What 1,000 text messages tell us about a special relationship
The Culture Secretary may come to regret his SMS habit
We learn today the rather sordid reality concealed behind Jeremy Hunt's solemn statement to Parliament last month that "I have strictly followed due process". More than 1,000 text messages were exchanged between his office and the News Corp team pursuing the most controversial British media acquisition in modern times – some of them sent by the Culture Secretary himself.
Most crucial to our understanding of the Government's handling of this affair is the memo written by the Culture Secretary to the Prime Minister in November 2010 supporting Rupert Murdoch, telling David Cameron that it would be "totally wrong" to "cave in" to opponents of Mr Murdoch's plan to take full control of BSkyB. Having received this impassioned note, Mr Cameron weeks later placed Mr Hunt in charge of handling the bid – with all its complications of media plurality and competition.
To the conspiratorially minded, this will come as no surprise. Mr Hunt was always sympathetic to Murdoch arguments about the balance of power in the British media, and notably James Murdoch's claims that the BBC was too dominant.
"The BBC has to be very careful with the market power that it wields because I don't think it's in anyone's interests," Mr Hunt told me two months before the last election and his appointment as the Culture Secretary.
And we all know about Mr Cameron's relationship with News Corp, the "LOL" texts to News International's former chief executive Rebekah Brooks and the ride on her horse Raisa.
Indeed, the cavalier disregard for the sort of "process" that the public might expect was revealed in Adam Smith's comments to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday. "I couldn't see what everyone was getting worked up about," Mr Hunt's adviser said of the matter that has cost him his job and left that of his former boss hanging by a thread.
That the News Corp buy-out of BSkyB was not seen by Mr Hunt's office as a huge deal is hardly credible. Mr Hunt's own memo – which referred to James Murdoch's famous "furious" temper – makes it very clear that the Culture Secretary was well aware of James's desire to create a legacy.
"Essentially what James Murdoch wants to do is to repeat what his father did with the move to Wapping and create the world's first multiplatform media operator available from paper to web to TV to iPhone to iPad," Mr Hunt's memo said.
This "Wapping 2" plan would have given News Corp far greater market power than the BBC share which so concerned Mr Hunt.
Fred Michel, the News Corp lobbyist, told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday that his written notes had not inflated Mr Hunt's enthusiasm for the BSkyB bid. Judging by the Culture Secretary's own gushing words, no exaggeration was necessary – nor indeed was much lobbying.
When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...