David Prosser: James Murdoch cannot lose Sky ballot, but the protest votes must still be counted

Outlook: Only a huge yes vote for James Murdoch as Sky chairman should be seen as a vote of confidence

Let's not pretend otherwise: there is almost no chance of James Murdoch losing the vote when he stands forre-election as chairman of BSkyB today. The arguments over his role at the company have been raging for months now, but a single inescapable factremains: News Corporation's 39 per cent stake in the company makes Mr Murdoch's re-election as chairmanalmost inevitable.

That is deeply regrettable. The list of reasons why Mr Murdoch should not go on chairing this company is a long one – and it is not confined to the phone-hacking scandal. He should not have been appointed in the first place – the City's corporate governance codeexpressly warns against moving acompany's chief executive into the chairman's office – and once News Corp made a bid for Sky, the resulting conflicts of interest should have seen him step down.

Now there is the additional question of integrity. There is no escaping the conclusion that Mr Murdoch must shoulder his share of the blame for the scandal at News Corporation's British newspaper business – certainly enough to undermine his position at Sky. If one accepts Mr Murdoch's testimony to MPs – his claims that he was not properly briefed about what went on at the News of the World – it still represents afailure to exercise proper oversight. If not, of course, the implications are more sinister.

Nor has this been the finest hour of Sky itself. The unanimous and unbending support Mr Murdoch has received from the rest of the board – executives and non-executives alike – ill behoves a company that is admirable in many other ways.

Nicholas Ferguson, Sky's deputy chairman, says the shareholders he has spoken to have been supportive of Mr Murdoch – or at least indicated they believed the question of his continued chairmanship is a matter for the board (which is a pretty miserable dereliction of their responsibilities).

We will learn today just how representative those shareholders are of the general mood among investors in the company – and if Mr Ferguson has been speaking to the wrong people, his chairman should consider his position once more, even after winning the day.

The key is the size of the rebellion against Mr Murdoch. Taking intoaccount the 39 per cent News Corp stake, a 20 per cent vote against his re-election, say, would actually be theequivalent of a third of shareholders suggesting he steps down.

A rebellion of 31 per cent or more would mean more than half the company's investors, excluding News Corp, want to see him go. Even if the numbers against re-election are not that high, we should take into account abstentions too. Given the tumult of Mr Murdoch's business life in recent months, only a huge yes vote in favour of re-election should be seen as a vote of confidence in his chairmanship.

Pensions delay is unfair and economically illiterate

Some of the more draconian suggestions made by Adrian Beecroft, who the Government asked earlier this year to look at red tape hindering businesses, have been quietly ignored, but theprivate equity veteran secured onevictory yesterday. The delay to theintroduction of auto-enrolment for smaller companies (though not that small, since firms with up to 3,000 workers will be affected) is being presented as a move to ease the burden on such organisations

In fact, this tinkering with pensions policy will merely kick the burden down the road a little, since auto-enrolment is being postponed at these firms rather than being cancelled altogether. Either way, it is a big mistake.

One can quite see the Government's thinking: why impose additional costs on small businesses – both for administration and pension contributions – when they are struggling in the face of such difficult economic headwinds?

Well, the first point to make is that yesterday's announcement only affects companies that had been due to auto-enrol from August 2013 onwards, by which time the economic environment might look quite different. Even on the current implementation timetable, there is plenty of time for smaller firms that plan ahead to spread their administrative costs.

The depressing thing about delay is that the workers who will now have to wait longer for decent pension provision are exactly those that reformers had in mind when auto-enrolment was designed. By and large, it is the employees of small organisations who are the least likely to have access to a private pension currently.

The other problem is that delaying auto-enrolment is economicallyilliterate. The baby boomer generation needs to do its bit in meeting the costs of providing for old age – the longer that auto-enrolment is delayed, the smaller the generation of workers who will have to bear the cost of providing for the baby boomers.

Cameron and Osborne at odds over transactions tax

There is no chance of George Osborne backing a financial transactions tax in today's autumn statement. But he might at least note the emergence over the past few days of two unlikely supporters for the duty. David Harding, the hedge fund mogul who runs Winton Capital, turns out to be an ally transaction tax campaigners might not have expected. More surprisingly, David Cameron told The Guardian's Saturday magazine: "I'm all in favour of a financial transaction tax, but only if you can do it globally".

It is a pity then that the Prime Minister hasn't got round to making the case for the tax on the global stage, or even to sharing his view with the Chancellor, who rubbishes the idea of such a tax at every opportunity.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker