Coffee House

The Lib Dems start to pile on Hunt

27 April 2012

12:50 PM

27 April 2012

12:50 PM

One of the key factors in this Jeremy Hunt business was always going to be the ferocity of the political maelstrom around him. After a slow start, the Tories have sought to calm it down, offering fulsome support for the embattled Culture Secretary.
For their part, Labour have been calling for his resignation from the very moment the news broke, with Ed Miliband today accusing David Cameron of ‘organising a cover-up’ to protect his colleague. So
far, so party lines.


But what about the Lib Dems? It’s noteworthy that one of their number — Simon Hughes, natch — last night called for an independent investigation into the matter (see the video above).
This, of course, is not something that Downing Street is minded to do. Their position is that the Leveson Inquiry is sufficient, and that Hunt should be allowed to state his case as part of that

Nick Clegg, it should be said, has so far remained on the side of the Tory leadership. Tellingly, he remained seated on the green benches for the Culture Secretary’s statement on Wednesday, and one
of his people has this morning downplayed Hughes’s comments in conversation with Sky’s Sophie Ridge,
albeit with a touch of ambiguity.

That said, there will be pressure from Clegg’s own party to take a tougher line on Hunt — and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s tempted to do so. Don’t forget, much of the Lib Dems’
‘differentiation strategy’ is based on presenting themselves as the
anti-establishment party
within goverment. They may have been mentioned in the Fred Michel
emails themselves, but they will want to distinguish themselves from the whole Murdoch farrago nonetheless. Hence why Clegg mouthed ‘no we didn’t’ when Cameron claimed in PMQs that
‘we all did too much cosying up to Rupert Murdoch’.

In which case, this could easily become another sore point between the two halves (or the one-sixth and
five-sixths) of the coalition. Plenty of Tories still think that Vince Cable got off lightly after his nuclear comments about Murdoch. If the Lib Dems try to make life difficult for Hunt,
then this testy relationship might become even more frayed.

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Show comments
  • outsider

    What is all this nonsense about “quasi-judicial”. Mr Hunt, like Dr Cable, is a politician, not a judge. It was perfectly proper for Dr Cable, as a politician, to “declare war on Rupert Murdoch”. The problem was that his majority coalition partner took a different view. It was equally proper for Mr Hunt, a politician, to favour Mr Murdoch’s ambitions, provided that he took good account of the facts of the case (in this case the fear of rivals, however fanciful, that Mr Murdoch would use BSkyB revenues to subsidise an anti-competitive price war to save the ailing Times). Within those parameters of safeguarding domestic competition, it seems good that ministers should have close informal contact with leading UK businesses (we can argue about that) and without the say-so of civil servants to promote their legitimate ambitions. We need a lot more of that, not less. This is turning into another case of neutering politicians and handing power to permanent officials, whose own strong opinions are secret and unchallengeable. If the people are to be in charge, politicians should be in charge and if they are the wrong politicians we should change them, not neuter them. Brussels does more than enough of that already.

  • ButcombeMan

    Hunt (and Cameron) must take the British public for fools. The relationship between Spads and their masters is far too close for us to believe Hunt was in ignorance. If he was, he was utterly uncompetent on the most important/politically significant activity, he was involved with

    Of COURSE his activity should be reviwed through the established mechanism. He should probably have gone already.

    I despair of Cameron. Gutless and witless.

  • Trapped

    @ michael :

    If you think that, you clearly haven’t gone over the emails released with a toothcomb. Even if Michel was only in contact with Hunt’s Spad, the quantity and quality of information gained from that channel would almost certainly put Hunt in the frame, and at the very least implies Hunt has not played a straight bat on this. The key thing to look at is not whether there’s an immediate link to Hunt in any single email, but if the information that is claimed matches up to public announcements, which it does, meaning the leaks were ‘accurate’, big nono territory. Insider trading this would be called in commercial circles.

  • David Parker

    Well said Halcyondaze.
    I know its unfair to criticise people just for their looks, which they can’t help, but when these are coupled with sour, bilious and vitreolic utterances one wonders if the two are not connected. There is something very reptilian about Simon Hughes, with his thin, bloodless, downturned lips and his small sunken beady eyes. But, interestingly, watching her sitting on the same panel on Question Time, these same physical and verbal charactheristics very also shared by Polly Toynbee.

  • Fish

    Perhaps by now the Lib Dems should have grown into their roles and learned to understand the politics of Government. Sadly most haven’t and Hughes has further to travel than most – the perennial nearly man, the perennial protest vote, the perennial protester – ill at ease in his seat on the wrong side of the Commons in a party that is little more than a necessary distraction from the country’s priorities.

    Yes, it is clear that Hunt has questions to answer and he should be allowed to do so. Further, it is right that this should be at Leverson, where the allegations against him (and their context) surfaced. It is the Inquiry that has the ‘story so far’, their ubiquitous ‘bundles’ and their orientation an the matter.

    But in determining whether he has broken the Ministerial Code, Cameron is right on this occasion; a parallel investigation is not needed and might even impede. Leveson will independently extract the information to meet it’s own needs and in doing so, the needs of those making the ministerial determination. Leverson will not judge Hunt, others will; a point that Brillo and Miliband were, today, being painfully and terminally obtuse on.

  • Tarka the Rotter

    Having watched Question Time last night, all I can say is if we are so concerned about wasting natural resources,.why allow Toynbee and Abbott so much oxygen?

  • Woody

    Murdoch ignored the Lib Dems for obvious reasons and how right he was.
    What a bunch of back-stabbers they are and it’s not as though this (look at us, we are so much nicer than the tories) is working for them.
    I don’t believe they will ever recover in the polls to any great degree for the simple reason, they have proved they are completely unsuited as a party for government.
    There main aim now, is to make sure they take the tories down with them.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    This business sure is exercising the Bubble. I’m assuming it is because that Hunt found in favour of Murdoch’s bid?

    Otherwise the words ‘ar$£holes own up their’ would come to mind.

    I do hope Leveson gets round to asking Rupert about Lords Reform and gay ‘narriage’ – you know – the stuff that really matters.

  • Prince Rupert

    Strapworld is wrong, DC took a long time to get Fox to resign, and he did so not because he had done anything wrong, cleared by the inquiry if you remember but cautioned for being a bit complicated. he resigned because he was starting to drag in a lot of other powerful people who did not want the glare of the press on their dealings, all legit but all profiting from deals and arrangements. So sticking with Hunt is form for DC, and lets face it Hunt will not be found to have done anything particularly wrong, all a storm in a teacup, as is the Hacking nonsense.

  • DavidDP

    “Quick to get rid of Fox “

    No he wasn’t. Fox didn’t go all that quickly. It took several revelations to bring him down.

  • Russ…

    In my view and I know that people may disagree, Hughes wants to be the next LibDem leader. In order to do so he is happy to bring the Government down so he can rebuild the LD brand in his own image. He is just another self interested Charlatan.

  • Pettros

    It is indefensible to not have an inquiry into Hunts breech of the code? How is Lord Leveson able to judge on breechs of the code? It is not his job. Pathetic avoidance tactics from DC. It makes JH look more guilty everday.

  • Halcyondaze

    Simon Hughes – what an unctuous reptile he is with his faux Tony Blair “hey, look guys – the thing is…” manner seen in full swing on last night’s Question Time. Only the vile Diane Abbot scored worse.

    The hero of QT last night was without doubt Nigel Farage and it was a delight to see the audience of hand-picked lefties and public sector cronies actually applauding him whole-heartedly. He was polished, in command, persuasive and brave and he can’t have failed to score well with the viewers. He was the only one brave enough to mention immigration – drawing the predictable boos from the self-hating bed-wetters in the audience – but he stuck up for himself in a calm and reasonable manner.

    Oh how the Tories must be sh*tting themselves!

  • michael

    Hunts position on BskyB shows that he wasn’t Murdoch’s rent boy.

  • Tarka the Rotter

    Ah that Milibandwagon, it just keeps rolling along…looks like the Limp Dums have jumped on board -proportionally of course – my what fine allies they make…

  • sinosimon

    Ermm..Clegg apparently is chummy enough to play tennis with the fragrant Mr Michel, the NI spin doctor at the centre of all this…..yet where are the media questions as to his part in all this?
    Once again simply amazing negligence from the mainstream media. Mr Michel seems amazingly well informed about government intentions, the Lib Dems are all over his (no doubt inflated) claims in the released emails, and he so close to the Deputy Prime Minister that he is a regular tennis partner….and the media does….nothing.
    Care to actually do your duty here at the Spectator? I can’t imagine the same reticence if it was Cameron he was knocking a few rallies over the net with….

  • toco

    Simon Hughes!!!!What about Damian McBride and the Smeargate trio-Gordon Brown’s SPAD displaying the very worst of behaviours-can’t remember the dysfunctional Red Ed or his other colleague the peculiar Tom Watson complaining about his totally disgusting ruse even after Brown was forced to sack him.

  • Chris

    “…….Hence why Clegg mouthed ‘no we didn’t’ when Cameron claimed in PMQs that ‘we all did too much cosying up to Rupert Murdoch’…….”

    If the Lib Dems didn’t suck up to Murdoch as much as Conservative and Labour governments alike, it is only because Murdoch would have been pretty uninterested in them. Had he considered them at all important at any stage in the 30 years before 2010, I’m quite sure the Lib Dems would have been just as brown-tongued as the rest.

  • strapworld

    Why are you overlooking the fact that a senior tory, Bernard Jenkin, has said that he should be investigated for a possible breach of the ministerial code.
    I am damned sure there will be many other tory MP’s disgusted with the way Cameron is handling this. Quick to get rid of Fox slow, v e r y slow to get rid of pals.

    Cameron has forgotten everything he said before the general election. The man cannot be allowed to carry on regardless. Time for the men in suits to pay him a visit.

  • John

    And don’t forget, Hunt the cheerleader may have been (allegedly) channeling info behind Dr. Cable’s back before 21 December. No doubt LibDems will want retribution for that.