Tuesday, December 21, 2010
British Business Secretary Vince Cable has tonight been reprimanded by Prime Minister David Cameron after saying he was "at war" with Rupert Murdoch over News Corporation's attempts to take full control of BSkyB.
Cable will remain in the cabinet, but he will have no further role in the takeover bid. A statement released by officials in Downing Street said Cable's comments were "totally unacceptable and inappropriate". The statement confirmed Cable will no longer have responsibility over matters relating to media and broadcasting.
In a secret recording made by journalists from a British newspaper posing as members of the electorate, Cable said he had already decided to block the takeover bid. "I am picking my fights, some of which you may have seen, some of which you may haven't seen," he said in the recording. "I don't know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win."
In another extract from the recording, Cable says: "I have blocked it [the takeover bid], using the powers that I have got. And they are legal powers that I have got. I can't politicise it, but for the people who know what is happening, this is a big thing. His whole empire is now under attack. So there are things like that, that being in Government ... All we can do in opposition is protest."
News Corporation, owned by Murdoch, owns 39% of BSkyB, but wishes to purchase the other 61% for £7.8 billion. Cable had pledged to remain impartial in the decision, and had ordered Ofcom to investigate the takeover bid. News Corporation stated they were "shocked and dismayed" at Cable's comments, and said they "raise serious questions about fairness and due process."
A source inside Downing Street said the government took "swift and firm action" in stripping Cable of his powers over the takeover bid. "He will have absolutely nothing to do with media," the source added.
The business secretary apologised for his remarks, saying: "I fully accept the decision of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. I deeply regret the comments I made and apologise for the embarrassment that I have caused the Government." Political commentator Nick Robinson said although he remained in office, Cable is in a "very awkward" position, because the statement from Downing Street was, for Cable, a "humiliating slap in the face." Cable refused to answer journalists' questions as he arrived at his constituency home in Twickenham, London.
== Sources ==
"Vince Cable to stay on as Business Secretary" — BBC News Online, December 21, 2010
Press Association. "Cable stripped of powers on BSkyB takeover" — The Independent, December 21, 2010
Robert Winnett, Andrew Porter and Holly Watt. "Vince Cable stripped of responsibility for media competition after Rupert Murdoch comments" — Daily Telegraph, December 21, 2010