Clegg sticks to the Government script
The Lib Dems have very good credentials on daring to attack Murdoch et al from opposition. They’ve had their quietest 12 months ever on the subject since coming into office by dint of being in Coalition, busy with other things, trying to keep the Government harmonious.
But there has been less harmony post the AV referendum on a number of policy areas and today could have been an opportunity to create some definition on the phone-hacking scandal and the “murky practices and dodgy relationships” between politicians and the press the Deputy Prime Minister spoke about.
But what was striking was that the DPM stuck very closely to the PM’s lines in the chamber yesterday. Mr Cameron’s discussions with the Murdochs and their top team about the BSkyB bid were “appropriate” – the PM said it and he trusts him.
Would he take the opportunity to spell out just how much he’s tried to block Andy Coulson’s hiring? He didn’t and it’s not clear from his answers whether he returned to the subject with the PM when other allegations emerged through Andy Coulson’s period at No. 10.
He wouldn’t even say the UK wing of Murdoch’s empire is too big or paint a distinctly Lib Dem picture of a future media landscape.
The strategy for Nick Clegg clearly remains as it has been post-AV: to emphasise that the Lib Dems joined Coalition because of the central decision to get deficit reduction on track. But has he missed an opportunity here to get a bit more of the glory on phone hacking and (a la NHS reforms) look like he’s shaping things in government?
Some Lib Dem MPs have been bending my ear about the party’s low profile in a scandal they’d have monopolised in opposition and they may wish the DPM had found something more distinctive to say today.