Like many Lib Dems, I’ve been saddened by our party leadership’s silence over the last few days, with seemingly nothing to say about the current scandals at News International and the closure of the News Of The World. For me, if there was ever a good time to make it clear that Government policy, Conservative Party policy and Liberal Democrat policy are three separate things, it’s now.

I also think that is a time when we can use our presence in Government – and the fact that we’ve not been enmeshed in the Murdoch octopus – to make a real difference, and start demanding that David Cameron sever his, and his party’s, ties with News International. I was planning a post on these lines last night, and thought that I might write it in the morning, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that Jason O’Mahony had clearly been reading my mind and has come up with this speech for Nick Clegg:

It is my belief, and the belief of the Liberal Democrats, that News International is not fit to win control of this organisation, and it is a political decision that we will oppose. I have spoken to the prime minister and been very clear with him that this is a red line issue for us. If the culture secretary takes the political decision, and it is a political decision, to approve the takeover, I will lead this party out of government, and we will vote against the government in any subsequent motion of confidence.

Let me be clear: I do not want to bring this government down. This is a good government, led by a man I believe has good instincts and intentions. Believe me: no one will suffer more than the Liberal Democrats if there is an early election. But being in government for the Liberal Democrats means making decisions that are hard and right, and it is right that News International be prevented from expanding its malicious influence further into the media of our country.

Go read the whole thing.

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only 1 comment untill now

  1. The problem with that speech is that the decision about whether to allow News Corp to take over BSkyB is not a political decision, it is a quasi-judicial decision that is subject to judicial review.

    As I understand it, there are two laws governing whether the takeover should be allowed: competition law and media plurality law. The European Commission said it had no objections on competition grounds, and Ofcom’s concerns about media plurality seem to have been met by Mr Hunt’s plan to spin off Sky News. If Mr Hunt nevertheless decided to reject the takeover simply because he or Nick Clegg don’t like the Murdochs his decision would probably be overturned on judicial review.

    The fact that this is a quasi-judicial decision, not a political one, is underlined by the way Vince Cable found himself stripped of the power to decide on the takeover after telling those undercover Telegraph reporters he’d “declared war on Mr Murdoch”.

    I happen to agree with you that there is something deeply rotten in News Corp and I wouldn’t like them to get their mitts on Sky. But I don’t see how the government can lawfully interfere with a media takeover just because it has taken a dislike to Rupert Murdoch. If we allow decisions made on that basis, surely we open up a risk of political favouritism towards certain media organisations and against others? Wouldn’t that have benefited Rupert Murdoch in the past (i.e. before he became associated with illegal methods) even more than he had benefited from his close political connections already?

    (As an aside, perhaps the problems over the decision prove that quasi-judicial decisions should not be made by politicians but by independent government agencies – as in Sweden – or some kind of competition or media plurality tribunal.)