Politicians are not the only guilty ones

Westminster has shut down for Christmas. Some things are still sacred. The Con Dem coalition is fortunate not to be facing a full-blown crisis this morning.  But we can still pose the questions. Is there a legitimate distinction between public and private comment or is the difference always hypocrisy? The question lies at the heart of the WikiLeaks controversy and now in the spate of Lib Dem indiscretions. For political journalists the distinction is part of their stock in trade. So does the refusal of some to recognise any difference when it applies to politicians. Does their appeal to the greater public interest in entrapping the Lib Dem ministers justify what could otherwise be seen as a greater hypocrisy than anything said by the politicians?

As heard on the tapes, two giggling young women Heidi Blake and Holly Watt have broken the invisible rulebook by giving four amazingly susceptible and  indiscreet Lib Dem ministers the treatment normally reserved for suspected fraudsters. They were sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, the paper that brought you the MPs’ expenses scandal in remorseless detail.

Right wing sympathisers may see a Tory plot to undermine the liberal tendency in the coalition. Left field conspiracy theorists might argue that the surreptitious interviews gave Lib Dem ministers, heavily bruised in the tuition fees controversy, an ideal platform to assert their independence in public. That argument might have flown, just, had  the former national treasure Vince Cable not blown himself up with his own bomb.

By the old rules of spin and politics, his position is untenable. Coalition politics may be different, we shall see, but Vince’s appearance in the Christmas Strictly Come Dancing will help keep the controversy alive in a neatly ironic fashion over the holiday. At best, Cable has been emasculated, a great pity, while Cameron and Clegg will cling together even more tightly.

The Daily Telegraph have their own questions to answer. Why did they withhold Vince’s smoking gun which was leaked later to the BBC’s Robert Peston?  Might it have been intended as a tender-hearted Christmas present to Vince?  Unlikely.  The fact that they have an interest in any decision that affects the power of Rupert Murdoch raises the suspicion that they are guilty of the greatest hypocrisy of all – censorship out of self-interest. Either that, or they’d have fired the bullet of  Vince’s “declaration of war” on Murdoch  at the point when  Cameron and Clegg had thought they ‘d got away with it and were relaxing for Christmas.  Hacks, doncha love’em?

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  • Why did they withhold Vince’s smoking gun which was leaked later to the BBC’s Robert Peston?

    Had Rupert Murdoch lost the first round of the Sky Battle, this material would have been far more valuable to him undisclosed. Remember, Murdoch is one of the World’s most ruthless businessmen. He changed his own citizenship from Australia to USA in order to comply with the M & A law in America. This, of course, is only a theory and it presupposes that there is a link between Murdoch and Telegraph journalists. I would put nothing past anybody here.

    Perhaps the Telegraph had a motive for bringing down Cable. He would have fallen much harder and the Coalition would have been in much more disarray. There are a plenty on the Tory right who do not like the coalition. That is not such a good theory. Plenty of Telegraph journalists favour the coalition.

    It is also possible that Telegraph management wanted to reveal the material to Cameron in order that they could get rid of Cable quietly without leaking the scandal before the sacking. The news could have been controlled and David Cameron could have retained the narrative.

  • Second comment

    I totally agree this is a full resignation/dismissal issue. It may come to it yet. Unfortunately, this is the second very senior Lib Dem minister to fall and the third Lib Dem MP to be tainted by scandal.

    As regards the journalists, I do not agree with the view that this was bad journalism. They have exposed a malicious and now obviously dangerous Minister. In every way, they are on the side of the Angels. It does not compare with, e.g. the entrapment of Lawrence Dallaglio (England Rugby captain) more than 10 years ago.

  • Mark

    Seymour Major ,

    I agree on the Cable issue , he should have gone . It shows how fragile the coalition is .

    But Dallaglio , he was dealing cocaine . He went as far as saying that he drove around in a Volkswagen Golf so as not to look conspicuous . Having said that , it was a blessing in disguise for English rugby as Martin Johnson got the nod and the rest is history .

  • Brian,

    Can’t disagree with any of that. The effect of jounalists running sting operations not just to flush out corruption but to find politicians who *shock* disagree with their colleagues …. it’s hugely corrosive in so many ways.

    Seymour:

    Murdoch is living proof that you don’t primarily make money in the media by beating your rivals. You do it by beating regulators.