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Cameron clings to Hunt - but can't escape hacking scandal

by Simon Basketter


David Cameron is clinging tightly to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt. He hopes that by keeping Hunt in office the hacking scandal will stay one step removed from him.

Cameron gave Hunt his backing despite the fact that Hunt’s cosy ties to the Murdoch empire were laid bare at the Leveson inquiry last week.

Speaking on Hunt’s closeness to Rupert Murdoch’s £8 billion bid to take full control of BSkyB, Cameron asked, “Did he adjudicate this bid wisely and fairly?”

He concluded, “He did.”

Cameron appointed Hunt to oversee the BSkyB bid after stripping business secretary Vince Cable of the role for saying he was declaring “war” on Murdoch.

This is how the switch happened.

That day, 21 December 2011, Hunt texted James Murdoch congratulating him on European clearance for the takeover. “Just Ofcom to go,” he wrote.

Hunt then sent chancellor George Osborne a message after receiving a phone call from James Murdoch.

The message was timed at 4.08pm. It read, “Could we chat about Murdoch Sky bid? I am seriously worried we are going to screw this up. Jeremy.”

Hunt then sent an email to Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who was at that time working as Cameron’s spin doctor.

It read, “Could we chat about this? I am seriously worried Vince Cable will do real damage to coalition with his comments.”

Solution

At 4.58pm Osborne texted Hunt back: “Hope you like the solution”.

The “solution” was that Hunt was handed responsibility for deciding on Murdoch’s bid.

Hunt exchanged private messages with Murdoch even once he was in his new judicial role.

In March he sent James Murdoch a message congratulating him on his new job at News Corp head­quarters in the US.

Hunt used a personal Gmail account to contact Murdoch, not his government email.

That meant that his civil servants didn’t see it—and that the messages would be excluded from Freedom of Information requests.

Cameron has staked his reputation on Hunt. But the scandal keeps getting closer and closer to the prime minister.

George Osborne hopes not to give evidence. Cameron gives evidence to the inquiry next week.

Andy Coulson was charged with perjury last Wednesday over evidence he gave on oath while working for the Tories (see www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=28679).

He is accused of lying during the perjury trial of Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan in 2010.

The number of Cameron’s close friends who have been charged or questioned over perjury or conspiring to pervert the course of justice is growing fast.

They include Cameron’s old Eton pal Charlie Brooks and his wife, former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks, who was Cameron’s closest media ally.

Coulson is just the latest to join the list.

That’s why Jeremy Hunt still has a job—for now.


Article information

News
Tue 5 Jun 2012, 17:15 BST
Issue No. 2306
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