Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

It’s time for Nick Clegg to step up.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 8, 2011 in British Politics |

A man stands up.

A man stands up.

I’d like to see Nick Clegg give the following speech:

“Good morning. I think it is fair to say that all reasonable minded people have been pretty disgusted by what has being going on at the News of the World. I’m not going to repeat the details, because we are all very much aware of them. However, this scandal also raises a greater issue. The fact is, it is hard to believe that senior management at News International did not know of the practices that seemed to be standard at that newspaper. It is just not enough to close the newspaper, and fire lower level employees, many of whom were not even in the newspaper when these events occurred.

But, more importantly, it also raises the broader question about the prevailing attitudes at the highest levels of the company. The reality is that the same company, and the same senior management, are currently attempting to take total control of BSKYB.

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.

I appeal to our Conservative colleagues in government to see this too. I do not want to fight a general election on the issue of News International. This country has far more important issues to deal with, but the Conservatives must be clear in their understanding. A decision to assist News International by this government will not stand. Thank you”

7 Comments

Nick
Jul 8, 2011 at 8:20 am

Can you read my mind? I was thinking of writing something just like this last night, but decided to leave it till the morning…


 

[...] 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 [...]


 
James
Jul 8, 2011 at 8:34 am

Revoke their status as a corportation. Dis-incorporate them in the UK. I see that as the only action that the UK Government can take that is an appropriate response to systematic breaches of the law, and interference in police investigations. They crossed a serious line, and an example should be made. The question is; does a sovereign state have that kind of power? I think, probably not.

Also: mobile phone companies are required to keep logs of all calls for a period of years (I am not sure about the UK system). These logs give caller and callee, as well as positioning information. It would be relatively simple to parse these logs for all remote voicemail calls, contact the owners of the voicemail and ask them if they have ever used their voicemail remotely. If not, then the owner of the caller should be prosecuted.
I am sure that many of these activities have been perpetrated using credit-phones, with no owner details, but it is still incredibly easy to determine who owns a mobile phone using their location information, again which is all held by the mobile phone companies. Once an illicit remote login has been detected, the mobile companies could then be subpoena for location data, which can be used to determine the identity of the “anonymous” phone owners. This is all within the UK Governments power (and responsibility!) let’s see what they do …


 
Niklas Smith
Jul 8, 2011 at 9:49 am

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.)

P.S. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve made the same comment on Nick Barlow’s blog, which is where I found the link to this post.


 
Jason O
Jul 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I thought there was a requirement that “fit and proper” people are required to hold the licence. I could be mistaken.


 
Niklas Smith
Jul 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm

You’re right and I’m wrong, as it turns out. It’s great news that Ofcom is planning to investigate whether News Corp are “fit and proper” given the extent of criminal activity in NotW.


 
Jason O
Jul 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Your legal reckoning, however, was quite sound.


 

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