James Forsyth

On the eve of Hunt’s Leveson appearance

On the eve of Hunt's Leveson appearance
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It has become the conventional wisdom in Westminster that Jeremy Hunt’s career will turn on his appearance before the Leveson Inquiry tomorrow. Friends of Hunt have today been arguing that the Inquiry’s focus should be on how he carried out the quasi-judicial role. They are saying that once appointed to it, Hunt behaved — unlike Vince Cable — properly. They concede that Hunt’s texts to Fred Michel were overly familiar. But they maintain that, unlike Adam Smith’s texts, they gave away nothing about the state of the bid process.

On the charge that Hunt misled Parliament, when he told it on the 25th of April that ‘I made absolutely no interventions seeking to influence a quasi-judicial decision that was at that time the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Business’ they stress that the memo on the BSkyB bid went to Cameron not Cable, and that the meeting with Cable and Clegg proposed in it never happened. I’m not sure, though, whether this is entirely consistent with what Hunt said in the House. But it is worth noting that because the proposed meeting never actually happened, there was no direct lobbying of the Business Secretary.

Having seen Lord Justice Leveson’s reaction to Adam Smith’s evidence, I suspect, thoug, that Hunt will get a tough ride on how he did not know what his special adviser was doing. Leveson seemed incredulous that someone of Smith’s experience had been given this level of discretion.