David Cameron was livid over being called back from a campaign by former Conservative Speaker John Bercow to explain why he has not referred Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt to the official appointed to deal with breaches of the Ministerial code. Cameron has expressed confidence in Hunt, but tellingly according to the Guardian:
By the end of a one-hour statement that generated more heat than light, it did emerge that Cameron came to his current view that Hunt had not breached the ministerial code on the basis of the culture secretary’s verbal assurances, and without seeing any written evidence.
At a private meeting last Tuesday, Hunt assured Cameron and the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, that he had not been aware that his special adviser, Adam Smith, was systematically leaking information and advice to News Corp about its bid for BSkyB.
“On the basis of verbal assurances”, “without seeing any evidence”, Minister “not aware” – all sounds very familiar here.
With media on both sides of the world calling for their resignation, Banks and Hunt are in the tumbril, and Cameron and Key look and sound ever more evasive. Key is arguing that he can only act in regard to a Minister if they have done something illegal. But the Cabinet Manual says in regard to Conduct of Ministers:
2.52 A Minister of the Crown, while holding a ministerial warrant, acts in a number of different capacities:
- in a ministerial capacity, making decisions, and determining and promoting policy within particular portfolios;
- in a political capacity as a member of Parliament, representing a constituency or particular community of interest;
- in a personal capacity.
2.53 In all these roles and at all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. Ultimately, Ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister for their behaviour.
Meanwhile Ed Miliband and David Shearer look and sound honest and on the right side of the ethical argument. The polls are changing too on both sides of the world.
Question Time should be interesting today.