There was an unfamiliar light in the sky as we began our hen-cleaning this morning. Someone wondered if it was the aftermath of the bonfire that Simon Hughes is igniting under Nick Clegg. But it proved to be the sun. The Met Office told us to expect continual rain, with occasional thunder, so we shouldn’t be too surprised.
But we were entitled to be surprised when watching last night’s David Bumblebee’s Question Time. Until that moment Nick Clegg had sat in the Commons nodding alongside his boss as the Old Etonian produced a series of less than convincing explanations for his refusing to call for an independent inquiry into the Jeremy Hunt affair. Then the Lib Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes, broke ranks. He simply “cannot understand why David Cameron is refusing to hold an inquiry into what appears to be a breach of the ministerial code”. So at least one senior Lib Demmer can see the perils of being drawn into the web of lies and subterfuge.
And web is the right description. Yesterday saw George Osborne drawn in. He is now facing questions over whether he played a role in supporting News Corps attempted £8 billion takeover of BSkyB. Evidence has appeared at the Levison Inquiry that Mr Osborne was lobbied personally by James Murdoch and that Rupert Harrison, the Chancellor’s special adviser, discussed the bid with Frederic Michel, the News Corp’s public affairs director, who is already implicated with the departed adviser to Hunt. In a written submission Mr Murdoch says that he discussed the bid with the Chancellor in November 2010, and Mr Michel reported on tensions centered around Vince Cable, who was subsequently relieved of his responsibilities for all things Murdoch.
Meantime Jonathan Stevens, the Permanent Secretary in Mr Hunt’s department, appeared before a select committee and refused on ten occasions to confirm the claim by Hunt that he had approved the many contacts made with the Murdochs by the departed Adam Smith. In other words he was not consulted.
The whole affair is building up into a massive explosion. One doesn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that Cable had to be moved aside to enable ministers to deliver to Murdoch what they had promised in exchange for the support of his influential newspapers. It is ironic that the normally somnulent watchdog Ofcom is now indicating that it intends to question whether News Corp is “fit and proper” to have any access to the British television sector. The outcome could well be the end of the Murdoch’s involvement with Sky. Had it not been for disclosures about the Millie Dowler phone hacking Hunt, with Cameron’s backing, was about to wave through their takeover of the whole shebang.
Of course anyone tuning in to Leveson yesterday in the hope of clarity will have been disappointed. It was the turn of Rupert himself to prostate himself before the learned judge. He came across as a grumpy boiled egg suffering from acute memory loss. The latter must be a genetic problem since neither Dad nor young James seem to remember very much. They also appear to have the coalition disease which has, as its principle symptom, delusions that all misconduct is carried out by underlings who never let their bosses into the secret.
This Agatha Christie-like story has some way to run yet. We all now know what happened but the question is can it be proved? Clearly Cameron was very involved though his Chipping Norton set, clearly Hunt was the string-puller and now we have Osbone joining the ever expanding cast. There will be more to come, no Christie mystery is complete without a cast of dozens.
Hopefully it will not run for as long as The Mousetrap but who knows. The waves threaten a tsunami. Maybe the stance of Simon Hughes will lead to the Lib Dems heading off for high ground, in which case the whole pack of cards may collapse.
As we watch this appalling evidence of a government working hand-in-glove with people planning to destroy the BBC and establish a regime of news manipulation, we can only hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But, given the state of the nation, only an optimist could believe other than it is yet another train heading our way.
LIKE TO DEFER YOUR TAX?
The London arm of Goldman Sachs paid only £4.1 million in corporation tax to the Treasury last year despite making pre-tax profits of £1.92 billion, annual accounts have revealed. The company has deferred £418.2 million that it had to pay immediately in “current tax”.
Last year it was revealed that Inland Revenue boss Dave Harnett had “let off” the bank to the tune of £10 million. That decision is due to be challenged in the courts by UK Uncut.
Meantime it is good to know that the banking sector is keen to meet its public moral obligations!