Jeremy Hunt's coalition colleagues join call for inquiry

Simon Hughes and Bernard Jenkin urge an investigation into potential breaches of the ministerial cod

Is Jeremy Hunt on borrowed time? Downing Street is standing firm behind the Culture Secretary, but the pressure is on to launch an inquiry into whether he breached the ministerial code of conduct in his dealings with News Corporation.

Speaking on Question Time last night, the Liberal Democrat’s deputy leader, Simon Hughes, said that he could not understand why the issue had not been referred to the independent watchdog. While he stopped short of calling for Hunt to resign, Hughes urged David Cameron – the only person who can refer the matter for further investigation – to revise his decision:

I don't know why he hasn't done it but I would have thought, to give confidence in the system, I hope the prime minister reconsiders his view.

That must be in Jeremy's interest. If Jeremy is correct in what he's said, he'll be vindicated. If he's not, then he has to take the consequences.

While Labour has been leading the charge for a full investigation, this makes Hughes the first senior Lib Dem to do so. He is not the only person within the coalition to call for an inquiry. Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chair of the public administration select committee, has also urged Cameron to refer Hunt’s case to Sir Alex Allen, the independent adviser on the ministerial code.

As Hughes said, it is difficult – at least on the face of things – to understand why an investigation has not been launched. The tranche of emails released on Tuesday between News Corp’s top public affairs official, Frederic Michel, and Hunt’s special adviser, Adam Smith, appear to show Hunt as a collaborator rather than an independent adjudicator in the company’s controversial attempt to take 100 per cent control of BSkyB. It is impossible to believe the government line that Smith (who has fallen on his sword) acted on his own volition.

If Hunt goes, attention will inevitably look elsewhere in government. The cosy relations between Cameron, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks are already well-documented – particularly the latter, with whom the Prime Minister shared Christmas lunch and riding excursions. In this context, Hunt is a useful foil. While the heat remains on him, it is off Cameron and George Osborne. As the country is gripped by double dip recession, the impression of corruption and intrigue and a government more concerned with the interests of wealthy media barons than ordinary people has the potential to be hugely damaging. The question is how long Conservative to command can feasible withstand the pressure to – at the very least – investigate Hunt’s actions.

UPDATE 9.45am:

Hunt has said that he will hand over all emails and texts to Smith relating to News Corp's bid to takeover BSkyB. The Culture Secretary said the details would "vindicate" him and show that he had acted with "total integrity".
 

Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary. Photograph: Getty Images

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Richmond is a victory for hope - now let's bring change across the country

The regressives are building their armies. 

Last night a regressive alliance was toppled. Despite being backed by both Ukip and the Conservative Party, Zac Goldsmith was rejected by the voters of Richmond Park.

Make no mistake, this result will rock the Conservative party – and in particularly dent their plans for a hard and painful Brexit. They may shrug off this vote in public, but their majority is thin and their management of the post-referendum process is becoming more chaotic by the day. This is a real moment, and those of us opposing their post-truth plans must seize it.

I’m really proud of the role that the Green party played in this election. Our local parties decided to show leadership by not standing this time and urging supporters to vote instead for the candidate that stood the best chance of winning for those of us that oppose Brexit. Greens’ votes could very well be "what made the difference" in this election (we received just over 3,500 votes in 2015 and Sarah Olney’s majority is 1,872) - though we’ll never know exactly where they went. Just as importantly though, I believe that the brave decision by the local Green party fundamentally changed the tone of the election.

When I went to Richmond last weekend, I met scores of people motivated to campaign for a "progressive alliance" because they recognised that something bigger than just one by election is at stake. We made a decision to demonstrate you can do politics differently, and I think we can fairly say that was vindicated. 

There are some already attacking me for helping get one more Liberal Democrat into Parliament. Let me be very clear: the Lib Dems' role in the Coalition was appalling – propping up a Conservative government hell bent on attacking our public services and overseeing a hike in child poverty. But Labour’s record of their last time in office isn't immune from criticism either – not just because of the illegal war in Iraq but also their introduction of tuition fees, privatisation of our health service and slavish worship of the City of London. They, like the Liberal Democrats, stood at the last election on an austerity manifesto. There is a reason that we remain different parties, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn't also seize opportunities like this to unite behind what we have in common. Olney is no perfect candidate but she has pledged to fight a hard Brexit, campaign against airport expansion and push for a fair voting system – surely progressives can agree that her win takes us forward rather than backwards?

Ultimately, last night was not just defeat of a regressive alliance but a victory for hope - a victory that's sorely needed on the back of of the division, loss and insecurity that seems to have marked much of the rest of this year. The truth is that getting to this point hasn’t been an easy process – and some people, including local Green party members have had criticisms which, as a democrat, I certainly take seriously. The old politics dies hard, and a new politics is not easy to forge in the short time we have. But standing still is not an option, nor is repeating the same mistakes of the past. The regressives are building their armies and we either make our alternative work or risk the left being out of power for a generation. 

With our NHS under sustained attack, our climate change laws threatened and the increasing risk of us becoming a tax haven floating on the edge of the Atlantic, the urgent need to think differently about how we win has never been greater. 

An anti-establishment wave is washing over Britain. History teaches us that can go one of two ways. For the many people who are utterly sick of politics as usual, perhaps the idea of politicians occasionally putting aside their differences for the good of the country is likely to appeal, and might help us rebuild trust among those who feel abandoned. So it's vital that we use this moment not just to talk among ourselves about how to work together but also as another spark to start doing things differently, in every community in Britain. That means listening to people, especially those who voted for Britain to leave the EU, hearing what they’re saying and working with them to affect change. Giving people real power, not just the illusion of it.

It means looking at ways to redistribute power and money in this country like never before, and knowing that a by-election in a leafy London suburb changes nothing for the vast majority of our country.

Today let us celebrate that the government's majority is smaller, and that people have voted for a candidate who used her victory speech to say that she would "stand up for an open, tolerant, united Britain".  But tomorrow let’s get started on something far bigger - because the new politics is not just about moments it's about movements, and it will only work if nobody is left behind.

 

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.