David Cameron’s defence of embattled Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been called a “firewall” that’s failing to hold. As the stench of corruption around the Murdoch empire grows by the day, Cameron needs Hunt to stay or else Cameron is the next to go. It is the same for John Key. As the stench of corruption around John Banks grows, he desperately needs him to stay or else all he loses legitimacy for asset sales and potentially his majority on the issue as well.
Hunt was a cheerleader for Murdoch while the Liberals Vince Cable was Culture Secretary and in charge of the decision to allow the Murdochs to acquire 100% of BSkyB with its massive cash flow. Cable was outed as an opponent of the Murdochs in a sting by the Telegraph journalists, so Cameron sacked him and installed Hunt. Supposedly in charge of a semi-judicial process, Hunt’s confidential adviser Adam Smith was secretly communicating with the Murdoch PR man behind the scenes. That was revealed in 193 pages of emails supplied to the Leveson enquiry by News International. Adam Smith was sacked and Hunt is hanging on. As one questioner said in the House of Commons: “When posh boys are in trouble, the servants get the sack”.
John Banks’ defence of the indefensible as to whether or not he knew Kim Dotcom was a donor to his campaign has turned from bluster to bluff. As he has realised that refusing to answer direct questions wasn’t working, he has resorted to selective denial: “I didn’t ring him to thank him for that donation.” A bit like Rupert, really – ” I have never asked a Prime Minister for anything.” – yeah right. And Key is taking Banks’ word that he acted strictly according to the law – this in spite of the fact that Banks clearly didn’t know what the law was about anonymous donation levels.
Hunt will have to wait a couple of months for the Leveson enquiry to put his case, and Banks will have to wait some time for the police to decide what to do. But the court of public opinion has already passed its verdict on both. There’s something rotten in right-wing governments on both sides of the world. The Tories are down to 29% against Labour’s 40%.
Oh and by the way, I think I will go down to the Electoral Commission tomorrow and have a look at Banks’ Epsom candidate return. It’s showing $30,500 in donations, and the rules are much stricter under the Electoral Act 1993 than under the Local Electoral Act 2001. Anonymous donations above $1500 are not allowed, donations have to be transmitted to the candidate, and contributors above $1500 to combined donations have to be identified. You never know, it could be even more interesting than the party donations.