coulson was invited to Chequers after he resigned. Why is our Prime Minister, who is supposed to be setting an example, who (rightly) went after Labour for every bit of their sleaze, already involved with allegations of sleaze himself? How can we trust our Prime Minister’s judgment when two of his closest friends are now alleged criminals?

    How can you stay in a coalition with these people? You are either too close to the Tories to do anything or you are just not being very brave. I’m not keen on Milliband in general, but he has shown the kind of leadership Clegg could have shown. He has rightly called for resignations and inquiries while Cameron tried to deflect and resist a judge led inquiry. Milliband is now openly calling for Murdoch’s empire to be broken up. Whatever you may think of Milliband, this is indeed a bold move. That makes a mockery of any weasel-words Nick comes out with.

    Yes, Labour was sickeningly close to Murdoch. But even Blair did not meet senior NI execs 16 times in 14 months. How telling indeed that Cameron has not met with anyone from the BBC in that time (if IO recall correctly). Now would be a good time to leave the coalition. And with Cameron’s closeness to Brooks and defense of Coulson, you’d have every right to.

  • Perhaps if Dr Cable hadn’t messed up his job so spectacularly he might well be getting plaudits over the collapse of News International.

    And of course the Lib Dem insistence of moral superiority over Murdoch now raises two very important questions for the party to answer.

    1) Why did they tolerate the presence of Coulson at the heart of Number 10 despite knowing the allegations against him and having been warned by The Guardian?

    2) Why did they not do anything about News International once they became part of government?

    It’s all very well loudly proclaiming your principled opposition, but unless you act on it it will be considered empty rhetoric

  • Cable wasn’t criticised because people disagreed with him about Murdoch.

    He was criticised because he made remarks that were clearly inappropriate, and inconsistent with his duties – to the extent that when they became public he had to be relieved of those duties!

  • toryboysnevergrowup 17th Jul '11 - 9:23am

    Yes Vince – and because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut you went missing in action in the first battle. Remember all what they say about careless talk costing lives.

  • Vince was clearly absolutely right in his judgement of the Murdoch empire, and brave enough to say it well in advance of the tidal wave of evidence that Milliband and New Labour are trying to expolit. Stay in the shallow end of the pool with the kids Ed. We in the Lib Dems want politicians with judgement, not New Labour populists.

  • David Evans, would that be the tidal wave of evidence that was repeatedly invoked by Watson and Bryant, Labour MPs both, for years before NI collapsed?

    I’m dismayed to see this historical revisionism of the entire affair from the Lib Dems. Yes, you said all the right things in the past, no you did nothing about it. Nothing that has happened has happened because of the actions of a Lib Dem MP or party member. If there is populism here, it’s from the Lib Dems as much as Miliband.

  • David Singerman 17th Jul '11 - 11:26am

    Vince was entrapped by journalists on the Telegraph masquerading as his constituents. This surely is blagging which is on a similar level to phone hacking and evidence that would be thrown out by a court of law because of the entrapment.

    How many at the time spoke up to defend him? Now everybody knows Vince was right, and people like Milliband are gaining political kudos when they said nothing at the time Vince was sacked. Milliband would do well to ask for Vince’s reinstatement.

    It is particularly sickening to see Labour and the Tories falling over themselves in denouncing Murdooch At the time he had the power of the press they queued up to pay homage. Only the Lib Dems would speak out against the Murdoch empire.

    Cameron should give Vince back his old job as it was.

  • Having praised Vince Cable I don’t want t criticize David Laws whose initial negotiations were so crucial to the establishment of the coalition.
    However, it might better have suited this party in its justifiable claims to have avoided the Murdoch long spoon had
    Laws’s partner, James Lundie, not effectively taken the Murdoch poisoned shilling at the eleventh hour.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/14/phone-hacking-rupert-murdoch

    Perhaps we can only marvel at the advice from Lundie, as co-director of a team that has encouraged News International to take out full-page mea culpa ads in the press this weekend, if we are prepared to wince should it come back to haunt us.
    In any event, maybe David can show on which side of the coalition he is sitting by condemning any rehearsal of Brooks and the Murdochs by Edelman ahead of Tuesday’s select committee hearing.

  • John Roffey 17th Jul '11 - 1:22pm

    Although the phone hacking scandal has opened a can of worms, essentially it is the matter of criminal activity that needs to be addressed along with better ways to detect hacking. Whatever safe guards are put in place, clearly it is impossible to stop a successful title increasing it readership and thereby increasing its influence on the electorate. It might be possible to prevent government officials meeting press chiefs, but this will only be replaced by more devious methods whereby party leaders will come to agreements with media moguls.

    Similarly, it might be possible for systems to be put in place to make it less easy for the police to directly tip off newspapers about crimes committed – but this too will simply be replaced by a more devious system.

    Peter Hitchens puts the issue in prospective in his Mail article. ‘What do YOU think is worse: Phone hacking or buying votes with blood?’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2015591/PETER-HITCHENS-What-YOU-think-worse-Phone-hacking-buying-votes-blood.html#ixzz1SMbtkgev

  • @ John Roffey
    “Whatever safe guards are put in place, clearly it is impossible to stop a successful title increasing it readership and thereby increasing its influence on the electorate.”
    Yes, and in a cut-price Mail on Sunday “upgrade” editon today (for those intellectual ABC1s who can’t do without their NOTW,) there’s not a good word to say about the LibDems’ lack of collusion with Murdoch. I wouldn’t expect it from Hitchens, a maverick who once compared LibDem activists to drug takers, but the Mail titles used to employ Vince Cable themselves, after all.
    We know that the Mail is about to wage war on those it sees as persecutors of the press. Don’t be surprised if bizarrely we come under attack from a newsgroup whose sole political aim is to elect a Conservative government..
    And please don’t fall for letting Dacre & Co. use this issue as a fig leaf for their own papers’ (including the Mail on Sunday’s) alleged guilty practices.
    Can anyone think of a better time to take on other corporate press moguls like Rothermere and the Barclays whose rationale is ultimately the control and influence of this country’s political agenda?

  • Ahh, right. So people here still want to defend the Tories and shift attention away to Labour again. Labour, for all their faults, did not meet Murdoch’s people 16 times in 14 months. That is more meetings with Murdoch’s people than in 13 years of New Labour, I believe. I’m no Labour apologist, but the LibDems were given an open goal on this, as the one party not associated with the Murdochs, and have done next to nothing. The LibDems pre-2010 election probably would have been leading on this while the other parties play catchup. Where is your bravery and fighting spirit?

    Meanwhile you prop up a PM whose two close friends have been arrested in the space of a week and a half. A PM who hired an alleged criminal and is very close friends with another alleged criminal. A PM who spends Christmas with alleged criminals and invites them to Chequers after they resign in disgrace.

    You could be making some political capital (and public goodwill) by joining Milliband in attacking and calling for Murdoch’s empire to be dismantled. Milliband has a lot to lose on this, but he is being brave and doing what the public seem to want. LibDems, on the other hand, are wringing their hands and patting themselves on the back because “Vince was right”.

    I see no bravery in the LibDems here. You are protecting instead of questioning Cameron. You are attacking the man who is fighting Murdoch the hardest. I see nothing but typical LibDem hand-wringing and back-patting on how you are not tainted by Murdoch. That’s great. Shame you’re not actually doing anything about it.

  • John Roffey 17th Jul '11 - 4:44pm

    @ Sean Blake: Did you read the PH article? For some reason many Lib/Dems seem to live in a different world to everyone else – and that everyone else is the voters. The Party is not in its present dire state because of some conspiracy against it – it is there because of the decisions made by the Party’s leadership, who are either way out of their depth or like rabbits caught in the headlights and unable to see things as they are and take the necessary action to escape.

    The point is that phone hacking is a crime, whether used against the family of Milly Dowler, Hugh Grant or 9/11 victims – and is a crime that needs greater attention so that more offenders are brought to justice.

    Yes the Mail group will want to see NI damaged – because they are their competitors, Milliband will want to see Murdoch’s dominance severely reduced – because he knows that Murdoch is not going to support Labour at the next GE and yes the closeness of the press and the politicians and police needs to be exposed. However, Hitchens is right [and the voters will know this to be the case] – compared to the acts of government, NI’s crimes are indeed small meat.

  • “How many at the time spoke up to defend him? Now everybody knows Vince was right, and people like Milliband are gaining political kudos when they said nothing at the time Vince was sacked. Milliband would do well to ask for Vince’s reinstatement. ”

    Why do people find it so hard to grasp the reason that Vince Cable was relieved of his responsibilities in this matter?

    It was because he had a “quasi-judicial” role in it. Once he had made those remarks about having “declared war” on Murdoch he obviously couldn’t fulfil that role, in just the same way that an ordinary judge wouldn’t be allowed to try a defendant if he’d said he was “out to get him,” or something of the sort.

    And if that defendant later pleaded guilty, it _wouldn’t_ mean that the judge had been “right all along.” The judge would still have been wrong to say what he did, and he would still only have himself to blame.

  • @John Roffey – I wouldn’t have commented had I not read the Hitchens article. Of course, by inference, none of the public has paid much attention to the crimes you speak of, crimes of which many too many of us were aware some time ago. You’ve fallen for the “compared to…” line trotted out ad nauseam by Mail columnists., although Hichens’s points made here were on firmer ground.
    Who mentioned a media conspiracy against the LibDems, anyway? Just see how it all plays out….starting with some of the Mail’s own dirty little secrets sometime soon.

  • John Roffey 17th Jul '11 - 8:20pm

    @ Sean Blake: If you acknowledge the deep corruption in government and I presume you recognise these matters are not going to be tackled effectively by the Coalition, what is the point of sacrificing the Party’s future through just making relatively superficial changes? Thereby becoming a joke party in the eyes of the voting public, who sees NC in particular as Cameron’s ‘fag’, and generally the Tory’s lackeys?

    Surely only by becoming the party of government can these deep problems be tackled. So a long-term view is required which necessitates the restoring of the Party’s electoral chances – a program which needs to be started as soon as possible, whilst enough time remains. Nothing can be achieved from the oblivion that 8% support will bring.

  • The Labourites are hailing Messrs Bryant and Watson as the heroes of the hour, and compared to our own party’s leadership, they certainly look heroic. Now, here’s another Labour poltician who was right about Murdoch: step forward Mr Tony Benn. Anyone recall the near collapse of the “Times” and “Sunday Times”, which Murdoch claims he rescued? Tony Benn called for both titles be taken over by the BBC. He was right, wasn’t he? If Jim Callaghan had followed Benn’s advice, we would now have two broadsheet newspapers publishing accurate, balanced news – something this country has never known in its entire history.

    The collapse of the UK arm of the Murdoch empire is indeed wonderful to behold. But let’s not lose sight of what Murdoch is and why he was allowed to assemble his empire. Murdoch is a mouthpiece of the US elite (military-industrial complex, billionaire families, et al). The US elite has allowed him to buy up media outlets all around the globe in return for publishing neo-con propaganda, which he still does through the mechanism of the “Sun”. Damaging Murdoch weakens the US elite, and that has to be a jolly good thing.

    Would Blair have been ale to take Britain to war in Iraq without Murdoch? Would the UK establishment have been able to cover up the murder of Dr David Kelly without Murdoch? Compare Rothermere’s record on both issues.

    I would rather this does not degenerate into a partisan yaboo contest. How the British people are informed is far too important for that.

  • If Cable was so right, after being emasculated and having his job taken over by Hunt why didn’t he have the guts to resign and lead the Lib Dems out of their coalition with the puppets of Murdoch? Only when that happens will the Lib Dems recover the respect of the public. As it is, they remain tarnished by association.

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