Today David Cameron finds himself in the “awkward” position of having to back a Labour motion calling for Murdoch’s News Corporation to drop its bid for BSKyB. Of course in the current climate of almost Death-of-Diana outrage (so brilliantly orchestrated by the BBC and the Guardian), there is probably not much wriggle room for doing otherwise. But in fact it all suits him very nicely for the very last thing our pathologically Heathite prime minister really wants is for the BSkyB to go through.
Why? Because the purpose of Murdoch’s BSkyB bid is essentially so that he can set up a UK version of America’s most popular news channel Fox News. Fox News acts as the conscience of the right in the US: it’s one of the things which made the Tea Party possible. A British version would achieve the same over here, destroying the crushing hegemony enjoyed by the BBC, restoring a balance to the political debate in Britain which for decades has been so sorely lacking – whatever the BBC’s supposed charter to commitment to fairness and balance might pretend.
There’s a faction in the Conservative party (red meat Tories – the party’s ideological conscience) who are understandably desperate for the BSkyB deal to go through. It’s not because they love or even trust Rupert Murdoch but because they recognise that – ironic though this may seem – he currently represents Britain’s brightest hope for freedom of speech and the promulgation of the kind of small government, low tax, liberty-loving ideas you almost never hear expressed on the BBC except when donutted by a Lib-Dem, a Socialist, a Green and Fake Conservative telling you how dangerously extreme they are.
But this, of course, is why Cameron doesn’t want such a thing. If Cameron has any kind of political philosophy, it’s a woolly, don’t-rock-the-boat centrism combined with a vague, paternalistic notion that the gentleman from Eton knows best what is good for you. It suits him down to the ground that whenever he’s accused by his party’s right of being a spineless PR man who holds no greater ambition for Britain’s future than its managed decline he can simply wave airily towards the BBC and explain: “Sorry, chaps. But what can I do? We’re basically a left-wing kind of country whose agenda is defined by the values of the BBC….”
If the BSkyB deal ever goes through, Cameron will no longer have that option available. Worse still, he will have a new TV news channel explaining to viewers every day of the week what a limp-wristed, tofu-eating, faux-Tory abomination their supposedly Conservative prime minister really is.
I don’t think he wants that. Do you?