Vince Cables idiocy leaves Britain at Murdochs mercy | Henry Porter | Comment is free | The Observer
Just as News International executives were moaning in collective ecstasy at all of this, they were then told that the decision on the merger would now be taken by the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who, as it happens, has just been publicly insulted by James Naughtie and Andrew Marr, two employees of the BBC which, of course, is another opponent of the merger.The cards could not have fallen better for Murdoch, except there is now a static field around the deal and the independence of Jeremy Hunt, a man who wears the smirk of a serial canary swallower, has been called into question.Where Cable would make war against Murdoch for all the right reasons, Hunt is likely to make love and for all the wrong reasons. His website carries an interview in which he says: “What we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person. We would be the poorer and wouldnt be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadnt been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk.” Since taking office, he has held un-minuted meetings with James Murdoch and BSkyBs chief executive Jeremy Darroch, which is hardly an encouraging sign.There are obviously greater calls on our attention at the moment – the suppression of writers, actors and political opposition following rigged elections in Belarus, for example, or the new laws in democratic Hungary which will monitor and penalise the media – but if this deal goes through it is likely to reduce the diversity of the media in Britain and will consolidate Murdochs power over the British political establishment.So the deal is very important, which is why we must test the Murdoch strategy of “putting himself beyond the possibility of defeat” and waiting for others to make mistakes. It is not good enough to give a foreign businessman, who does not pay taxes here, the enhanced power that will result in the merger simply because he wants it. Perhaps its time formally to examine his fitness as well as his loyalty to the “fairness and due process” that his employees cited last week. Can he be trusted with this enormous power? While Vince Cable has been found guilty of bringing unfair prejudice to bear on Rupert Murdochs commercial interests, is it not true that Murdochs commercial power distorts the political process with much greater force than anything poor Dr Cable managed?Nowhere is there a better example of the corrosive effects of Murdochs power than in the phone hacking scandal, which still continues to throw up revelations and hardly shows News International to be the champion of “fairness and due process”. If it were, Rebekah Brooks, News Internationals chief executive, would have answered the summons to attend a parliamentary hearing into the matter and News International would not have bought off claimants whose phones were hacked, or have pursued a policy which involved paying police officers for information on the same police force that was charged with investigating the claims of widespread criminality in the News of the World.Two weeks ago, papers were released by the high court which seem to suggest that the hacking of phones belonging to the actors Jude law and Sienna Miller by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was part of a much wider scheme to use “electronic intelligence and eavesdropping”, with the knowledge of senior editorial executives. The document implies that the News of the World carried out illegal surveillance covering “political, royal and showbiz/entertainment” matters. Some 20 separate public figures are in the early stages of suing the News of the World.These outstanding matters are very serious and it is only sensible that they are openly and satisfactorily resolved before we hand Murdochs company the complete set of keys to the city gates.