Facts of the matter
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has become embroiled in accusations of partiality in his “quasi-judicial” role arbitrating NewsCorp’s bid to take over BSkyB. This follows the publication of texts and emails between Hunt and a key NewsCorp lobbyist, revealing the extent of their relationship. The pair were so cosy they were even planning to see Take That together, making the day of every hack in the land not employed by NewsCorp. More damaging for Hunt, however, is the “absolutely illegal” message implying that Hunt passed on information to NewsCorp before presenting it to Parliament. Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has called on him to resign, and – though David Cameron has so far resisted – pressure is building for an inquiry into Hunt’s actions. Much of the dirt has wound up stuck to Cameron himself, whom the inquiry revealed to have spent much of the past two years hobnobbing, Christmas-partying and horse-riding with the Murdoch court. The perfect mix of poshness and corruption has been almost too much for the press.
Gems of the week
Too many observers have been happy to just write off NewsCorp or the Coalition, but The Telegraph’s Matthew d’Ancona has come out with an insightful piece on the wider implications. “Hints of shoddy motives and shady dealings at the Leveson Inquiry are alienating voters”, runs the by-line, and it’s an under-represented point. The accusations rolling out of the Courts of Justice, encompassing the heart of British government all the way back to Margaret Thatcher, are hardly likely to invigorate an already cynical public. Cameron’s problem is that “incompetence is the Rorschach test of politics: we see in it what we want to see.” With the horrors of the Budget still in the background, it is all too easy to construe the BSkyB scandal as yet another example of toffs ruling for other toffs, and doing it badly at that. By the end of the week we shall know whether it will lead to more anger or just more apathy.
Wouldn’t wrap chips in it
An honourable mention to The Sun here for a display of blind loyalty to its master. While every respectable paper lead with Murdoch at the Inquiry on Wednesday – The Guardian went with “Minister for Murdoch” – this bastion of British newsprint reported instead on Chelsea’s win in the Champions’ League. What else can the editors do, I suppose, than ignore the whole affair and go back to pretending that football and soft porn count as news. The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee recounts a litany of Murdoch’s sins, howling that this scandal will ‘make the foundations of No 10 tremble’, which is all just so much hyperbole. The scandal may well take down a few individuals, especially if Cameron is called to testify before Leveson, but the basic pattern in which parties and papers fall in and out of love, bending and breaking the rules to court.