The UK Leveson inquiry into corruption and sleaze is turning into a rollercoaster affair. It is bound to see at least one political casualty and right now that person seems likely to be Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Just how many more Government Ministers can survive is difficult to assess. In most people's eyes the likes of Theresa May should have already been given the chop.
Yesterday the son, James Murdoch testified at the inquiry and today it is the turn of father, Rupert Murdoch. What is it they say? Hell hath no fury like a Murdoch scorned?
Peter Cruddas was one Tory Minister sent packing after a recent undercover sting by the Times newspaper. The Times of course is part of the Murdoch Empire. Enough said?
Today, at the inquiry, Mr Murdoch senior has revealed that former Labour leader and Prime Minster Gordon Brown declared war on the Murdoch Empire. Mr Murdoch claimed that he was called by the then PM who said, ”Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company." Reportedly this followed the Murdoch's decision to support the Conservative election campaign. Suffice to say Mr Brown lost the election.
Much of today's statements have centred on the fact that the Murdoch's were so often at influential parties where would be PMs and current PMs were also attending. Rupert Murdoch went on though to maintain he was never asked for favours and neither did he offer any. It would appear that all of these people just happened to all move in the same social or political circles, that is if you believe the testimony.
So will Jeremy Hunt survive the allegations that he was less than impartial in the case of the BSkyB bid?
Well today he has continued to maintain that he "strictly followed due process” He denied the existence of any "back channel" of influence. It is worth mentioning though that Hunt's advisor Adam Smith has resigned. He gave his reason as “contact with the firm that he said "went too far"". That contact of course was with the News Corp group and its bosses.
Today Hunt addressed a rather raucous House of Commons as the opposition called for his resignation. He stands accused of backing a bid rather than assessing it. Mr Smith has taken the rap as they say. He has insisted that although emails from News Corp had the initials JH in them, his boss, Mr Hunt, had no knowledge of them. Smith said that the, "content and extent of my contact [with News Corporation] was done without authorisation from the Secretary of State".
Hunt took over the role of managing the BSkyB bid when Lib Dem Vince Cable was caught saying that he had "declared war on Mr Murdoch". Was this because Cable was deemed to be acting unfairly or because other members of the government wanted the Murdochs to prevail?
Mr Hunt continues to claim that he will present evidence which will exonerate him whilst Labour is continuing to demand his resignation or dismissal.
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