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The Vince Cable cables: The Murdoch empire strikes back

After Cable’s slip up, The Times mounts the moral high ground and plants News Corporation’s flag high and proud

The Times coverage was calculated and complete

The Times coverage was calculated and complete

Vince Cable’s condemning gaffes relayed to undercover journalists was the lead The Times has clearly been waiting for.  Its coverage was efficient and decisive.

The headline was, like all the best, succinct and unmitigated: “Cable’s power cut”.  The inside page leader was expertly measured and calculated to ascend the moral high ground.

The story began on Tuesday as a classic “coalition cracks are showing” story.  Initially, the Telegraph’s undercover revelations focused on Cable’s take on Coalition relations and his candid statements regarding his own importance – the “nuclear option” was before now assumed, but now had a potent name.  This was the obvious lead story and it is only slightly interesting that the Barclay brothers owned publication did not reveal Cable’s candidness on the News Corp/BSkyB issue (a fact that did not escape The Times), and it is perhaps ironic that the BBC should be the one to break the news (an irony that The Times capitalised on).

Coalition cracks aside, it is Cable’s declaration of war on Murdoch that is now the main focus.  It is also this declaration that has seen tangible aftershocks in politics and the media, including Cable’s own demotion from overseeing media policy and the BSkyB shares takeover.

One of the significant aftershocks appeared with the coming of Wednesday’s edition of The Times.  On the front page, Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor sloshed away the meat and bones of the story and got right down to the marrow.  After the obligatory “A humiliated Vince Cable was left clinging to his Cabinet position” introduction, Coates waded in explicitly declaring his necessarily biased interest:

“The Business Secretary was deeply damaged after it emerged he had boasted to undercover reporters that he was waging a war against Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, the parent company of The Times.

The Cameron/Clegg decision to demote Cable it seems was not sufficient:

“…albeit stripped of his role overseeing media policy, questions remained about [Cable’s] judgement and impartiality.”

Such questions were asked with strength and pertinence by The Times.  Channelling Bernard Jenkin, Tory Chairman of the Public Administration Committee, Coates twice manages to square Cable’s remarks as opposed to public interest, and in doing so squared The Times as being solely concerned with the public interest:

“The comments underline what many of us feel is a similar campaign against the City and the banks which is equally prejudicial and not in the public interest.  If this is driven by the same kind of prejudice, it is clear that the national interest is not being served.”

Quite why The Times would wish to compare itself to the poor, put upon banks is besides the point.  Apparently, Cable’s private interest intrinsically contradicts the public interest, even if his private interest is to ensure media plurality and in turn serve the public interest.

After piling on the repercussions felt by Cable (“punishment” and “double rebuke”), Coates ends with a word from the innocent and strangely personified News Corp.  “News Corp said it was ‘shocked and dismayed by reports of Mr Cable’s comments.”  Oh look, a speaking corporation!

The inside page leader, as always writing conveniently anonymously, continues this innocence with expert calculation.

Once again the obligatory “Vince Cable’s nuclear bomb went off in his hands” introduction is followed by the “real issue”.  The Times recounts the shameful betrayal it felt:

“Dr Cable recently assured The Times that, in coming to a decision about the desire of News Corporation, the owner of this newspaper, to acquire the equity in BSkyB that it does not already hold, he would follow the advice of his lawyers and act in the quasi-judicial spirit that his public position demands of him.  The Times tries to avoid commenting on issues that affect it directly [including phone tapping, Andy Coulson etc. but of course The Times felt compelled to act in this case] but, on the last occasion we did, we said simply that we trusted Dr Cable to conduct the decision accordingly to due legal process.”

If there was ever any doubt that The Times was the mouth piece of News Corporation, then this leader abolishes any such hope.  It goes on:

“It turns out that we were wrong to repose such trust.”

This mouth piece then goes on to humbly praise its unwilling foe the BBC:  “The story came to light only because the BBC exposed it, and it is greatly to the credit of that organisation… that it chose to do so.”

It then breaks another Times record with the following two simple sentences:

“Ed Miliband was right.  Mr Cameron has made the wrong decision.”

The Times continued with a double page spread complete with a time line and pie chart detailing the BSkyB section of the empire.   It wasn’t until page 6 below a feature deriding Cable’s dancing/political history that Ann Treneman was allowed to comment, albeit briefly, on the political story that had unfolded the previous evening.

With News Corporation firmly atop the now mountainous moral high ground and, as The Times states, with “the transfer of responsibility from the Business Department to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is not up to the job” (and more importantly, is Conservative dominated) it is perhaps more than likely that Murdoch’s designs for BSkyB will be realised.

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