Peter Hoskin

Miliband primes his weapon of choice

Miliband primes his weapon of choice
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There's a lot to sift through in the papers this morning, even apart from history's final edition of the News of the World. I mean, a report that Rebekah Brooks is to face police questioning over the phone hacking scandal; an interview with the assistant commissioner of the Met, who apologises and flusters over the original police investigation; and claims from Paddy Ashdown that he warned No.10 "within days of the election" about the Coulson-shaped trouble that was heading their way. But more politically significant is the news that Ed Miliband could push for a Commons vote, on Wednesday, to block News Corp's takeover of Sky. The Labour leader outlined his plan on Andrew Marr's show just now, saying that, "I don't think [David Cameron] can carry on with business as usual. I think he's got to understand where the public is on this. And, if he doesn't, then the House should have a chance to have its say." The Observer has more detail here.

I wrote on Friday that delaying the BSkyB deal is likely to be Miliband's "weapon of choice" — it seems, now, that he's priming it for detonation. But the question, really, is who will help him push the button, and bring on the fallout. Labour types are confident of Lib Dem support, and understandably so. The Observer article that I've linked to above features an assortment of prominent Libs speaking out against Murdoch's proposed takeover. Lord Ashdown (him again) says that, "The public will be outraged and bewildered and trust in our politics will take yet another knock if this takeover goes ahead after what has happened." Sir Menzies Campbell advises the government to Just Say No, "thereby putting the onus on Murdoch to go for a judicial review." Shirley Williams is, apparently, in "no doubt whatsoever that the bid should be put on the back-burner". And so on, and so on.

This is another burgeoning problem for Downing Street. The Lib Dem's distaste for the BSkyB deal — which appears to be shared by Nick Clegg — is up there with AV as their most significant, voluminous and unequivocal alliance with Miliband's Labour party since the birth of the coalition. It calls to mind the words of Vince Cable, in those secretly-taped conversations last year: "I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we’re going to win." In this one battle, at least, the odds seem to be shifting Vince's way.

UPDATE: Speaking on Sky's Murnaghan show, Simon Hughes has just backed Miliband's call for a vote — and suggested that he will encourage his "colleagues" to vote in its favour.