Tuesday, April 24, 2012

#Leveson : Murdoch's Revenge ? Will he Get A Scalp ?

Jeremy Hunt’s defence must be that it wasn’t him that was in direct contact with the Murdoch team but his Special Adviser Adam Smith and the Mr Smith wasn’t representing his real thoughts.

Also we can expect to hear claims that Frederic Michel, the public affairs chief for Newscorp Europe, was exaggerating his contacts. Problem is we can see on a helpful template provided on the Leveson website how the contacts between Mr Hunt’s Special Adviser and Mr Michel went to and fro. They show Mr Michel pretty accurately reporting up the Newscorp chain what Adam Smith tells him, albeit that he then dresses up the contact as “JH” not “AS.”

It would be pretty weird for a Special Adviser to operate in a completely freelance way on a near daily basis, liaising with outsiders. Adam Smith is a very popular special adviser with colleagues and not regarded as a maverick. Nonetheless, one source in the DCMS said they expected Jeremy Hunt to sacrifice him soon in the hope that that would protect his own position.

Going back over Jeremy Hunt’s statements in the Commons once he’d taken over from Vince Cable responsibility for the BSkyB deal, you see that time and again Mr Hunt made a huge thing about how his approach was purer than pure, with transparency over any meetings with the Murdoch team etc.

Two big questions now hang over the government: will a man who thought he was a possible successor to David Cameron bite the political dust? For now, No. 10 says it stands by Jeremy Hunt.
The other question: is this a new phase in Rupert Murdoch turning on his former allies in the Conservative Party? Did he have to forward these emails to Leveson’s inquiry? What else might he be minded to share, both in his own evidence tomorrow and into the future?

Rupert Murdoch is said to feel deeply aggrieved that he and others are being summoned to the Leveson Inquiry and have been thrown to the wolves by their old allies.

Jeremy Hunt appeared to be critical to the next reshuffle. There will be wry smiles in the Department of Health where allies of Andrew Lansley thought the PM was lining Jeremy Hunt up to replace Andrew Lansley, waiting until after Jeremy Hunt had overseen the Olympics before making the change. That timing now looks in jeopardy.

In the earlier emails between Mr Hunt’s office and the Murdoch team, while Vince Cable still has power over the BSkyB case, there’s a suggestion that Mr Hunt’s office is happy to act as Team Murdoch’s eyes and ears in the process.

I understand that Jeremy Hunt was very keen to talk to Vince Cable about the BSkyB bid in the fringes of Cabinet meetings before Vince Cable lost his role in judging the takeover to Jeremy Hunt.

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