News Corp and Hunt’s office: in numbers

Leveson Inquiry hears that 1000 text messages were exchanged.

Frederic Michel has just given evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. Michel, who is News Corporation’s head of public affairs in Europe, was mainly asked about his cosy relationship with Jeremy Hunt’s office, in particular his adviser Adam Smith. When details of emails between Michel and Smith during the News Corp’s proposed takeover of BSkyB were published by the company earlier this month, Smith was forced to fall on his sword and resign. Hunt, who was supposed to be fulfilling a quasi-judicial role on the bid, has maintained that he acted properly.

Hunt would certainly like us to believe that Michel exaggerated his dealings with the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS). Asked by Robert Jay QC if this was the case, Michel replied: “No, I don’t agree with this. I didn’t need to [exaggerate]”.

This is certainly borne out by the numbers, which are the key fact to come out of this appearance. They show the the sheer scale of contact between Smith and Michel.

According to Jay, between November 2011 and July 2011, there were:

Over 1000 text messages exchanged (that was 799 from Michel to the DCMS – with around 90 per cent of those going to Smith – and 257 from Smith to Michel).

191 phone calls between Michel and the department

158 emails from Michel

So News Corp were certainly getting a whole lot of listening time. 1000 texts over nine months equals around three text messages a day, which is more than many of us exchange with close friends, let alone colleagues. When Smith resigned, he said that he had acted inappropriately and without Hunt’s permission. As Michel said in today’s evidence, special advisers always tend to represent the views of their boss, the secretary of state. Smith, up this afternoon, has some serious questions to answer about how much Hunt actually knew.
 

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.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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