Simon Hughes calls for independent inquiry into Jeremy Hunt

by Stephen Tall on April 27, 2012

As the BBC News reports here, Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes last night called for the independent advisor on the ministerial code to investigate whether the allegations that Conservative culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was too friendly to the Murdochs are accurate:

Deputy leader Simon Hughes has become the first senior Liberal Democrat to join calls for an inquiry into whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt breached the ministerial code of conduct. Downing Street says there are no plans to investigate the contact between News Corp and Mr Hunt’s ex-special adviser. Mr Hughes said he could not understand why the issue was not being referred to the independent watchdog. …

Mr Hughes said on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday that at the moment he did not think Mr Hunt should resign. But he added: “What I cannot understand is why the matter of the ministerial code of conduct is not something the prime minister immediately should refer to the person who’s been given the job to do it. He has so far, I gather, resisted doing it. I don’t think it gets in the way of the Leveson Inquiry and the evidence – it’s a separate matter. I don’t know why he hasn’t done it but I would have thought, to give confidence in the system, I hope the prime minister reconsiders his view. That must be in Jeremy’s interest. If Jeremy is correct in what he’s said, he’ll be vindicated. If he’s not, then he has to take the consequences.”

Simon’s view differs from that of Don Foster, the party’s culture spokesperson, who has publicly backed Jeremy Hunt and said we should await the Leveson inquiry report. I think Simon has called this entirely right, and accurately represents the views not only of Lib Dems but also the wider public.

Though David Cameron and Ed Miliband are keen to shrug off any responsibility on behalf of the Conservative/Labour parties for cosying-up to the Murdochs, the Lib Dems are right to point out that they’ve never kow-towed to News Corp — a point Nick Clegg ad-libbed into PMQs this week, as I blogged here.

The Leveson inquiry will continue its examination of media ethics. Meanwhile the Prime Minister should ask Sir Alex Allan to examine his culture secretary’s. As Simon points out, if there’s been no breach of the ministerial code Jeremy Hunt can rest easy.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.