Murdoch and BSkyB and British Politics
If I were advising News International I would be telling their top crew to recruit the best lawyers in the UK – vital given the UK inquiries being set up and the prospect of anti-bribery prosecutions under both UK and US law – and to watch what happens in the House of Commons on Wednesday. That’s opposition debate day. Labour leader Ed Miliband will move to block the News takeover of BSkyB. The Liberal Democrats will come under tremendous pressure to vote with Labour. Indeed they will be in a position where they dare not.
Some Tories could cross the floor as well.
Miliband’s options – here I’m thinking out loud – would range from “not a fit and proper person” brutality to “refer and delay” mildness. As I write he is about to announce his tactics. Either way he puts the baby-faced parson of a Prime Minister,compromised by his friendships with News of the World editors, under acute pressure.
The News people should assume sizeable middle class demonstrations led by families of the war dead expressing outrage against the takeover. Demonstrations so large and respectable that not even the parasitic anarchist and Trotskyist fringe will be able to discredit them. Murdoch executives should assume a petition promoted by celebrities that aims for a million – no, two million – signatures.
Always look for the British public transforming itself in some unifying moral outrage. It could well engender a climate where Cameron’s support would collapse if he allowed the takeover through. And this is a fast-moving drama, with shocking revelations to appear by the minute as the two inquiries get to work and ex-journalists spill the beans.
Whatever happens, a textbook will be written some day on how the corporation responds to this existential challenge and the lessons will be taught at business schools for years. Reminds me, too, of the old anxiety you have running a state government : out there sit 300,000 state government employees and at any moment you can never assume none is engaged in corruption or illegality.
Of course, if you ever learn about it and do nothing you are dead.
What will Miliband do ?
For once – because the government he faces is a coalition with a left-leaning party – the opposition leader has real power. And an issue which is galvanising the public like none anyone can recall.