Critical Social Theory and Cultural Commentary

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cablegate (lol)

The Vince Cable affair raises some interesting issues both in terms of the way today’s revelations emerged and more broadly the substance of the News Corp-BSkyB takeover deal, as well as Vince Cable’s place in government over the past few months. The Telegraph had clearly got no intention of publishing the complete record of Cables' comments with its' reporters, given its antipathy towards the afore mentioned deal, and so it therefore fell on the BBCs' Robert Peston, aided by a whistleblower, to swing the metaphorical axe. I imagine the BBC may live to regret this given the now near certainty of the deal being finalised. But, then again, maybe this is not all that surprising given recent comments by the BBC director general Mark Thompson, saying that Britain needs a channel like Fox News! And likewise, this stinks to high-heaven of Peston, a former Sunday Telegraph editor, 'getting one over' his old bosses. Whilst I'm certainly not in favour of secrecy in general I'd be very much inclined to side with the current Telegraph editors on this one. Given the moral outrage we've seen from the Murdoch Media Empire directed towards Wikileaks and Julian Assange in the past few weeks, it would certainly be difficult to have much if any sympathy if the Telegraph had manage to cover the story up. However, there is more to this story. Although Cable has survived with his job for the time being, the consensus is that this is unlikely to last much into the new year, with friend of the Tories, David Laws slated for a return. One can clearly see in the comments that Cable made to the Telegraph's reporters - whom he thought were constituency members - a clear moral unease and insecurity in the role he has played in the coalition. It has been no secret that Cable has never been the most trenchant supporter of government policy within the Cabinet, and he sought to justify his continued position there to the journalists, talking about 'picking his fights' and saying 'all we can do in opposition is protest'. He likewise talked about Cameron's secret plans to abolish winter fuel allowance, insinuating that he was fighting a valuable rearguard action behind enemy lines. Whilst this may have been the case to an extent one can't help but wonder whether any of this was really necessary in the first place for Mr Cable. He could have stopped this coalition government before it ever got off the ground, and that was definitely the opportune moment... before the juggernaut had started rolling. When he finally loses his job to the neo-liberal Laws, Cable, I imagine, will ask himself whether it was really worth compromising his principles in the first place (surely they're only good as long as they are adhered to, no?) Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end for the coalition, and he'll end up leading a backbench rebellion of Lib Dem MPs, but I think Cable may well have overestimated the influence he actually has. His own influence in government seems to have been increasingly marginalised, and its questionable whether he is really willing to lead a Lib Dem revolt, or even whether the Lib Dem backbenches have any stomach for the fight. Government patronage, with the prospect of a place on the front benches may be too much for many of them. As for the takeover deal itself I find it particularly galling how the European Commission can be so hostile towards Google yet see nothing wrong with Murdoch's dominance of news media in the UK. I think many people on the Left will likely echo my own position that its difficult to have a whole lot of sympathy with the position Cable has put himself in, having kept schtum during the past few months. Whilst I'd relish a 'war' on Murdoch this clearly isn't going to happen any time soon, and although I'd like some positive spin-off from this whole saga, unfortunately the position of the government seems like it may well have been strengthened here. We all know what a government united in its neo-liberal fervour and backed by a strengthened Murdoch Media Empire is likely to entail for the rest of us.

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