Simon Carr: Mild-mannered and anxious, Hunt is more curate than Culture Secretary


Jokes, too. Kevin Brennan suggested the reason the BSkyB statement was being made so late was because Rupert Murdoch hadn't finished writing it. Jeremy Hunt said that certainly wasn't the case. But then he also said "nothing is more important to me than a free and independent press". That had the status of bollocks.

He's a pleasant looking young man: mild-mannered, anxious, and out of place – like an old fashioned curate. He had an ingenious explanation for his decision not to refer the deal. It was to give Sky News greater protection from interference. To liberate it from its commercial overlords. The independent chairman and directors would do that. And the editorial sub-committee that had "expert experience of what editorial independence is about".

To those who remember Mr Murdoch's undertakings before he bought The Times, Mr Hunt said that this was different. These new arrangements were more powerful than those in 1981. He's too young to remember those days when one's word in the City was still a bond. People believed Mr Murdoch's provisions for editorial independence and were quite shocked when he sacked The Times' editor. He'll find some way of shimmying through all this compliance and governance and regulatory cat's-cradling.

Mr Hunt did bop the Opposition for the fact that their leader's chief spin doctor is an ex-Murdoch loyalist who has been urging Labour MPs singly and collectively not to oppose the deal. And Labour's Tom Watson recovered some of his reputation from his previous tearful admissions to the House. He has come to terms with his publicly expressed fear of the Murdoch press to claim there are journalists currently employed by The Times and Sunday Times who may also be implicated in phone hacking. He asked whether Mr Hunt would take account of this if the Metropolitan Police showed him the evidence. "It's a judicial process," the minister said, "and not one I should involve myself in." So half the senior management could be charged with conspiracy to commit a custodial crime but that's not a matter for the minister. Maybe the nice young curate is a secret satanist after all.

PS: Andrew Bridgen asked some suck-up question and sat down with the characteristic flourish of his right arm. This gesture is getting bigger. It looks like a tired and effeminate Nazi giving up half way through a salute.