Ed Milliband has called today for an immediate referral to the Competition Commission of the NewsCorp-BskyB merger in light of the phone hacking scandal at the NOTW. Clearly, Ed didn’t get the note from his very own News International employee come spin doctor, not to conflate the two issues. The problem for the Government is that were to do as Milliband demands they would be struck down by judicial review. I will leave it to the excellent ‘Head of Legal’ blog to explain why it would be legally indefensible for the government to now slam the brakes on this process, let alone put it into reverse.
You can’t help but be highly suspicious of the timing of the NOTW hacking scandal, emerging only days before the Friday deadline for the decision on the NewsCorp – BSkyB merger. It has already been reported that the police have had the victims details for over 5 years but have not seen fit to act upon them earlier (that in itself raises interesting questions). Yet we are now seeing a daily drip release of ever more disturbing, disgusting, allegations. Who is responsible for releasing these details? So close to the Friday deadline its hard not to think this has been deliberately orchestrated to blacken further the name of NewsCorp and for maximum political impact.
Either way, credit where credit is due to Milliband, he’s spotted the opportunity push the government into a legal corner and he’s playing it for all its worth.