Cameron and Clegg divided over Jeremy Hunt
David Cameron’s refusal to refer his culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to the ministerial code of conduct has put him in the line of fire against the Liberal Democrats, creating a rift in the coalition.
Lib Dem sources claim that the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, urged Mr Cameron on more than one occasion to refer the culture secretary to Sir Alex Allan, the adviser on the ministerial code – a move which the prime minister promptly refused.
The argument between the two further heated up when Nick Clegg ordered MPs to abstain in the Commons vote on Jeremy Hunt’s behaviour, calling for him to be referred to Allan.
The sources said Clegg was angry that Hunt was cleared within minutes of him giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry, despite his belief that the culture secretary’s answers had not cleared up questions over his handling of News Corp’s bid for BSkyB.
Louise Mensch, a high-profile Conservative MP and member of the culture select committee, accused Nick Clegg and his party members of “just being silly” as she insisted that Hunt had already been held accountable at the Leveson inquiry.
She said Hunt’s appearance at the inquiry along with the testimonies of his former special adviser , Adam Smith, and Frederic Michel – News Corporation lobbyist – were sufficient to move on from the issue.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “There doesn’t need to be an investigation because all the questions have been repeatedly and comprehensively answered. It’s the prime minister’s call, he’s made the call and it’s the right call.”
However, senior Lib Dem MP Don Foster disagreed with Mensch stating: “The first issue is how Jeremy Hunt…handled the BSkyB bid. We believe he handled that by the book…but he separate issues that remain…are in relation to the ministerial code. These are not issues that were covered by the Leveson inquiry. Clegg already said that if any questions remain following Jeremy Hunt’s appearance at Leveson then those questions must be addressed.”
Despite strong opposition from the Lib Dems, they are unlikely to win the vote.