Jeremy Hunt was one of the most controversial figures caught up in the Leveson Inquiry, with Labour calling for the then Culture Secretary to resign over contact between his office and NewsCorp lobbyist Fred Michel. But today Lord Justice Leveson’s report finds ‘no credible evidence of actual bias on the part of Mr Hunt’, but the exchanges between the lobbyist and Mr Hunt’s adviser Adam Smith gave rise to the perception of bias.
Leveson actually praises Hunt for the ‘robust systems’ that he put in place to ensure that Rupert Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB would be handled with impartiality, writing:
‘Mr Hunt immediately put in place robust systems to ensure that the remaining stages of the bid would be handles with fairness, impartiality and transparency, all in line with his quasi-judicial obligations. His extensive reliance on external advice, above and beyond the minimum required, was a wise and effective means of helping him to keep to the statutory test and to engender confidence that an objective decision would be taken.’
The only respect in which the bid was not ‘commendably handled’, finds the judge, was the relationship between Smith and Michel Leveson writes that he doubts ‘the wisdom of appointing Mr Smith to this role’.
This will be a relief for the Hunt, who told the Spectator in October that being hauled over the coals on his relationship with the Murdoch dynasty was like ‘being accused of a murder that you hadn’t committed’.