Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter

Hunt at Leveson

It’s been obvious since the BSkyB bid scandal blew up that Cameron wouldn’t sack Hunt.

So the PM’s cursory dismissal of the devastating evidence at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday and his repeated failure to refer Hunt to the independent adviser on ministerial standards shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Such a referral would be fatal for the Culture Secretary as he repeatedly misled Parliament and broke the ministerial code – misdemeanours no Labour Minister ever survived.

Cameron is tolerating this new low in ministerial standards because he’s too weak to dismiss Hunt and doesn’t want to risk losing the firewall he provides.

As someone who followed Hunt’s decisions on media policy long before this scandal blew up – as Hunt’s predecessor as Culture Secretary – it was always clear to me that the only policy he had, so far as he had one at all, was to do Murdoch’s bidding.

Not just on the BSkyB bid, but from scrapping Labour’s plans to put test cricket and other popular sporting events back on free to view TV and our plans to support regional ITV news, to slashing the BBC licence fee, Hunt’s policies were made in Wapping.

James Murdoch was no shrinking violet. In speeches and articles and in his and his acolytes’ regular meetings and communications with Hunt and other senior Tories, Murdoch made clear what he wanted.

Hunt invariably delivered. In doing so he wasn’t just doing Murdoch’s bidding, but Cameron’s bidding too. None of this needed to be explicit – although how much more explicit do we need than the incredible volume of texts and e mails? A nod and a wink or a passing word at a Chipping Norton dinner party would do. You don’t need to follow the money, just follow the policies.

Hunt was doing exactly what Cameron wanted him to which is why he’s still there, for now.

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