It was Private Eye which surmised that the LOL sign-off by Cameron to Rebekah Brooks actually meant “lots of lies”. Presumably meant as a joke, it was in fact quite prescient, as the latest sheaf of emails pouring out from Leveson clearly shows. In November 2010, one month before Cable was removed from responsibility for the media, we now know that Hunt sent a brazenly prejudicial memo to Cameron indicating he was hugely partisan in favour of the BSkyB £8bn bid and demanding that Cameron should seek to control Cable to ensure the bid got a smooth passage. The fall-out from this incriminating memo is lethal in terms of his prejudicial stance, his demeaning role as a message-boy for James Murdoch, his apparent lying to the Commons Select Committee, and what it exposes about the judgement of both the PM and Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell. It is a vignette of how the power brokers around No.10 conspire to suborn the public interest and weave a tissue of lies to protect themselves at every step.
Hunt wrote “I think it would be totally wrong to cave in to the Mark Thompson (BBC)/Channel 4/Guardian line” – this from a man who a month later pledged to pursue the matter in a wholly ‘independent, quas
i-judicial’manner. Acting as message-runner for News International he also gave notice that James Murdock was “pretty furious” that Cable had referred the takeover to the media regulator Ofcom and ended with a warning, again clearly prejudicial, that the government “could end up in the wrong place in terms of media policy as a result”.
Not content with this interference in the BSkyB bid for which he had no Ministerial responsibility, he then demanded, in defiance of advice from his officials, that a meeting be held between Cameron, Clegg, Cable and himself in order to pull Cable back into line. Yet with breathtaking dishonesty he then solemnly assured the DCMS Select Committee that he made “absolutely no interventions” to pressurise Cable into approving the takeover. Lying to Parliament is of course a breach of the Ministerial code, and this alone ought to ensure Hunt’s removal.
But there is still one further aspect of this email – the devastating impression it casts on how the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary exercised their judgement in appointing Hunt to replace Cable at all. The defence put out by No.10 cuts no ice whatever: it says Hunt’s memo was ‘entirely consistent’ with his previous public statements that the BSkyB bid raised no plurality issues. But that completely sidesteps the enthusiastic and partisan tone of the memo in favour of the bid, and like the Coulson appointment raises grave doubts about Cameron’s integrity and honesty in handling affairs of State, as opposed to secretly manoeuvring to get a quick fix for what he’s already decided on long ago, and clearly for reasons of party political advantage. O’Donnell’s judgement (though Cameron never apparently showed him the Hunt memo) was no better: “I am satisfied that those statements do not amount to a pre-judgement of the case in question”. Can you really credit a word these men say.