The Eurocrisis may be nagging at our political class, but it’s got
nothing on the Leveson inquiry. Today has been James Murdoch’s turn in the hotseat, and it has produced some of the most explosive testimony so far. There was the claim that, contrary to
previous Tory insinuations, Murdoch Jr did chat about the BSkyB bid with David Cameron at that notorious Christmas Dinner
in 2010. But topping that is the revelation that News Corp had all sorts of contact with Jeremy Hunt about the bid, mainly via their head of public affairs Fred Michel, as it was simmering along in
2010 and 2011.
It doesn’t look good for Hunt. As the minister in charge of the media brief, who was then asked to preside over the BSkyB bid after Vince Cable’s indiscretions, he was advised against meeting with Murdoch. But
it appears that he broke the spirit, if not the letter, of that advice with a string of emails, mobile phone calls and smoke signals relayed through advisers and other conduits. There are various
quotes arising from today’s testimony suggesting that Hunt was ‘on side’ with the bid from the off. In
response, Ladbrokes have slashed the odds on him being the next Cabinet ejectee from 50/1 this morning to 5/1 now.
We haven’t heard the full story yet — indeed, there is still more to come from James Murdoch. But, even at this stage, this is the sort of thing that could tarnish Hunt’s
credibility as a future Tory leader. The Culture Secretary could certainly do with his colleagues rallying around him, but it’s all quiet so far.
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