David Cameron, interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning, tried to go “big picture”, insisting that the Murdochs had never done a “big deal in exchange for support for the Conservative party”. Probably wise, rather than the more partisan arguments I suggested he might use (a) Tony Blair did it and (b) Gordon Brown didn’t resign when his special adviser, Damian McBride, got up to mischief.
But Jeremy Hunt’s future is still in the balance. Harriet Harman, his Labour shadow, is now asking whether he misled the House of Commons last year and last week, as The Independent on Sunday reports today. It is hard to understand why Hunt said in the Commons on Wednesday that he had had “zero” conversations with Fred Michel, News Corp’s head of public affairs; and why he later said that they had had “contact” in two meetings, but still omitted another conversation and several exchanges of texts recorded in Michel’s documents disclosed to the Leveson inquiry.
While Hunt prepares his defence, here is some background reading for him.
1. A good research paper on ministerial responsibility produced by the House of Commons Library in 2004.
2. Brian Walden on ministerial resignations in The Spectator in 2004.
3. Carl Gardner on his “Head of Legal” blog on the legal question of whether Hunt was biased in his decision on the News Corp bid for BSkyB that was abandoned when the Milly Dowler phone hacking story broke last year. Gardner concludes that he was, which means that, had the bid gone ahead, Hunt’s decision could have been challenged in the courts and overturned. Minister’s decisions have been overturned before, and they do not have to resign as a result, but if Gardner is right it would certainly weaken Hunt’s defence.