It may not always be obvious, but I do try to be fair to the Government. However, I do find that their arguments about the BSkyB bid are becoming increasingly convoluted.
To recap, after the Telegraph sting on Vince Cable the Prime Minister ruled that Cable’s comments to two undercover reporters were “totally unacceptable and inappropriate” and prejudiced his ability to act in a quasi-judicial role in determining whether to accept any Competition Commission decision that the News International takeover of BSkyB could go ahead.
The quasi-judicial responsibility was then transferred to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and its Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt.
Now it transpires that Jeremy Hunt had sent a memo to the Prime Minister saying that the UK’s media sector “would suffer for years” if the deal was blocked.
However, the Prime Minister is now arguing that these comments did not prejudice Jeremy Hunt’s ability to act in a quasi-judicial role.
Is that because the Prime Minister knew about them?
Or is it because the personal views were ones he agreed with?
And, of course, as the Prime Minister knew when he appointed Jeremy Hunt to his quasi-judicial role that he was apparently already prejudiced, the Prime Minister too was complicit in undermining the process.
Apparently, it is “totally unacceptable and inappropriate” for a Minister acting in a quasi-judicial role to have views opposing the bid, but there is nothing wrong in knowingly appointing someone to the same quasi-judicial role if he has expressed the contrary views.
Is that clear?
Of course, if Jeremy Hunt – by behaving as unacceptably and inappropriately as Vince Cable – were forced to resign, then that would call into question the judgement of the Prime Minister who had appointed him in the first place, particularly if that same Prime Minister knew about the behaviour in question. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the Prime Minister thinks that Jeremy Hunt’s behaviour WAS acceptable (especially as his non-prejudicial views mirrored his own).