Can Hunt survive?
- 24 April 2012
- From the section UK Politics
"Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions," Jeremy Hunt said tonight. They are the words of a cabinet minister fighting to save his job - and who, for now, has the prime minister's backing.
Given that the hacking scandal and its fallout has already claimed the scalps of Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, many lesser-known Murdoch untouchables and the News of the World, Mr Hunt would be unwise to assume that he can now escape.
The case against him is clear. It is that whilst publicly insisting that he was dealing with an £8 billion-deal in a quasi-judicial way, his office was privately giving advanced and privileged information to James Murdoch and News Corp. The emails released today to the Leveson Inquiry show repeated examples of News Corp having information before the public, the markets and Parliament. This, Labour claim, was a breach of proper process and of Parliamentary rules.
The case for his defence is that the information published today was one-sided and inaccurate - the News Corp official whose emails referred to JH, Jeremy and "Hunt" now admits he never spoke directly to the minister about the bid. The permanent secretary at the Culture Department agreed that the minister's adviser could keep the company informed. And, crucially, the communication did not materially affect the bid - which was handled properly, and following independent advice - in any way.
Government insiders know that the emails revealed today look and smell bad, but they are hoping that when Jeremy Hunt gets his day in court he will persuade Lord Justice Leveson that they were not improper.