Matthew Norman's Diary: Before you leave, Vince, please stop Murdoch
Monday 20 September 2010
If there were such a timepiece as the Vince Cable Doomsday Clock, illustrating how close to resignation he is at any given time, the big hand would today stand at two minutes to midnight. In fact, after last week's nuclear assault on the Government's non-EU immigration quota, it may be 11.59pm.
If Vince is shortly to resign as Business Secretary, there is one golden legacy he can bequeath us. He must, as David Puttnam so forcefully argues, refer Rupert Murdoch's plan to take a 100 per cent stake in BSkyB to Ofcom. The threat to democracy posed by a less tightly regulated News Corporation is hardly opaque, with Fox News and its hand puppets Sarah Palin and the Tea Party propelling the US towards such scary political waters.
The eagerness of the PM and his Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to remove obstacles between Mr Murdoch and the Foxification of TV news is as petrifying as it is predictable, and time is short. Only by referring Murdoch to Ofcom before the clock strikes midnight will Vince leave the Government with pride and integrity intact.
With four days of the Milibandroid slumberfest to go, the odds narrow by the hour. David – 1-5 on Betfair a week ago – has drifted alarmingly to 5-7, while Little Ed has shortened dramatically to 6-4. The significance of Lord Mandelson's blaming Ed's manifesto for Labour's election defeat cannot be overstated. If Ed does get up to win it by a nostril, we trust he will have the decency to sample Mr Tony Blair from 1994, and thank "Bobby" – Mandy's covert electioneering nickname – in his speech.
* David Blunkett: an apology. In last week's reference to his meeting with Rebekah Wade (Brooks as is) in the hours between his second cabinet sacking and her arrest over a domestic involving TV's Hardest Man – her then husband, Ross Kemp – I accused Mr Blunkett of drinking champagne. The former home secretary is outraged by this falsehood, and understandably so. The suggestion, however unwitting, that his tastes had come to tend towards the luxurious is absurd. Whatever he drank that night, or indeed on any of those he spent at Annabel's, it was not champagne, and sincere apologies for this howler. I am sending dear old Blunkers three cases of pale ale and a dozen pickled eggs by way of undisclosed damages.
* To Mr Justice Eady, at least in his capacity of libel supremo, the saddest of farewells. Although this column had for months feared his replacement as allocator of High Court defamation cases, in the event by Tugendhat J, no amount of morbid anticipation softened the blow. Sir David will remain on the bench, however, and I would ask that he is accorded the privacy he strove so valiantly to extend to others. Let us leave him to judge in peace. For a while.
* Who knows what Eady J would make of Jim Rosenthal's legal bid for compensation for the bug he caught after eating oysters at Heston's Fat Duck in January, but I'd throw him in the cells for wasting court time. Michael Winner was nearly killed by a bad Bajan oyster, you may recall, enduring 19 operations under general anaesthetic, and from him not a moan. Much more of this whining, and Jim's new boss Richard Desmond is thought certain to cast him as the lead in the Channel 5's forthcoming dramatisation of Israel Zangwill's 1894 comic novel The King of Schnorrers. Clam up about that sodding tummy bug, man, for goodness sake.
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