Ignorant, hypocritical buffoon. And worse. Cable must go.

by Tom Watson

I like the guy. I held out hope he might end up being the axle of progressive politics in Britain. Yet it’s hard to resist the urge to slap Vince Cable around the chops.

Six months into the Conservative-led government, he’s left himself looking like, and let’s not mince words, he looks like a cock. What a total ignoramus. What a self-indulgent buffoon. What a hypocrite. For the protection of his own dignity, he should resign.

There are two winners out of this episode: David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch.

Here’s what Jeremy Hunt recently said in Broadcast magazine about Rupert Murdoch:

“Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day.

We would be the poorer and wouldn’t be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadn’t been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk. We need to encourage that kind of investment”.

Here’s what independent media analyst, Clair Enders recently said:

“Somewhere between 2015 and 2020, News International, Sky will control 50% of the newspaper and television markets respectively…..They will have a force de frappe which none of their competitors can match, while the BBC’s income will be negotiated downwards, and ITV simply lives with the ebb and flow of the advertising market”.

So, the company that hacked the phones of the royal princes will own half the newspaper and television market in Britain. If this was Zimbabwe, we’d be sending resolutions to the United Nations about it. It’s not though, and Jeremy Hunt, easily the most ambitious member of the cabinet, will make the decision.

That’s why Cable has to go. He can’t do his job. We trusted that he would do the right thing. 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.

Do you think that Jeremy Hunt, having said what he said about Rupert Murdoch, is going to go against his instincts and turn down News Corp’s bid for complete control of Sky? No. Neither do I.

Like Clare Short in Tony Blair’s administration after the resignation of Robin Cook, Cable’s days are numbered. I can’t understand how he can allow the public humiliation to last longer than today. But ministerial office does that to some people. They can’t let it go.

In choosing a slow lingering death, Cable has further weakened Clegg and the coaltion partners, though they appear too frightened and stupid to know this.

It’s inevitable. He’s broken one of the rules of being a minister. It’s probably the third rule concerning standards in public life. The one that says:?

“In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.”

We’ll no doubt be arguing about this for days to come, but we already know that Cable has broken the even bigger rule of ministerial life: don’t believe the hype. His own ego has destroyed him.

The Cable incident is another unforced error from a ragged government. Paradoxically, it helps Cameron as he strengthens his grip on a coalition government that has been shown to be paralysed by disagreement and personal loathing between ministers.

My God, what a mess though. And we’re only six months in.

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East

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13 Responses to “Ignorant, hypocritical buffoon. And worse. Cable must go.”

  1. Tim Swift says:

    Don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, Tom.

    But a question. If Vince Cable could not take the decision on Murdoch because of his stated views, how can Jeremy Hunt be allowed to take it instead?

  2. alan p says:

    Agree with Tim Swift above – if Cable is ruled out given his stated views, surely Hunt shuld be as well.

    Also, I find it interesting and a tad hypocritical that the UK Political/Mainstream Media establishment (so far anyway) think this form of leaking is acceptable, and yet Assange’s form is not. (So far I have heard no one demand the heads of the “Assanges” in this case, ie the 2 journos.)

  3. John O'Shea says:

    I only disagree in that you think it has strengthened Cameron – he’s facing pressure from his MPs because he has cut a LibDem more slack than he would a Tory minister. There’s no doubt that if it had been a Conservative minister, he or she would have been summarily sacked. Cameron will benefit from continued support from the NewsCorp machine, which may be a longer term bonus, but he is damaged within his party.

  4. Ian says:

    Tom, agree with everything except this line

    “There are two winners out of this episode: David Cameron”

    For me Cameron is weakened a lot by not being able to sack Cable. Look at the tory right commentators, berating him for lack of leadership and saying if Cable was a Tory he would be gone.

    Cameron needs the LD’s as a shield from two directions



    His risen right wing who are modelling themselves on the tea party and they are zealots. They actually believe a tory party on the style of he tea party could actually win an outright majority, for Cameron this cockiness will just cause more and more problems.

  5. susan press says:

    Tories will be laughing heads off and possibly knew of the plan…..Cable certainly hoist by his own hypocritical petard. And Strictly yet to come……

  6. Mark2 says:

    I agree with Susan and re: Alan P on Assange, there is surely a difference in kind between leaking especially perhaps mass leaking, classified documents and (is “leaking” even the right word?) the off the cuff comments even of a member of the Government.

  7. Ian says:

    Ed Miliband must have read this tom and pretty quickly has said

    “I think it is right that we as the opposition seek reassurance from Gus O’Donnell that he believes that nothing that Jeremy Hunt has said has prejudiced him. There is material around what he has said about Sky and its role in the broadcasting ecology. That’s why I think Gus O’Donnell needs to have a proper look through what Jeremy Hunt has said to make sure that he is satisfied that it doesn’t create the same problems we saw with Vince Cable.”

  8. Barry McCanna says:

    Cable has been undone by his own vanity, but he’s only following the example set by his illustrious predecessor.

  9. Jane says:

    I expect Vince Cable made the assumption that what went on in his surgery was confidential. Sadly, like many men he succombed to flattery by two young women. It just goes to show that the ego’s of our elected representatives no bounds.

    What alarms me is that a so called broadsheet trapped Mr Cable and other MPs. I think it is appalling that two journalists they stated they were constituents and somehow violated this relationship. I now consider the Telegraph a tabloid – and will treat all of its comment with disdain. I sincerely hope that someone reports them to the press complaints commission. Another mark against our deplorable press – they seek to make news rather than report it.

    I do not consider the government is “ragged”. Considering the two parties involved I think it is doing a great job. I love coalition government……..long may we experience this form of administration!

  10. steve howard says:

    Cant agree with Jane on the PCC suggestion. All is fair game if it gets to the truth which all too often is kept from the public. I do draw the line at phone taps and such like. In this instance I am sure that the taped conversation was to counter any denial, which in itself tells us how dangerously patronising the politicians have become. Servants of the people they are not. Only out to serve themselves and protect their little status of being Cabinet ministers.
    Currently News International is tied closer to the government than some of its own MP’s and the whole Coalition gives off the appearance of a nest of Vipers, intent on some political dogma first promulgated by Maggie and being continued by Cameron. There is nothing wrong with mass ownership, only the way its managed.
    Vince Cable has actually done us all a favour cos anyone who had any doubts before about voting Labour again will now be sure that it is the lesser of the three evils. Someone has to gover so we mught as well at least have a labour government with a social concience.

  11. Matt says:

    Two points of clarification: first, Julian Assange has not “leaked” any information. Wikileaks provides a site where material that has been leaked anonymously can be made accessible. If investigative journalism were still a viable practice, there would be no need for Wikileaks. Even more: the cables that Wikileaks has published in the “cablegate” leaks have all been vetted and redacted by news outlets — so far, only about 2000 of the 250,000 documents are available. There’s no comparison between Assange and the Telegraph reporters.

    Second, more of a query: the Financial Times is reporting that questions are being raised now as to whether it is legal to transfer oversight of media and communications from the Business Secretary to another office without primary legislation to do so. If the Communications Act puts this material in the business secretary’s portfolio, does the PM have the power to give it to another office without changing the legislation? If Hunt takes any decisions on NewsCorp and BSkyB before legislation is passed to enable him to do so, would that decision not be subject to a legal challenge?

    I agree with this article, by the way. Vince Cable should have had the personal integrity to hold a news conference to explain why he is opposed to allowing the Murdoch family to purchase the rest of BSkyB and then resigned from the cabinet, rather than prostrating himself before his lord and master. He has no shame.

  12. Dan McCurry says:

    It’s not a question of what Murdock owns, it’s what he has power over. He has 100% power over Sky even if his share holding is much less than that. I’d rather the government had done a deal with him that if he sells off a newspaper he can have all of Sky, but I think it’s more likely that it will be ushed through now.

    As for the winners, Osborne saw Cable as a thorn in his side over the banks. They wanted him out of the way. And now that he’s self-exploded. his nuclear option is massively diminished.

    It has suited the Tories.

  13. Tony Watson says:

    Your analysis is absolutely right – the sooner he goes the better!!

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