“Great and congrats on Brussels. Just Ofcom to go!”
So goes a text message sent to James Murdoch by Jeremy Hunt, just hours before the Secretary of State for Culture was appointed to oversee News Corporation’s £8bn bid to take control of the satellite broadcaster, BSkyB.
Hunt claims that this was entirely consistent with his publicly-stated position.
Oddly enough, this is probably the reason why Mr Hunt will retain his job. Because the real issue here is whether Hunt was an appropriate individual to fulfil an impartial, “quasi-judicial” role in relation to News Corporation’s bid.
And who was it that considered Hunt to be the “solution”? Step forward Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and his boss, Prime Minister David Cameron.
If Hunt were to resign these two politicians would be dangerously exposed.
Meanwhile, it has today been reported that the cap on tax exemption for charitable giving announced by Osborne in his last budget has been dropped.
No surprise there. What is of note is the very deliberate timing of this announcement, coming as it does on the day that Hunt gives his evidence to the Leveson inquiry into media ethics and during a period when parliament is not in session.
Words like unethical, incompetent, vacillating, self-serving and undemocratic spring to mind.
Now compare those words with the ones spouted by David Cameron when launching a new draft of the Ministerial Code fewer than two years ago:
We must be different in how we think and how we behave.
We must be different from what has gone before us.
Careful with public money.
Transparent about what we do and how we do it.
Determined to act in the national interest, above improper influence.
Mindful of our duty.
Above all, grateful for our chance to change our country.(1)
So, great and congrats, Dave – there is no doubt about it: you really are changing our country.
(1) Oonagh Gay, The Ministerial Code, Standard Note: SN/PC/03750, last updated 27th March 2012, available at, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN03750.pdf.