A senior Liberal Democrat has said culture secretary Jeremy Hunt should have resigned following his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about News Corp's failed takeover of BSkyB.
Lord Oakeshott, who was one of Vince Cable's closest colleagues when the business secretary was overseeing News Corp's ill-fated bid, said Rupert Murdoch's empire was treated differently from other firms by the Government and criticised Mr Hunt, saying "no self-respecting minister" would have stayed in his post.
The attack from a former member of the Coalition government – the peer was Lib Dem treasury spokesman until last February – comes as the Chancellor, George Osborne, today begins a week of politically-charged testimony when he gives evidence to the press standards inquiry about his links to the Murdoch family and senior executives.
Mr Osborne, who is due to take the stand after ex-prime minister Gordon Brown, can expect tough questions about ties to James Murdoch and ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks. He is also likely to be asked about his role in the recruitment of ex-News of the World (NOTW) editor Andy Coulson as director of communications for the Conservative Party.
Lord Oakeshott told Channel 4's Dispatches that Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to keep Mr Coulson in his post after evidence about the extent of phone hacking at the NOTW was "deeply flawed" and said Mr Hunt's position was untenable after the nature of contact between his office and News Corp during the BSkyB bid became clear. "I got an increasingly creepy feeling as the lobbying went on on behalf of Mr Murdoch. Once we were in Government they very quickly got to work to try and build up their networks and build up their connections," Lord Oakeshott said.
"Clearly, Mr Murdoch was not being treated like any other commercial organisation. Mr Hunt should have resigned some time ago and obviously once his evidence came out at the Leveson Inquiry no self-respecting minister could possibly carry on after that."
Mr Hunt, who was effectively cleared of wrongdoing by Mr Cameron when the Prime Minister decided not to refer him to his adviser on the Ministerial Code, faces a parliamentary motion this week calling for him to be investigated for breach of the code. Some senior Lib Dem MPs are set to back Labour on the vote.