Until yesterday Adam Smith was a ministerial special advisor, although clearly not quite special enough. When writing his resignation letter, we can but wonder whether his free arm was being twisted. His rapid removal follows revelations at the Leveson Inquiry, suggesting information flowed between News Corp and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, deemed inappropriate given the company’s campaign for complete control of BSkyB. Labour still have the scent of blood, so if Mr Smith was merely the Culture Secretary’s sacrificial lamb of choice, Jeremy still has every reason to feel hunted.
Ed Miliband has publicly called for Mr Hunt to hop it. “He should resign”, said the Labour leader, “he himself said that his duty was to be transparent, impartial and fair.” The Financial Times report that Jeremy Hunt previously referred to himself as a “cheerleader” for Mr Murdoch’s achievements, on his own website. If so, you can see right through his claims of transparency, and impartiality seems implausible, at best.
It may be that the Culture Secretary’s admiration for the media mogul will pay dividends, however. The headlines which might otherwise have been plotting his demise, are instead reporting the appearance at the Leveson Inquiry of Mr Murdoch himself. When executives from The News of the World appeared before a cross-party select committee in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, they were accused of collective amnesia. It would seem this unhelpful condition may have been contracted from their boss. Although advanced in years, Mr Murdoch shows no apparent signs of senility, yet has forgotten all manner of details, from conversations with his son, to dinners with Prime Ministers. You would have hoped that at least one of those might have been mildly memorable.
Like all good theatre, an inquiry like this will entertain, and provoke discussion, but in and of itself will rarely change the status quo on which it offers comment. Politics, the press, and indeed the police, are essentially self regulating bodies, and the resulting inquiries from their varied alleged inequities feel like a war of attrition. The length and tedium of the investigation will be directly proportionate to the level of public outrage, and we always give up first. Self regulation is like me asking my three year old to put himself on the naughty step, every time he attacks the cat. It’s a very democratic idea, and as such I would welcome it, but I live in a house with a very nervous cat.