Quietly Does It

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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?

Clegg Cable

Clegg Cable Partnership - The unlikely alliance? Photograph: Act LibDem

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.

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Posted on July 20, 2011, in Comment, Liberal Democrat Party, Party Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Can the Lib-Dems really claim credit for being the only party not to have been ‘cosying up to Rupert Murdoch and his cronies’ when in reality the relationships between Murdoch and political parties are more likely to have been indicative of their power and influence in government? Therefore meaning that it was the Lib-Dems’ insignificance that resulted in their lack of dealings with Murdoch, and not in fact a conscious decision on their part.

    • Perhaps…but what matters is the future not the past. As a result of their ‘insignificance’, the Liberal Democrats were able to gain more party support, which Labour and the Conservatives have not managed to do. At this point, the Liberal Democrats might be secretly pleased that they now have a ‘consicious decision’ to have a major say in changing the current state of affairs, whereas their counterparts do not. Additionally, the above quote does not state that the Lib – Dems are trying to claim the title as the ‘only party’ not to get cosy with the News of the World. I accept that the Lib-Dems were not always at the forefront of UK politics but, they still had a respectable following, which meant that they were always cited as one of the main political parties. Therefore, the Lib-Dems were not as insignificant as they are made out to be.

      Of course, this is my view and so feel free to comment further.

    • I am sure those households will feel mtiighly reassured that the Lib Dems are on the case. Here’s the full quote, as you seem to have missed the ending: “It is important that every family feeling the pinch right now knows that we have a practical solution in place to help them. Some people are saying this is a radical shift, but I think this is a logical progression of what we have been working on for the last five years. It is about helping those on the lowest incomes pay their bills.”

  2. Firstly: What I would call into question was their position of influence, which realistically must have been considered to be minimal at best until very recently.

    Secondly: As a Lib – Dem supporter, which I assume you are, I find it rather worrying that you attribute their new found ‘success’ to their insignificance as opposed to their strong policies and able representatives.

    Thirdly: While having a ‘conscious decision’ to have a major say in changing the current state of affairs is one thing, it would appear that exercising it is another.

    Fourthly: I am a great believer in credit where credit is due, just as I am a firm believer that credit should not be awarded where it hasn’t been earned. In this case I feel that Tim Farren and the Lib – Dems hold no credit in boasting that they had no alliance with Rupert Murdoch, when in all likelihood it was a decision that was made without any say from them.

  3. Interesting article. I would suggest that Lib Dems have in fact been very vocal on the phone hacking issue, particularly in calling for greater transparency and accountabilty in the media and in it’s relations with politicians. If the messge is not getting out, likely to be because the party doesn’t have a very strong media unit (number of media officers was slashed from 12 to 4 after the coalition was formed due to the party losing it’s opposition funding).
    Another thing that has been overlooked is the role of Lib Dem ideology in their attitude to Murdoch. The party is strongly against vested interests holding sway in decision making (seeking to do what’s best for citizens rather than either trade unions or businesses).
    Finally, you refer to Vince’s ‘many years of government’, but when had he been in government prior to the coalition?! Experienced politician, yes, but never in government.
    I will shut up now.

  4. @ anonymous – Why is Tim Farron’s statement considered ‘boasting’ when what he was merely doing was stating the truth? And yes, exercising a conscious decision is different to merely having a say on it.

    But, I do not think that the Lib-Dems should be condemned for this just yet, before they have even had an opportunity to begin. What the Lib-Dems have revealed as Anna Smart says above, is that the accountability of the media needs to be revisited. But, more importantly, they consider that this is an issue that spans further than the media.

    And yes, whilst it is feasible that the News of the World did not approach the LIb-Dems as they were not viewed as a majority power, it is also feasible that the Lib Dem ideology meant that an alliance was unlikely.

    Even more, I disagree with your view that I attribute Lib- Dem success to their insignificance. It is you who has brought up the topic of insignificance, whereas I have used the word insignificance in inverted single commas so as to state that I do not believe that they are as insignifcant as they are portrayed to be.

    @Anna Smart – I agree that the Lib -Dems have been vocal on the issue and it has been noticed by the media. Only when the Lib – Dems spoke on this issue, they were able to gradually create a robust view on the issue without causing any unneccessary controversy.

  5. It may be too early for condemnation regarding this particular case, but previous cases in this past year have certainly warranted such Lib – Dem condemnation.

    The NotW seem to act without ethical or moral boundaries so to suggest that the possibility of an approach to the Lib – Dems was quashed due to any particular party ideology is perhaps a little far fetched and idealistic.

    Going with your point that ‘what matters is the future’, discussing the Lib – Dems current and past insignificance is all well and good, but in neither case is it as appropriate or as accurate as what it will be in the future given their contribution to the coalition government so far.

  6. @ Anonymous – I understand your scepticism towards the Lib-Dems and many will share this view, in light of some past cases. And there can be view, like yours, that nothing concrete might happen, after the Lib-Dems have had their say. But, there can also be a view like mine, that perhaps, the public should recognise this Lib- Dem step as a positive and that this might be a allow change of their position in the coalition government.

  7. I’m never one to dampen optimism so I’m happy to see it on your part!

    I also enjoy your passion and look forward to more of your articles.

    Thanks for the debate!

  8. I’m never one to dampen a positive attitude and I admire the optimism on your part…I also enjoy your passion, its what is most important in politics! And I really enjoyed our debate, I look forward to more of your articles in the future!

    Thanks!

  9. @Anonymous – Debate is always welcome. Thank you for your comments. I hope to create even more debate with my future articles.

  10. Hello, after reading this awesome post i am as well glad to share my experience here with colleagues.%7

  11. Many thanks for scripting this perfect publish..Beloved your content articles. Be sure to do maintain writing

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