Monday, 7 May 2012

Is Vince Cable the only honest politician in Cabinet?

I feel rather sorry for Vince Cable. Throughout the recent Leveson inquiry, Mr Cable has remained quiet. A defeated champion of the people, he was one of the first people to criticise the Murdoch's, yet was hastily condemned by ministers and the newspapers over his actions.

It was way back in late 2010 that Cable's honesty got the better of him. Only six months into his role as Business Secretary for the coalition government, the Liberal Democrat was set up by journalists from The Daily Telegraph who posed as his constituents and arranged a meeting with Mr Cable. Undercover, the journalists asked questions which Mr Cable answered openly and honestly.

One of the questions Cable answered regarded the current bid by News Corporation, founded and chaired by Rupert Murdoch, to takeover the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, for which it has a stake in. Mr Cable's role as Business Secretary means that he is in charge of takeover's, including media affairs. Offering an un-bias review into the takeover, the Business Secretary is meant to examine all the evidence for/ against the takeover, with an objective stance.

Which is where Mr Cable's views got in the way, jeopardising his objectivity. Speaking to whom he thought were his constituents, Mr Cable told the undercover journalists that he had "declared war on Mr Murdoch", and that "I think we are going to win."

The resulting furore over his comments resulted in him losing his responsibility for media affairs, with the review into the BSkyB takeover being referred to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. There were even calls for him to be sacked from his position as Business Secretary.

Now fast-forward to April 2012 and it seems similar circumstances are occurring again, this time with Jeremy Hunt. Before the takeover was abandoned following revelations of phone hacking at News International (the owners of titles including The Sun and the now defunct News of the World), it was rumoured that Jeremy Hunt would accept the takeover. The Conservative party have always been firm friends with the Murdoch's, as the Leveson inquiry has revealed, and with Mr Hunt's strong stance against the BBC, it would seem appropriate to accept the takeover. After all, BSkyB is creating billions of pounds for the UK economy, whereas the government are pumping money into the BBC. If it wasn't for the phone hacking allegations and calls from Ofcom for the review to be delayed, he would probably have accepted the takeover.

So the revelations that Jeremy Hunt was said to have an 'improper realtionship' with News Corporation following a series of leaked emails between the Mr Hunt's adviser and a PR adviser for News Corp came at no surprise. This is the man who didn't bother sending the BSkyB bid to the Competition Commission or listen to the calls from Ofcom to abandon the bid. In fact, it wasn't until after the phone hacking scandal came to light that the bid was rejected by the government, despite many years of allegations surrounding phone hacking being public knowledge.

It's fair to say his incompetence and bias in favour of the Murdoch empire has significantly damaged his reputation, and yes calls have been made by the opposition for Mr Hunt to resign. Yet not to the same extent as when calls were made for the resignation of Mr Cable.

Now I don't tend to think that two wrongs make a right, but in this case, wasn't Vince Cable right all along? He was cornered into admitting what he really thought, which in a situation like a constituency meeting, is perfectly acceptable. It's the public's right to hear the truth, and that's exactly what Vince Cable gave them.

In fact, the Press Complaints Commission agreed. They found that the Daily Telegraph had not acted in the public interest. It later emerged that the two undercover journalist's had been links to News International. A coincidence perhaps?

Vince Cable merely told the truth. Maybe it did undermine his objectivity, but I commend him. He had the guts to speak the truth to stand up against Mr Murdoch. Fast forward to 2012, and now all the politicians are doing it.

So following an interview with Sky this weekend, where he said he feels 'vindicated by BSkyB', maybe we should be praising Mr Cable for being an honest politician. He was right all along.

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

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