Leveson Inquiry: Hunt texted 'mon ami' to lobbyist

Jeremy Hunt
Image caption Jeremy Hunt and News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel exchanged a series of text messages

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt addressed News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel as "daddy" and "mon ami" in text messages released by the Leveson Inquiry.

Frenchman Mr Michel praised Mr Hunt's "stamina" and "great" performances on TV and in the Commons in return.

The two men's wives both gave birth at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London in late May 2010.

The culture secretary is under pressure over the way he handled News Corp's attempted takeover of BSkyB.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he does not "regret" asking Mr Hunt to rule on the abortive deal and said his minister had acted "impartially".

Upcoming speech

The Leveson Inquiry released 67 texts sent by the two men between 21 June 2010 and 3 July 2011.

This covers the period when News Corp was bidding for BSkyB; Mr Hunt took over the responsibility of deciding whether the deal should go ahead from Business Secretary Vince Cable in December 2010.

On 21 June 2010 the culture secretary texted the lobbyist: "Baby fine just changed his nappy lucky daddy!"

Then on 15 July 2010, the News Corp employee praised the culture secretary on a "great announcement", to which Mr Hunt replied: "Merci papa (Thank you daddy)."

A text on 25 July congratulated Mr Hunt on an appearance on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: "Full of energy and purpose on Andrew Marr! Liked your answer on Rupert and on BBC!"

Mr Hunt responded: "Merci mon ami (Thank you my friend)."

Christmas greetings

In August 2010 they exchanged texts about Mr Hunt's decision to abolish the UK Film Council.

Mr Michel wrote: "Be strong! Even Clint Eastwood can't stop it."

Mr Hunt replied: "If they play dirty harry so can I!"

In one of the texts on 2 December 2010, Mr Hunt told Mr Michel that there was "nothing u won't like" in an upcoming speech.

They sent greetings to each other on Christmas Eve 2010, with Mr Hunt writing "Hope Daddy has a lovely Xmas! Jeremy" and Mr Michel responding "You too mon ami! Fred".

The Leveson Inquiry into media standards is currently looking at the relationship between the press and politicians.

On Friday, the most senior civil servant in the culture department, Jonathan Stephens, told the inquiry that Mr Hunt's main aim was to "reach a fair and unbiased decision" on the News Corp bid.

Next week Mr Hunt will appear before the inquiry on Thursday and it has also been announced that former Prime Minister Tony Blair will give evidence on Monday.

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