Published on 27 Apr 2012

Hunt: ‘I must see what James thinks’

As Jeremy Hunt faces mounting questions over his relationship with the Murdoch empire, it’s worth repeating a bit of gossip I first related 16 months ago when this blog was published in another place.

In the summer of 2010, just after assuming office, Hunt had a meeting with his officials at the Culture and Media department (DCMS) to talk through his plans for broadcasting.

Hunt ended the meeting by announcing: “Now, I must just see what James thinks about all this.”

His civil servants were shocked.  By “James” they all assumed the culture secretary meant James Murdoch.

And Hunt did indeed mean Murdoch, I was told.

Read more: Who has sued and settled in phone-hacking scandal?

I was subsequently assured that Hunt was merely teasing his departmental civil servants.  They were wary about whether their new Conservative ministers (in a department with no Lib Dems) were too close to News Corp, and had allowed policy to be dictated by the Murdochs.

Now I’m starting to wonder, though, if Hunt really was teasing.

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6 reader comments

  1. Malcolm Latchman says:

    I think James Naughtie got it right in the first place.

  2. StuartM says:

    Seems there are two issues and Hunt/Cameron are using one to try and get away with the other.

    The issue as to whether Hunt handled NI BSkyB takeover properly may be appropriate for Leveson to consider.

    However, nobody is questioning that there was totally inappropriate information being passed to Murdoch(s). Even if it was from a Special Adviser, that does not allow Hunt to claim no responsibility. Cameron introduced the Ministerial responsibility for Special Advisers which means that Hunt was responsible for the actions of his special adviser (approved or otherwise). And Hunt cannot just do the “it was not me …” as it seems it clearly was his responsibility. This would appear to have broken the Ministerial Code (as updated by Cameron himself). It is way outside the scope for Leveson to investigate breaches of the Ministerial code.

    So Cameron is hoping that by ignoring his own pledges and by ignoring the Ministerial code, the delays in Leveson hearing Hunt will make everybody lose interest.

    And politicians wonder why the public holds them win such low regard. Being from Public School myself I can appreciate the feeling Cameron has about protecting his friends – but we are talking about running the country here and if we cannot trust our politicians …

  3. stuartM says:

    Another interesting aspect is that when Labour make a departing joke “There is no money left …” the ConDems harp on about it forever, taking it seriously. so I assume that comments they might make should be taken in the same spirit – seriously.

    Because they cannot have it both ways. i.e. Cannot be that when Labour say something it’s dead serious but when they say something and get found-out “oh, it was a joke”.

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