« The weak demand for equal opportunity | Main | The strong demand for charlatans »

May 25, 2012


Tracy Connell

I agree over your quasi judicial points. However, the point remains that Cameron removed Vince Cable from the post because he was biased against the take-over, but then proceeded to employ someone whom he KNEW was staunchly in favour of the bid.

It is therefore inevitable that Cameron's judgement will be called into question, along with his own motives and bias regarding the bid.

Fair enough if he hadn't known BEFORE assigning Hunt to the job, but he DID know.

Regarding Hunt's resignation - I think it will be impossible for him to survive given how far things have come and that it is only a matter of time. Of course, he must still give his evidence next week.


Hunt was openly in support of he bid during the 2010 election. The Tories were pretty open about boosting Murdoch and curtailing the BBC if they got power.

Hunt only failed to get the job of giving BSkyB to Murdoch tied in a neat wee bow because the Tories didn't win a majority.

One thing the coalition has been good for.

Adam Bell

Bit puzzled by the second-to-last paragraph. Character has long been an important part of the British political process, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Moreover, the fact that Hunt has been caught out is perhaps evidence that existing processes are adequate to the task of rectifying inadequate judgements. Certainly, processes which reduce the number of inadequate judgements may help, but the additional administrative overhead they may require may reduce the timeliness of judgements, which is also a consideration.

Account Deleted

I don't think the flaw here is an over-estimation of the character of ministers, or a lack of adequate structure (Ofcom and the Competition Commission would appear to have the capability to address media plurality).

Decisions on media ownership have been deliberately reserved by the government because they entail great power. This has been the case since John Biffen failed to refer Murdoch's acquisition of the Times to the then Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Many countries have simple rules that prevent excessive concentration or trigger reference to independent regulators. We did away with these rules, under pressure from media conglomerates, in favour of ministerial discretion.

See: http://www.cfom.org.uk/2011/07/is-the-uk-media-plurality-test-fit-for-purpose/ for a good summary.


Jimmy Naughtie got it right, Jeremy Hunt = C**t.

An honerable gentleman resigns when he is shown to be partisan and corrupt. But instead the tory answer is to sack your special adviser. Mr Adam Smith will do well to choose his future employers more carefully!

The fact the system is corrupt is quite true as fromarsetoelbow.blogspot.com has pointed out. So the Labour front bench are not clean either.

It seems that politicians do not want impartial regulation of the media as it might mean that the voters would be informed and educated; and that would never do. Better a back stairs stitch up. Are they still "smoke filled rooms" or has smoking been banned when the corrupt deals are done ? We should be told but probably won't be.


Plainly who buys BSkyB is a political question, the important point being how to control and constrain a dominant player in the market. Balanced against this is who exactly would want BSkyB anyway and who will ensure the maximum media revenues will accrue to the UK. In the absence of any credible alternative surely News Corp is the sensible answer - all this tosh about 'quasi-judicial review' is just so much flim-flam created to lend respectability to an obvious political question any sensible politician can answer in five minutes at trivial cost.

The alternative to a political fix up is what? a genuine judge poring over the rights and wrongs for years on end? Upon what facts? At this level democratic accountability is an illusion, there is no system that can replace the essentially political nature of whether BSkyB's bid should be accepted. Say yes and stop whining.

gastro george

The main thrust of the post is absolutely correct - appeals to the "character" of decision makers is sign of fundamental problem with systems or structures. It's a justification of "wise dictators" and inevitably undemocratic. Correct systems and structures are what preserve democracy from arbitrary decisions.

Richard Gadsden

I agree completely; some decisions are and should be overtly political and elected politicians should be allowed to make them on political grounds.

Planning is a good example of the ludicrousness. Delegated decisions (most minor ones, like planning permission for a garage extension, or a new permanent outbuilding) are made by local government officers according to guidelines from the planning committee and according to planning law. But major ones are made by a planning committee and can be reviewed or overturned by the full council. However, they have to decide on planning grounds (according to the TCPA), and must not pre-judge the case.

So a local campaigner runs a campaign against a proposed development, gets elected to the council on the basis of that campaign, then gets on the planning committee, and is told that they pre-judged the case by campaigning against the development and therefore cannot vote.

The whole process is ridiculous. It should either be decided by independent persons, or the councillors should be allowed to take anything they like into account (apart from corruption, of course).

Andrew Fisher

So in paragraph 6 you write

'[I]f you want someone to act quasi-judicially, you ensure that he is legally - and culturally - independent.'

and then in paragraph 8 you write

'Tittle-tattle about whether Hunt should resign or not symbolises an ideology that disfigures our politics'.

So which is it? I think I agree with the writer of paragraph 6 that cultural expectations of independence are a key element of having the right structures and systems - there is more to it than people playing roles, but people do have to play their roles.

By contrast I think the writer of paragraph 8 is talking utter nonsense: there is no system or structure that can lead to good decision-making regardless of the behavioural standards expected of the decision-makers.


Challenge to character can in truth only lead, via an infinite progression, to an inability to ever make decisions. We are not perfect, we all have opinions, some of these are wrong, we all do things we wish we hadn't, and say things we later regret. We must all make decisions in this environment knowing that some will be wrong, or at least will have negative consequences, in fact there could be no positive outcome from a decision, merely one which has less problematic outcomes. In constructing a system which allows for a more balanced outcome we make it easier to stand outside the decision and to live with it once made. Alfred North Whitehead was undoubtedly correct.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad