'No doubt' ministerial code was breached in Hunt-BSkyB affair
Pressure builds on David Cameron to call an inquiry after former Cabinet Secretary gives damning verdict
EDITOR'S NOTE: David Cameron was due in the Commons to answer an urgent question about culture secretary Jeremy Hunt at 3.30pm today after speaker John Bercow granted Labour's request. His decision has infuriated the Tory party, who believed he would reject the request on the basis that the issue was discussed at PMQs last week and Hunt himself had faced questions on Wednesday.
THE BICYCLING former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler has strengthened Labour's calls to force David Cameron to the Commons this afternoon. Camo is under pressure to explain why he has not referred Jeremy Hunt to the independent adjudicator on breaches in the ministerial code over leaks to the Murdoch empire about their bid for BSkyB.
The affable peer told Radio Five Live yesterday that there was "no doubt that the letter of the Ministerial Code has been breached" in Hunt's case. Ed Miliband will be able to make hay with Butler's remarks. That could blow a hole in Cameron's defence that it can all wait for the Leveson inquiry to hear Hunt give evidence under oath.
But there will be outrage among Tory MPs - not for the first time - if the Speaker John Bercow, a former right-wing Tory MP, grants Miliband's demand for an emergency statement by Cameron before the Commons goes into recess (yet again) for a break, this time for the May Day Bank holiday and Thursday's local elections. He is not obliged to grant it, and Cameron faced questions on the matter at Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday.
Cameron is meanwhile pinning his hopes on court jester and official buffoon Boris Johnson to beat Labour's Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral election and pull the Tories out of a nosedive.
The Sunday Times YouGov poll was devastating reading for Cameron and his party - it showed Labour had risen to the magic 40 per cent figure which would enable them to form a majority at a general election, while the Tories for the first time have slumped to 29 per cent, their lowest share for eight years, before hapless Gordon Brown became PM.
YouGov pollster Peter Kellner said that if Cameron's polling figures stayed in the doldrums, the Tory support could defect dramatically to UKIP in the 2014 European elections, just as the right-wing vote had gone to the hard right in France. "I would not bet heavily against UKIP topping the poll in 2014 or coming close," said Kellner. "If that happens, the dynamics of the next general election could crucify the Tories."
Cameron left himself enough room to sack Hunt - despite the warm words of support - in his weekend interview with Andrew Marr on BBC TV. "If evidence comes out through the [Leveson] inquiry, where you're giving evidence under oath, if he did breach the Ministerial Code, then clearly that's a different issue and I would act," he said.
Tory grass roots supporters are putting increasing pressure on Cameron to get a grip by carrying out an early reshuffle of the Cabinet. A straw poll among Conservative members for ConservativeHome today shows two right wingers top the beauty parade for promotion to the Cabinet: David Davis and John Redwood.
They are followed, in order, by 'moderates' Grant Shapps, Michael Fallon, Chris Grayling, Damian Green, Liberal Democrat David Laws, Greg Clark, Priti Patel (the only woman in the top ten) and Nick Herbert.
Opinion formers and other 'influentials' put Shapps and Grayling at the top of the 'most likely to be promoted' list followed by Lib Dem Laws, who was forced to resign within days of the formation of the Coalition Government over expenses claims related to a shared home with his gay partner.
Thursday is likely to see Tory councillors losing seats in their hundreds - possibly as many as 700 could go west across England. Friday will dawn dreadfully for cheery Dave, unless Boris pulls it off in London. If Boris loses, there will be demands for a reshuffle at Number Ten.