Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt tells us that his main aim was to “reach a fair and unbiased decision” on News Corp’s bid for broadcaster BSkyB. Today he hopes to convince the Leveson enquiry of this. Time to start up the White Time Van again….
Jay: Could you just explain for us Mr Hunt the mian steps you took to ensure everyone had faith in your principled lack of bias?
Hunt: Of course I will, and then when this is over and all seen to be a horrid plot, I shall sue everyone who has has maligned my reputation, and become even more fabulously and entrepreneurially rich than I am now.
Jay: Do proceed Mr Hunt.
Hunt: Thank you. Well first of all, I joined the Newscorp Glee Club and became a Cheerleader for the greatest living multiple nationality Mr Rupert Murdoch…using my constituency website to make this abundantly clear. There is no way any observer could have thought my intentions in any way underhand or open to misinterpretation.
Jay: I see. And then what did you do?
Hunt: Well, I was already a busines partner of the Newscorp group, and so in order to create public faith in the completely above-board nature of my role as arbiter on the BSkyB bid, I didn’t tell anyone about it. Sometimes the needs of the Nation must come before one’s very strict personal principles, and this was one occasion when that golden rule had to apply, whatever the cost to myself.
Jay: Quite. And how did this arbitrary, I’m sorry, arbitration role work in practice?
Hunt: Well, as always I put fairness first. I felt that, as News International might be worried that my principles would get in the way of their bid, I sent thousands of texts to all the people involved in helping them, and wrote lots of encouraging emails in order to pretend that I was really on their side when in reality of course I had to be scrupulously fair in finding the company to be an ideal candidate to take over BkyB in the end.
Jay. Yes. And, um, did you tell Parliament about this?
Hunt: Of course. That was my duty. I told them I was releasing all the correspondence totally and in full.
Jay: But you didn’t, did you?
Hunt: Of course not. The ruse to persuade James Murdoch that I was being fair to his side would have been misunderstood. As indeed it was when it came out. So I feel fully vindicated by the decision. I have done nothing wrong.
Jay: Have you ever done anything wrong before your period as Culture Secretary Mr Hunt?
Hunt: Oh I see, you’re going to drag up all that old stuff about the British Council and how I created lots of little companies in order to compete with myself fully. Well that’s all been raked through and found to be perfectly innocent. There was a Freedom of Information query and the British Council answered it.
Jay: With a lie.
Hunt: Not my lie, though. I wasn’t involved, as by this time I had decided to dedicate my life to public service…
Jay: Yes, that’s right. You were elected MP for SW Surrey?
Hunt: I was, that’s right, where I replaced the fragrant Virginia Bottomley.
Jay: Who also happened to be an active member of the British Council?
Hunt: Yes, that was a lucky bounce. Everyone needs a little luck now and then, even me.
Jay: And then you loaned your brother some money, is that correct?
Hunt: Correct. A purely fraternal thing. To help his company expand.
Jay: But it had already gone bust, hadn’t it? And you were the Company Secretary weren’t you?
Hunt: Well, yes – I went the extra mile for my brother. That’s always been my style.
Jay: And you did the same for your own business partner, explaining how to avoid £100,000 of tax last year just before the Government of which you are a member closed the loophole, is that right?
Hunt: Absolutely. It is very important in this time of austerity and job cuts not to give the Inland Revenue extra work that is completely unnecessary. Everyone must pay their taxes, but the more people who avoid unnecessary payments, the more lean the tax offices will be, so we can then privatise them.
Jay: Privatise them?
Hunt: Absolutely. One day I will be Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when that day comes I will put before Parliament a bill to sell the Inland Revenue functions to the tax accountancy sector.
Jay: I see. Why them?
Hunt: Well obviously, because they have the most experience in how to help companies avoid tax, and thus the tax system will become yet more efficient because tax avoidance will be maximised.
Jay. Right. And tax receipts will fall?
Hunt: Yes. And so tax rates will have to go up where there are the most taxpayers, at the bottom end, in order to maximise tax intake. So you see we shall have profitable industries, more jobs in the tax avoidance sector, and a privatised Revenue service maximising receipts on minimal staff. Sadly, this sort of logic is alien to the Socialists, who know only how to spend.
Jay: Thank you very much Mr Hunt. So given your long expereience as both arbiter and partner to Newscorp, how would you sum up the standards in British media today?
Hunt: Oh without doubt, very high. I mean, look at the case of phone-hacking: it was the media that revealed all that. It wasn’t the politicians or the police, it was the media.
Jay: But not Newscorp, obviously?
Hunt: Not in that instance no, but later the company’s newspapers revealed all sorts of things going on. For example the genius of Boris Johnson and how, even if the Brooks-Coulson cases lead all the way back to Mr Cameron, there’s a dynamic, radical Conservative waiting in the wings, whose Glee Club I recently joined, and for whom I am now very much a cheerleader.
Jay: Thank you so much once again, Mr Hunt, for being so honest about yourself.
Hunt: Not at all. With me, what you see is what you get.