Deputy Prime Minister Backs David Cameron on Contacts with News International During BSkyB Bid
LONDON – Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is backing Prime Minister David Cameron’s stance over his contacts with News International during the BSkyB bid process.
Clegg said Thursday he hoped to be able to concentrate “on the most important issue of all – the economy" but did refer to the phone-hacking scandal and media ownership currently gripping the U.K. and beyond.
The current crisis is "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really clean up the murky practices, the dodgy relationships which have taken root at the very heart of the British establishment,” Clegg said.
Clegg, delivering his end of Parliament term speech, stayed loyal to his coalition government partner, Conservative Cameron.
And when asked what his opinion of Cameron telling Parliament yesterday that he had “never had one inappropriate conversation” about the BSkyB bid with senior executives at News International, News Corp’s newspaper division since his election, Clegg backed his government coalition partner.
"I can't really add much to what the PM said on repeated occasions in the House of Commons," Clegg said.
He also said that the debate about what Cameron may or may not have said was fast becoming getting "slightly semantic."
Following the testimony of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and son and deputy COO James Murdoch in the phone hacking scandal to a Parliamentary Committee, Cameron had faced down questions in Parliament about the now-defunct bid for BSkyB.
Cameron said there had been no "inappropriate conversation" – pointing to the fact that in giving evidence yesterday to the DCMS committee Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, had said the same thing.
Clegg, finding himself repeatedly having to answer his stance on Cameron’s answers – the Prime Minister faced no less than 10 questions along the same lines Wednesday – ended up telling the media Thursday he felt Cameron had “been very open.”
Thursday dawned with television pictures of a private jet taking off with Rupert Murdoch on board and an eye of the hurricane feel to the phone-hacking storm.
Parliament is officially on summer recess now and the government’s judicial review into newspaper ethics sparked by the phone hacking and police corruption scandal is being widened to include broadcasters and social media.
Cameron said in Parliament yesterday the "torrent of revelations and allegations" over the past two weeks had "engulfed some of the country's most important institutions" and shaken people's trust in the media, police, politicians and media owners.
But Clegg was not to be drawn in on the political impact of Cameron’s hire of Andy Coulson, the former editor of The News of The World, who had not had to face the normal rigorous government security checks and was granted only mid-level security clearance when appointed to a senior government position.
Instead, Clegg reminded the room Coulson was a Conservative appointment, and to reiterate the Liberal Democrats' long-standing doubts about News International.
It’s a politically different stance to Cameron’s Conservative Party opinion.