Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a post I really wanted to write. But I don’t think Jeremy Hunt should resign over the Murdoch affair. Lord, I hate myself.
Anyway, ‘why so?’, you’re all bellowing at the screen. Let me explain
As of now, Jeremy Hunt has not been shown to have done anything wrong, and he maintains he has been whiter than white. The blame has been laid firmly at the door of his SpAd, Adam Smith, who has dutifully fallen his sword. Innocent until proven guilty and all that, so no reason for Hunt to go as yet.
Hence the calls for an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of all this. Leveson doesn’t have the mandate to judge if Ministerial conduct has been appropriate or not – as Tory Minsters who said there was no need for separate investigation knew full well (and Leveson himself has now made clear). So moves are afoot to get the full facts from a proper inquiry– and deal a knockout blow to Hunt’s position.
But here’s the rub. Lets presume for a moment that we get an independent inquiry. That it rules that Hunt has behaved inappropriately, and concludes that rather than adopting an independent quasi judicial role, he is seen to have done all he can to swing things in the Murdoch’s favour.
Well, there is a tariff in place for the appropriate punishment for a Minister seen to have been less than impartial on a matter like this. And strangely, it’s been established over the same case – the proposed News Corp takeover of BSkyB.
Because as we all know, Vince was shown to perhaps be less than impartial in this matter. And he wasn’t asked to resign, nor was he fired. He had responsibility for the deal taken away from him. Nothing more.
Now, I’m pretty sure we all see Vince has being firmly on the side of the angels in all this – as the unfolding events of the last 18 months have so clearly demonstrated.
But – and I take no pleasure in this – the issue here is not whether the Minister’s personal judgement is seen to be right or not, it’s not ‘which side of the fence did he jump to?’ It’s jumping off the fence at all that’s the problem – and the punishment isn’t resignation. It’s a minor reduction in your workload.
‘Aha’, others have cried when I have ventured this view, ‘there is a difference. Vince merely expressed an opinion about the Murdoch’s – he didn’t actually do anything. Hunt is alleged to have actively aided and abetted the News Corp bid – that’s much more serious.’
Which may be so. But I suspect politically it won’t be seen to be so. I can almost see Cameron now sorrowfully shaking his head as he announces that ‘ every aspect of and every Minister involved in this whole sorry affair will be investigated.’
I suspect Vince knows this. Which is why he said of Hunt,
I think he needs to be given time to defend himself and until then he remains a good colleague. I myself will explain my role in the process to the Leveson Inquiry.
We may suspect Jeremy Hunt of all sorts of nefarious wrongdoing. We’re convinced Vince has been shown to have been an astute judge of character in dealing with the Murdochs.
But we may be sensible to content ourselves with some very loud and vociferous cries of ‘Vince was right’ and leave things there.