Bloomberg News

BSkyB Minister Hunt Says He’s a ‘Hero,’ Possible U.K. Premier

July 19, 2012

U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who faced calls for his resignation over his handling of News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s 2010 bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY), said he was now a “hero” once again and refused to rule himself out as a future prime minister.

In an interview with “The House” magazine, which is distributed to lawmakers, Hunt was asked if it was still possible for him to lead Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party after being the subject of a parliamentary motion to censure his handling of the failed takeover offer.

“This is politics, isn’t it?,” Hunt told the magazine, which was published in London today. “From hero to zero, but definitely back again. You don’t know where politics is going to end up. I think it’s best not to have any grand plans, but I think you just have to come out of these things wiser and stronger.”

Hunt is asserting his position within the Cabinet before the ministerial reorganization that Cameron plans for September. By then the London Olympics, which Hunt is coordinating, will be over.

Last month, Hunt survived a House of Commons vote called by the opposition Labour Party that sought to force his referral to an independent watchdog on ministerial conduct. Hunt’s special adviser, Adam Smith, quit in April after e-mails released to the U.K.’s media-ethics inquiry showed he was in constant contact with a News Corp. lobbyist, Fred Michel, while the culture secretary was reviewing the bid.

Coalition Partners

While Hunt’s party backed him, the Tories’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, abstained from the vote, highlighting their unease at Cameron’s decision to refuse to refer Hunt for independent scrutiny.

That angered Tory lawmakers who accused their junior coalition partners of double standards, pointing to their loyalty to Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary. Cable was stripped of responsibility for reviewing the takeover in late 2010 after telling undercover reporters he had “declared war” on News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. dropped the bid a year ago as the scandal over phone hacking at its News of the World tabloid widened.

Hunt sought to woo Liberal Democrat lawmakers in his interview, expressing strong support for an overhaul of the upper, unelected House of Lords, a key priority of the junior coalition party, and anticipating a time when the two parties may need to enter coalition negotiations again.

“I’m a big supporter of Lords reform,” Hunt said. “I actually would go further than our proposals. I would have a wholly elected second chamber modeled on the U.S. Senate because I want a stronger Parliament.”

On the Liberal Democrats’ refusal to back him, Hunt said: “I never interpreted it as a personal thing.”

Hunt also made light of the unseasonably heavy rain that’s swept Britain in the run-up to the Olympics that start July 27.

“Let’s look at this positively,” he said. “If it rains that would be a great home advantage to our athletes, because they are used to it.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.


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