CULTURE Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s job was in fresh jeopardy last night amid claims he colluded with Rupert Murdoch’s empire in trying to prevent a public inquiry into phone hacking.
A newly-disclosed email from News Corporation public affairs executive Fred Michel said Mr Hunt wanted the firm to “guide his and Number 10’s thinking” on the scandal.
This latest revelation – in material disclosed to the Leveson Inquiry by former News International boss Rebekah Brooks – increases the political pressure on David Cameron to set up a formal investigation into Mr Hunt’s behaviour.
Last night a spokeswoman for Mr Hunt insisted that Mr Michel’s only contacts were with special adviser Adam Smith, who has already resigned after admitting his relations with News Corporation were too close.
The missive from Mr Michel to Mrs Brooks, dated June 27 2011, predicted accurately that later that week Mr Hunt would play down the impact of the phone hacking scandal on News Corporation’s BSkyB takeover bid.
Mr Michel wrote: “This is based on his belief that the police is pursing things thoroughly and phone hacking has nothing to do with the media plurality issues. It’s extremely helpful.”
The email stated that Mr Hunt wanted to “prevent a public inquiry” – instead suggesting that Parliament’s Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions could carry out a wider investigation.
A month later reports emerged that Milly Dowler’s mobile phone had been accessed, sparking a public outcry, prompting Mr Cameron to set up the Leveson Inquiry.
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said: “People will be disgusted at the prospect of Jeremy Hunt and Number 10 colluding with News Corporation to avoid a public inquiry into phone hacking.”
PM’s texts: Page 7.