News International tried to bully the Lib Dems, says Observer. It didn’t work.

News International ‘bullied Liberal Democrats over BSkyB bid’ is the headline in today’s Observer, with the paper reporting:

Rupert Murdoch’s News International launched a campaign of bullying against senior Liberal Democrats in an attempt to force through the company’s bid for BSkyB, high-level sources have told the Observer.

Lib Dem insiders say NI officials took their lobbying campaign well beyond acceptable limits and even threatened, last autumn, to persecute the party if Vince Cable, the business secretary, did not advance its case.

According to one account from a senior party figure, a cabinet minister was told that, if the government did not do as NI wanted, the Lib Dems would be “done over” by the Murdoch papers, which included the now defunct News of the World as well as the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.

And of course News International had a proven track record of doing over the Lib Dems, as this Sun front page reminds us.

The reason? Well, that was explained clearly enough by former Sun editor David Yelland before the 2010 general election:

Make no mistake, if the Liberal Democrats actually won the election – or held the balance of power – it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics. In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite.

As Vince Cable reminds us today, that prophesy came to pass (almost). In the end, though, it was News International’s total and utter failure to keep its own house in order that has brought to an end its stranglehold on British politics.

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12 Comments

  • I personally do not believe the article, if true, puts the LibDems in a good light. If NI were ‘bullying’ LibDems in government, why is it only now that ‘senior sources’ are revealing it? No LibDem can claim a role in bringing NI to book. They just allowed themselves to be ‘bullied’ by NI, as they are by Cameron and the Tories. The ‘moral fortitude’ shown in opposition, is visibly absent in government.

  • David Allen 24th Jul '11 - 1:40pm

    Sadly Jayu has a point. The Lib Dems have mostly been behind the curve, cautiously pulling their punches in the early stages, and then keen to kick Murdoch just as soon as others have put him down on the floor. So the credit for taking on Murdoch is instead (rightly) going to politicians like Tom Watson and Ed Miliband. Even though they are members of the Labour Party, which was primarily responsible for NI’s domination of British political life in the first place!

  • I’d agree that the Lib Dems can be percieved as behind the curve. Which given politics works on peoples perceptions is effectively (if not actually) the same thing as them being behind the curve.

  • @Stephen

    The Observer article makes the claim of bullying, not me. And as I recall, Cable said ‘he had gone to war’ not every LibDem member of government. You are not seriously saying that Cable, or any LibDem member of government, was instrumental in bringing Murdoch to book, are you? If so, could you provide evidence?

  • @Stephen

    It could be argued that Cable tried to halt the BskyB bid. And even if that is your argument, you would have to admit that he failed spectacularly. In fact, it could be argued that Cable’s indiscretion gave Cameron and Osborne their chance to acquiesce to Murdoch’s wishes of green lighting the bid. Had it not been for hackgate BskyB would, right now be near to being entirely owned by NewsCorp.

    Cable, nor any other LibDem in government, publicly questioned NI practices, or Coulson’s role in said practices. That is why I would find it difficult to accept any claim that LibDems in government were instrumental in bringing NI to book.

  • Bulling and making threats to a political party should be illegal. The fact that the LibDems a) allowed themselves to be bullied and b) did not call the police or speak out about this is, frankly, pathetic.

    You’ll use the excuse of the BSkyB deal for not reporting this at the time, but that doesn’t wash. Where was the courage to speak out at the time about what Murdoch was doing? Cowardice in the extreme..

  • @Rich, why is everyone who disagrees with the party line here constantly called a troll? You guys are acting just as tribal as Labour and the Tories, while claiming you are different from them. As for Milliband, he must be doing something right as YouGov now show his approval ratings to have risen to match that of Cameron’s.

    I think it has been the Guardian who have finally brought Murdoch to book, not the LibDems. But you won’t see this message as I am not allowed to speak without being “moderated” first.

  • I do feel let down a little by the Lib Dems – not all their fault but still let down.

    Over Iraq, the LIb Dems showed the strength of their convictions and led the campaign against the clear wrong doing (in my view) of Blair. In this they were backed by a not insignificant number of Labour MPs and and even larger proportion of Labour voters.

    In terms of the current Government’s approach to NI though I have found them disappointing. Once the scandal broke Miliband was quicker than most to go on the attack against NI, along it is fair to say with the Lib Dems – Cameron had to be dragged into criticising NI.

    From my view though there are also a lot of questions for Cameron as well about his relations with NI, mainly around the appointment of Coulson and his approach to the number of contacts (all those unminuted meetings and the clear pro-NI bias in decisions). The common rebuttal to this is ‘what about Blair’ but my response to that was the Lib Dems were quick to attack Blair over this subject, and try to pin him down. There is a different approach to Cameron.

    If not in the coalition, I would imagine the Lib Dems would be in the vanguard of questioning and trying to find out what has really been going on – on this aspect though they have been virtually silent; leaving it to the Labour Party to ask the questions, made difficult by their own too close relationship with NI in the past.

    Whenever asked, I have heard the Lib Dem senior leadership just say how good a job Cameron is doing – are they serious? He has been behind the story consistently and I suspect there are more revelations to come.

    It is time to act as a separate party, not just in terms of the phone hacking but holding the executive to account – or is it that Clegg et al do not want to upset the apple cart. Power before principle.

    Cable did a good job on this up until his ‘firing’ – to be replaced by that pro-NI sycophant Hunt. I have no trust of Cameron and doubt his assurances. Can we please have the old Lib Dems back

  • bazsc
    I will try and bring back the News Chronicle as part of a free
    and diverse press.
    You can’t easily bring people to book where the media has
    become dominated by one individual.If anyone brought him
    to book, it was sadly the case of that unfortunate teenager
    Milly Dowler..

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