Vince Cable is to keep his job as business secretary after telling undercover reporters he had ‘declared war on Rupert Murdoch’but has been stripped of powers which would have enabled him to block News Corp‘s proposed takeover of BSkyB.
David Cameron yesterday removed Cable’s power to rule on competition and policy issues relating to media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors and shifted that responsibility to the Tory-controlled Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Downing Street issued a statement last night saying the Prime Minister had found Cable’s comments “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”.
Around 70 staff that worked on media policy will now transfer to work under culture secretary Jeremy Hunt – who will now take the final decision to whether on not to allow News Corp to buy the 61 per cent of BskyB it does not own.
Cable issued a separate statement last night in which he apologised; said he regretted the comments he had made and accepted the Prime Minister’s decision to remove his powers.
The BBC revealed yesterday that two Telegraph reporters posing as members of Cable’s Twickenham constituency were told by him during a surgery that he had ‘declared war on Rupert Murdoch’and indicated that he would seek to block the BskyB deal.
‘I didn’t politicise it, because it is a legal question, but he [Murdoch] is trying to take over BSkyB, you probably know that,’the Business Secretary said.
‘He has minority shares â€¦ 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. 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 â€¦ All we can do in opposition is protest.”
These comments, which had previously gone unreported by The Telegraph, not only raised questions about Cable’s suitability to rule on the BSkyB deal but also caused questions to be asked about why the paper – whose owners have opposed the proposed takeover – did not run the story until it had been broken by the BBC.
Telegraph Media Group has yet to return a request for comment from Press Gazette.
The Telegraph has published further revelations today about senior Lib Dem ministers voicing unease to its undercover reporters about the policies pursued by the Coalition.
Again these resulted from reporters apparently posing as constituents and then secretly taping conversations.