Ian Burrell: Astonishing informality between Hunt and Michel


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The Independent Online

Jeremy Hunt made his business fortune by founding a publishing venture, Hotcourses, offering specialist further education to help students new and old to enhance or change their careers.

The Culture Secretary continues to resist pressure to find a new job, although the Leveson Inquiry heard yesterday that he told his adviser Adam Smith: "Everyone here thinks you need to go." Mr Hunt had previously assured his junior "it would not come to that", when Mr Smith's possible resignation was discussed.

Mr Hunt is hanging on, despite an episode described yesterday as a "calamity" for his Department of Culture, Media & Sport. But for the Culture Secretary it was not, apparently, a resigning matter. His friend David Cameron defiantly stands by him.

So what is it about Mr Hunt's management of his department that makes him so indispensable? We discover from the latest cache of exchanges released to Lord Justice Leveson that he ignored the DCMS's own lawyers when they warned him on 12 November 2010 not to get involved in the BSkyB takeover. "Do nothing," they told him. Yet a week later he wrote an impassioned letter to Mr Cameron saying it would be "totally wrong" to "cave in" to News Corp's opponents.

We also learnt of the astonishing informality between Mr Hunt and News Corp's PR operative Fréd Michel. "Merci Papa", Mr Hunt texted the Frenchman after receiving a fawning message of congratulation over his appearance in a BBC interview. When Mr Hunt appeared in another round of interviews, Mr Michel again showed his approval. "U too Daddy," responded Mr Hunt.

"I can't believe you managed to do Newsnight as well! You have stamina Daddy!" said Mr Michel.

"Who's the daddy?" is a phrase coined by hardman actor Ray Winstone. In the relationship between Mr Hunt and the Murdoch lobbyist, it's a difficult question to answer.