Cameron ruins Labour's Hunt vote with letter from Sir Alex

Jun 13, 2012
The Mole

Prime Minister claims his adviser on the ministerial code has said he cannot help with Jeremy Hunt affair

DAVID CAMERON produced a 'killer' letter from Sir Alex Allan, his independent adviser on the ministerial code, at Prime Minister's Questions to try to scupper Labour's strategy for further embarrassing the Government over the Murdoch takeover bid for BSkyB.

Ed Miliband and Cameron traded blows over Cameron's refusal to refer his Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for investigation over claims that he breached the ministerial code. But Dave appeared to come out on top after producing a letter to him yesterday from Sir Alex.
Part of the letter which Cameron read out said: "I note your decision in relation to Jeremy Hunt's adherence to the ministerial code which is of course a matter for you... The fact that there is an ongoing judicial inquiry probing and taking evidence under oath means I do not believe I could usefully add to the facts in this case."
Sir Alex said he remained available if circumstances changed. Ed Miliband bounced back, pointing out that Lord Leveson had already said he was not going to make a judgment on Hunt because that was not his job and not part of his remit, which is to look at the ethics of the Press.

But it deflated Labour's attack before this afternoon's debate demanding that Hunt be referred to Sir Alex. Cameron, looking pleased as the head boy who stole all the jammy dodgers, said: "I am sorry that the whole political strategy behind the opposition motion has collapsed."
Labour are insisting they are not asking Sir Alex to look into the facts. They said the facts are known and what they wanted Sir Alex to rule on was whether the ministerial code had been broken.

But for the prime minister, it was a case of "with one bound he was free". Labour are pressing ahead with their attack in the debate, but the letter was a gift to Cameron. He taunted Miliband, saying that he hoped the England football team "are better at putting the ball in the back of the net".

Sir Alex should get a life peerage before they are abolished. Cameron revealed that he has asked Sir Alex for future guidance on such cases and will be meeting him tomorrow.

It is clear that in effect, the PM will be asking Sir Alex how he can avoid such traps in the future. One option being floated around Westminster is to take decisions such as the BSkyB bid out of the hands of ministers faced with a conflict of interest with their personal views, and hand them to the Cabinet Secretary.
Miliband tried his best, saying it was no longer just Hunt's judgement on trial, that it was in fact Cameron's judgement that had proved so lamentable. But it failed to stick.

Cameron could have marked it as a 2-0 win, but Prime Minister's Questions ended with another putdown by the Speaker, John Bercow, for a Tory minister.

This time it was Michael Gove. "I am really worried about the conduct of the Education Secretary," he said. "In the average class room, he would be excluded by now."

Sign up for our daily newsletter