LABOUR is to demand a parliamentary vote over Culture Secretary Hunt’s breaching of the ministerial code, by refusing to take responsibility for the actions of Adam Smith, his special adviser in the BSkyB affair, and for misleading the House of Commons.
The prime minister, Cameron, maintains that the Culture Secretary acted properly. In fact it is obvious that Hunt, a self-confessed ‘cheerleader for Murdoch’, was never neutral in the BSkyB affair and that, in defending Hunt to the end, Cameron is in fact defending himself and his government.
The Tory fear is that if Hunt goes, Cameron can be got out and his government with him. After all, Cameron is a personal friend of Murdoch’s right-hand woman, Brooks, and also of Coulson, the former News of the Word editor, who he also refused to sack for months as Downing Street media chief despite the hacking scandal, until there was absolutely no alternative. Now Coulson faces perjury charges and a jail sentence if found guilty.
In fact, the Tory party and Tory governments have been cheerleaders for Murdoch ever since the 1982 Malvinas war and the 1984-85 miners strike, in which Murdoch and his media empire gave 100% support to the Tory government.
This was reciprocated by the Tories when Murdoch took on the Fleet Street unions in 1986-87 to destroy their closed shop, with the Tory government and the police providing the muscle to do the job.
The Murdoch-Tory alliance is not accidental or temporary. It is deep-rooted in the UK class struggle. This is why they have had to be literally blown apart by the world crisis and by gigantic events.
Labour rightly maintains that Hunt has breached the code in two ways. He misled parliament by telling MPs that all correspondence with News Corp had been published, and he has not taken responsibility for the actions of his special adviser who quit when his ‘inappropriate contact’ with News Corp was exposed.
Labour is to use its next scheduled debate day, 13 June, to call the vote.
It has plenty of ammunition. Culture Secretary Hunt sent a memo to David Cameron voicing support for News Corp’s bid for BSkyB before he was put in charge of dealing with it, the Leveson Inquiry has heard. Hunt said the UK’s media sector ‘would suffer for years’ if the deal was blocked.
In the memo – written on 19 November 2010, when Business Secretary Vince Cable was in charge of overseeing the BSkyB bid – Hunt said News Corp executive James Murdoch was ‘furious’ about Cable’s handling of the matter. He told the Prime Minister it would be ‘totally wrong to cave in’ to opponents of the deal and said the UK had the chance to ‘lead the way’ if the BSkyB bid went ahead.
Special adviser Smith resigned in April after saying his emails to and from News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel, over the firm’s bid to take over BSkyB, went too far. In his witness evidence to the inquiry, Michel said he believed Smith was representing the culture secretary in the same way he was representing News Corp.
The inquiry heard Michel made 191 telephone calls and sent 158 emails and 799 texts to Hunt’s team, 90% of which were exchanges with Smith. Smith sent 257 text messages to Michel between 28 November 2010 and 11 July 2011. They could not have been closer, but Hunt insists that he did not know what his special adviser was up to!
Even Friday’s Daily Telegraph commented about Hunt that, ‘In his statement he implied that he had engaged with opponents of the merger just as readily as with News Corp. That is untrue.’
Hunt must go. Cameron must go and the rotten coalition along with both!