Amol Rajan: After this morning, Leveson
has to ask Osborne to give evidence

QC reveals explosive new evidence of text messages

involving Hunt, Murdoch and Chancellor

Related Topics

Jeremy Hunt began at 10.00 this morning confidently, wearing his bright and breezy demeanour in a manner that suggested he wasn't nervous at all. At around 10.45, his body language changed suddenly, as Robert Jay QC revealed explosive new evidence: text messages between Hunt and James Murdoch, and between Hunt and George Osborne.

The first show a new degree of intimacy between Hunt and News Corporation; the latter make it seem absurd that George Osborne won't be giving evidence to this Inquiry.

We heard that, after Vince Cable's comments about "declaring war on Rupert Murdoch" were revealed, Hunt texted George Osborne at 16.08 on the same day saying "seriously worried we are going to screw this up". The clear implication of that is a strong bias towards News Corporation shared between Hunt and Osborne. Hunt said repeatedly this morning that he was "sympathetic to" but not "supportive of" the bid; these texts show that distinction to be tenuous at best.

George Osborne's response by text - "I hope you like the solution" - further suggests bias towards News Corp at the top of government, which goes in the opposite direction to Vince Cable's obvious bias.

Hunt then sent the following text message to James Murdoch at 16.58: "Great and congrats on Brussels. Just Ofcom to go." Hunt has just told the Inquiry that he had not, when that text was sent, been appointed to oversee the bid - though he did have an 'inkling', which George Osborne's text presumably provided him with.

That text from Hunt to James Murdoch may cost the former his job. It is the strongest evidence yet made public of Hunt's bias towards News Corp, and suggests a desire to curry favour with the most senior figures there.

Hunt has said repeatedly this morning that his very strong personal bias in favour of News Corp didn't disqualify him from quasi-judicial impartiality, because he had already made his views public. This is preposterous, as the Evening Standard's Jenni Russell has tweeted.

The other new and intriguing development this morning is how the Chancellor has been dragged in. We knew that he was responsible for the hiring of Andy Coulson. Now he is exposed as playing a key role in orchestrating Hunt's appointment to oversee the BSkyB bid - at a time when he knew very clearly that Hunt was strongly in favour of the bid.

Given this revelation, how can Lord Leveson fail to call the Chancellor to give evidence?

Follow Amol on Twitter: @amolrajan

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