Quietly Does It
Almost everyone has had their say on the phone hacking scandal including celebrities such as Hugh Grant and our Prime Minister, David Cameron. But what do the Liberal Democrats have to say about it?
Of course, they all agree that drastic action needs to be taken on this matter; although many Liberal Democrats MP’s and party members have more tact than some Conservative MP’s in expressing their views . Last year, Vince Cable, the government business secretary was quoted by the Telegraph as ‘declaring war on Murdoch’. He disclosed that he would block Mr. Murdoch from taking over BskyB, a corporation than Murdoch already partially owns, using his legal powers as an MP. Unfortunately, Mr. Cable had not learnt to be careful about what he says, after all his years in government, as this disclosure was made to Liberal Democrats female fans who were actually undercover reporters, secretly recording this conversation. It is quite foreseeable that he could have not expected them to be newspaper reporters. But, if you are going to discuss the secret workings of the government, very indiscreetly, then a politician can expect that any member of the public, in today’s technological society, would expect to put it on Facebook, Twitter or even blog about it. He mentioned that through his powers, he was able to act as a majority triumphing over Murdoch’s minority, thus declaring war on him.
Following his comments, Vince Cable was to play no further role in the BskyB decision, as this reponsibility was transfered to the Conservative Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Jeremy Hunt. When commenting on the issue John Denham, shadow business secretary, stated that a completion law tribunal would allow businesses to be judged fairly and that Mr. Cable could not abuse his position to triumph unfairly over Mr. Murdoch. The legal powers that he possessed were to be implemented with principles of fairness meaning that the government would not necessarily have the upper hand in the process. Soon after Mr. Cable’s comments, Ofcom, as a result of his intervention notice, decided to investigate the takeover of BskyB by News Corp. Their decision was promised later on last year but its consultation period only ran out this year early July. So, fruitful relations between the Conservatives and News Corporation were worsened further by the government condemning not only their immoral actions on phone hacking but also their business associations, something which would have not occurred but for Mr. Cable’s input. On the 14 of July, News Corporation’s bid for BskyB was withdrawn as a result of all these occurrences. But should they have been persuaded to remove this bid, which had nothing to do with phone hacking and which will not solve the current problem in the British media industry? Was the closure of News of the World and the resignation of Rebekah Brooks punishment enough?
Meanwhile, after the Conservative storm came the Liberal calm. The Liberal Democrats have focused on the immorality of the phone hacking scandal itself and are rightly still discussing the best course for drastic action. Don Foster, Co – chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sports Policy Committee said that this News of the World chapter could not be closed as soon as the company closed down as they were further issues in British Media that need to be tackled. There were deeper issues such as police corruption and innocent media staff losing their jobs rather than just a war against decisions made by Mr. Murdoch and Mrs. Brooks, something which the Conservatives seem to be wholeheartedly focusing on.
This scandal represents a bigger issue of holding the media, especially newspapers, to account. Dee Docey, Liberal Democrat London Assembly policing spokesperson has mentioned that more action was needed against the ‘cosy’ relationship between the police and the News of the World. In fact, Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrats summed it up perfectly when he spoke to the Independent saying, “”Labour and the Conservatives spent decades cosying up to Rupert Murdoch and his cronies in the hope of an endorsement or a favourable headline. The Liberal Democrats did not.” Nick Clegg also extended this relationship to politics, media and the police and mentioned that these areas should not interlink with each other. Otherwise, ‘the fabric of life will be threatened’. According to Mr. Clegg, this News of the World incident is not down to a few individuals but is due to the failure to keep a distinction between the different levels of power. Perhaps, this problem has been built over time and this incident has just revealed the underlying problems sooner. Whatever the case, it is clear that the British media industry requires a complete overhaul especially on the issue of accountability and there is no better time than now to start this.
The fact that the Liberal Democrats have not been as vocal as the Conservatives on this issue should not demonstrate any lack of interest in this matter. Perhaps, it has been easier for the Liberal Democrats who have never had any relations with the News of the World. Or, maybe, Mr. Clegg and others have learnt from their past mistakes and have rightly realised that this matter cannot be resolved overnight but rather requires a structured and detailed course of action, formulated over time. Whatever happens, this investigation into the British media is much needed and perhaps over time, confidence will be restored in the integrity of journalism.
Posted on July 20, 2011, in Comment, Liberal Democrat Party, Party Politics and tagged dcms, department for culture media and sport, liberal democrat, nick clegg, phone hacking, vince cable. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.