Should Jeremy Hunt resign? The short answer to this question is ‘no’, but there is an asterisk next to that no.
To elaborate: Any verdict on Jeremy Hunt should be withheld until he gives evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. Ideally, there would be a further public inquiry into the activities of Jeremy Hunt’s assistant Adam Smith. But for the time being, it is not clear whether Hunt has violated the ministerial code of conduct, though Smith seemed to be in almost non-stop contact with a Murdoch employee around the time of the BSkyB Bid.
This is not the first instance of special political advisors overstepping the mark in this government. The autumn of 2011 saw former secretary of state for defence Liam Fox depart the cabinet due to the extra-judicial business activities of his advisor Adam Werritty. Cameron’s handling of the BSkyB controversy is comparable to the Werritty case, as Cameron seems to be defending his ministers to the last. It would appear that Cameron has great difficultly sacking members of his cabinet, unless they happen to be Lib Dems. However, whether Cameron’s perceived clemency is a weakness in his leadership is open for debate. Perhaps Labour looked equally foolish in their tumultuous relationship with Peter Mandelson, with his two departures and three entries into the cabinet.
To be seen as close to the Murdochs or News Corporation is politically toxic these days. Once upon a time, both Labour and Conservative politicians were tripping up over themselves to court Rupert Murdoch and his sprogs. This courtship of the Murdoch media empire continued until just months before the phone hacking scandal broke. For instance, James Murdoch recalled a dinner party he was at, at the PM’s country retreat in November 2010. But being pally with the Murdochs is nothing new. In the Thatcher years, Rupert Murdoch was often received at the back entrance of No. 10, and during the Blair years he practically had a front door key. This has now changed irrevocably, and to survive with credibility intact, Jeremy Hunt, and by extension the government, must be as good as their word.