Martin Hickman: A twist of fate, and Vince Cable soon became a thorn in Rupert Murdoch's side


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For simplicity, News Corp operated a two-party state. The Liberal Democrats were surplus to requirements and marginalised – ignored rather than ridiculed (the fate awaiting Labour or Tories when out of favour).

Rupert Murdoch's problems began when his nominated governmental partner, the Conservatives, failed to win a majority at the 2010 election and by a twist of fate, Vince Cable, a Liberal Democrat, ended up judging News Corp's £8bn takeover of BSkyB.

Mr Murdoch's executives soon realised that the Business Secretary was not clubbable. Neither he nor his special advisers wanted to meet News Corp's Fréd Michel, nor did they exchange friendly texts signed off LOL. As a result, News Corp began moving against him, building a case that he was biased, and started tapping up his friendlier Tory colleague Jeremy Hunt.

Through Mr Michel – according to Mr Cable – News Corp intimated that if the BSkyB deal was delayed the Lib Dems would be "done over" by its newspapers. The urbane, multi-lingual Mr Michel may have sprinkled his emails with French, but he well understood the Anglo-Saxon imperatives of his proprietor.

Mr Cable, however, would not bend and referred the bid to Ofcom. Soon after he was caught by two Daily Telegraph reporters saying he had "declared war" on the Murdoch empire and Mr Cameron passed the deal to Mr Hunt. Mr Hunt dragged it out for months while making great (and now absurd) play of his impartiality.

If Mr Cable had not already involved Ofcom, the deal would probably have been done before last July when it came unstuck. He was the Secretary of State for Scruple who quietly stopped Mr Murdoch.

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