A Slog exposé Special
Hunt…a lot to explain at Leveson
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has direct and potentially very beneficial partnering links with the Newscorp empire run by Rupert Murdoch. He has never declared these – which, for a Minister of the Crown appointed to independently adjudicate on the success or failure of a crucial Newscorp bid, is an obvious abuse of his position.
Both Hunt and Newscorp work in the field of educational information supply: the Newscorp Company Milkround is a carbon copy of Hunt’s main money-spinner Hotcourses. In the world I came from, this alone would’ve disqualified Jeremy Hunt from handling the BSkyB deal: for one thing, as on the surface the two are competitors, Hunt would’ve faced a ‘moral hazard’ in that he could’ve scuppered Newscorp’s chances and thus injured a major competitor. (Camerlot as an entity rarely detects the moral hazard, as for this to happen one needs a functioning moral compass.)
But setting aside the tedious impropriety concerns of an old blogger, the relationship between Hotcourse companies and Newscorp companies should have raised concerns at a level far more obvious than the above. Here’s why.
Do any search about media companies like Newscorp, and you will find umpteen sites like this one. It provides details of subsidiaries in one market niche or another beyond the main activities such as
bribing coppers, hacking cadavers’ phones, owning Congressmen, and advising Ministers on whether to start a war publishing newspapers, running news stations and so forth. Usually included in such analyses are partnering sites under the heading ‘Related To’.
Under websites related to Newscorp at the link above is an entry for one company called Schoolsnet.com. Sites tracing its ownership use the phrase ‘Registrant obfuscated – see raw whois data’. The website itself says in tiny letters under the brand name ‘Powered by Hotcourses’. And surprise, surprise…there’s an ad for Hotcourses on there.
In fact, schoolsnet.com appears to be a trading name…and every effort has been employed to hide who is behind it. But the trail leads very clearly back to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
This company is a wholly-owned trading name of Hotcourses….which is owned by Jeremy Hunt and his partner Mike Elms. The registrant is clearly named via this link as Hotcourses Ltd Jackie Smith First Floor, Bedford House 69-79 Fulham High Street London, LO SW6 3JW. Bedford House is the property upon which Jeremy Hunt avoided £100,000 worth of tax liability last year. It is the Head Office of Hotcourses…and several other previously useful (but by now dormant) companies such as Sheffield Data Services.
Are there further links between these two companies? Yes there are.
On 9th June 2011, this Job ad appeared on The Times website – a Newscorp publication. The employer named in the ad was Milkround. There is nothing suspicious in that: but what’s damning about this advertisement is that while the employer is Milkround.com, the specific position is ‘Web Experience Executive , Hotcourses Ltd’.
The Culture Secretary surely needs to give us an explanation as to why The Times ran an ad in which it is clear that a Hotcourses executive will in reality be employed by Milkround…a Newscorp company. Especially given that, exactly three weeks later, Jeremy Hunt approved the Newscorp bid for BSkyB.
Meanwhile, back on the schoolsnet site, we see this openly boasted tie-up with Newscorp:
‘Every year, Schoolsnet provides information to The Sunday Times for its much-praised Parent Power CD-ROM; the last publication was on November 19 2006.’
No wonder Mr *unt has been such a cheerleader for Rupert Murdoch on his constituency website: he is a partnering stakeholder in Newscorp. Based on the evidence presented above, no other conclusion is possible.
The tentacular links between this Government and Newscorp make an octopus look like a paraplegic. And we need to consider this very carefully in the light of Jeremy Hunt’s main area of business interest – education – and his undisguised desire to one day be Education Secretary. For the current education supremo is of course Michael Gove. The closeness between Murdoch and Gove is clear for anyone with eyes to see it: Gove is a former Murdoch employee. Before going into politics, he was a leader writer at The Times, where his wife Sarah Vine is still employed. He was infamous among the Wappers for writing enthusiastic pieces about Roop, describing him once in print as ‘the greatest godfather of mischief’ (hard to dispute that one), and a man who possesses ’18th-century pamphleteering vigour’. So then, another drum majorette for the Sino-American Digger.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. In November 2010, Michael Gove, turned up in east London to inspect a deserted stretch of dockside land near City airport, where Rupert Murdoch had offered to build an academy school. In fact, News International offered £2m to sponsor an academy in east London – close to the company’s headquarters at Wapping – it emerged at the Leveson Inquiry.
Gove was accompanied by Rebekah Brooks, then News International chief executive, and an entourage of other top Murdoch staff, including James Harding and Will Lewis. Murdoch described himself in a speech at the ‘ceremony’ as the saviour of British education, thanks to his company’s “adoption of new academies here in London”.
At the Leveson enquiry we learned from Rupert Murdoch himself that he met the Education Secretary, Michael Gove on numerous occasions after the May 2010 General Election, in order “to discuss plans for wide-ranging reform of the schools system”. Can you imagine a schools reform designed and bankrolled by Newscorp? Our education being ‘saved’ by Rupert Murdoch? Airlifted by Newscorp off the Titanic….onto the Hindenburg.
We should all take careful note of what’s going on here: the media, the cultural tone, and the educational model. All of them being directly compromised and perverted by one man – Rupert Murdoch. A man who has dumbed down the tabloid reader (and increased his appetite for savagery, heartlessness and tits) via The Sun, and was being clearly helped by Jeremy Hunt to make a successful BSkyB bid that would challenge and eventually rout the BBC in the UK market. That man Jeremy Hunt is now being defended by the Prime Minister David Cameron; and the more tentacles that appear linking Camerlot to the Newscorp hydra, the more obvious it becomes why Scameron has to do so: he dare not alienate Murdoch any more.
The view at Westminster and Fleet Street seems to be that Cameron will make a judgement on Hunt’s future, but only when he has been given a chance to defend himself at the Leveson enquiry next week. While I realise that Cameron’s judgement on most matters is beyond help, I will still want to know by next Wednesday how any Government can allow Jeremy Hunt, in the light of this latest and previous evidence of obvious bias, to continue in a role he has so blatantly abused.
We shall see.