Vince Cable: 'News Corp made veiled threats to attack Lib Dems if BSkyB takeover was blocked'

 

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire made “veiled threats” to attack the Liberal Democrats in its UK newspapers if its controversial £8 billion takeover of BSkyB was blocked, the Business Secretary Vince Cable claimed today.

Mr Cable told the Leveson Inquiry that he felt “under siege” from News Corp and was “seriously disturbed” by what appeared to be a co-ordinated effort to coerce him into accepting the deal.

He blamed the pressure for his unguarded outburst to undercover reporters that he had “declared war” on Mr Murdoch - an outburst led to him being stripped of responsibility for ruling on the bid.

Speaking a day before the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to give evidence about his roll in the takeover bid Mr Cable accepted that it was right to remove him from the process. But he insisted that his personal concerns about the influence of Murdoch newspapers would have affected his decision.

“I had heard directly and indirectly from colleagues that there had been veiled threats that if I made the wrong decision from the point of view of the company, my party would be - I think somebody used the phrase ‘done over’ in News International press,” Mr Cable told Lord Justice Leveson.

“I took those things seriously, I was very concerned.”

Mr Cable said that he believed that the threats emerged "in conversation" between Lib Dem colleagues and News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel, adding “but I can't be absolutely certain”.

Pressed by Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, if Michel's name was “expressly mentioned to you”   Mr Cable said that “it was at that stage, yes indeed”.

Setting out the context of his “war” remark to two journalists posing as constituents – Mr Cable said he was already “tense and emotional” because of dealing with angry protesters.

He added that reports that News Corp representatives were “either trying to influence my views or seeking material which might be used to challenge any adverse ruling I might make” only inflamed his mood.

“My references to a 'War on Murdoch' were making the point, no doubt rather hyperbolically, that I had no intention of being intimidated,” he said.

Mr Cable agreed that he had personal concerns about the mounting influence of the Murdoch empire, but insisted that they had not in any way affected his decision.

“In my opinion as a politician, I believed that the Murdochs' influence, exercised through their newspapers, had become disproportionate,” he told the inquiry.

“This was not a factor in my decision,” he said. “Absolutely not.”

Defending his handling of the bid, he rejected News International complaints about his refusal to meet him to hear News International's arguments in favour of the takeover.

Asked about the issue by the lawyer acting for News International and News Corp, he said it “could have looked like bias” if he had not also held meetings with the many organisations lined up in opposition to the takeover.

He said News Corp had been able to express its case “fully and forcefully” through official channels, he suggested.

He also firmly rejected claims by Mr Michel that he had stated that there would “not be a policy issue” with regard to the takeover in the course of a conference call.

Shown an email from Mr Michel reporting back on the conversation, Mr Cable said: “I almost certainly did not say that and I am confident that I didn't say it.”

He added that officials listening in would have “taken me to task if I had said it”.

Giving evidence after Mr Cable Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, told the Leveson Inquiry politicians were influenced by a “noisier and noisier” press, claiming newspapers could “drive weak governments like sheep”.

“There certainly are cases... where policy decisions are taken primarily because people, the politicians and ministers responsible, are fearful of the media reaction,” he said.

“What editors are mainly interested in is exerting influence on non-media type political issues.

“They can certainly drive a weak government like a flock of sheep before them sometimes, in some areas.”

He added that he believed would-be MPs were deterred from standing for office by the potential intrusion into their private lives.

“A lot of people are drawn away from politics because they don't want to accept the level of exposure,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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 Media

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn