Cable loses his power in 'war' against Murdoch

Vince Cable MP

Vince Cable no longer holds responsibility over competition issues when it comes to the media after declaring "war" on media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

The business secretary told reporters from The Daily Telegraph his views on The Times owner's plan to buy out the majority share of broadcasting company BSkyB, when they posed as constituents at one of his local surgeries.

"You may wonder what is happening with the Murdoch press," said Cable. "I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we're going to win".

"I didn't politicise it, because it is a legal question, but he [Murdoch] is trying to take over BSkyB, you probably know that. He has minority shares and he wants a majority. And a majority-control would give him a massive stake."

"I have blocked it, using the powers that I have got," he added, "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."

Murdoch's company, News Corp, was said to be "shocked and dismayed" by the comments.

Cable's words also got him in trouble with Prime Minister David Cameron and rumours were rife he would have to resign as business secretary, especially after earlier comments to the same Telegraph reporters claiming he could "bring down the Government" if he was "pushed too far."

However, rather than removing his role entirely, Cameron has chosen to take away his control over media and telecoms competition.

A statement sent to IT PRO from Downing Street, said: "The Prime Minister has decided that [Cable] will play no further part in the decision over News Corporation's proposed takeover of BSkyB."

"In addition, all responsibility for competition and policy issues relating to media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors will be transferred immediately to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport [Jeremy Hunt MP]. This includes full responsibility for Ofcom's activities in these areas."

The statement concluded: "The Prime Minister is clear that Mr Cable's comments were totally unacceptable and inappropriate."

Cable released his own statement which said: "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."

However, some think the Prime Minister didn't go far enough.

Prominent Labour backbencher Tom Watson claimed the remarks had left the pro-Murdoch MP, Jeremy Hunt, in charge rather than Cable who "we trusted would do the right thing."

In a strongly worded blog post, the MP said: "Faced with the indisputable truth about media plurality in Britain we were counting on him to face down all opposition and for the first time in decades, stand up to Rupert Murdoch. And now he can't."

"That's why Cable has to go."

Cable was appointed as business secretary after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition came into power following the May election.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.