By Tim Montgomerie
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PMQs was set to be one of the most difficult of David Cameron's time at Number 10 and Ed Miliband focused on both of the hot topics – the double dip recession and the question marks hanging over Jeremy Hunt. Ed Miliband dealt no big new blow as the Prime Minister stuck to two big lines to take –
- The Culture Secretary had his full confidence and should be judged by Leveson and not before;
- This Government is cleaning up Labour's messes – whether the financial mess or the problems of Britain's press.
All of the parties were guilty of cosying up to Murdoch (Nick Clegg shook his head at this point), David Cameron noted, and it was wrong for Ed Miliband to pre-judge Lord Leveson's inquiry.
Cameron ended strongly – avoiding some of the politicking of last week and focusing on his responsibilities as Prime Minister – and sounding like one.
Jeremy Hunt gave a statement immediately after PMQs. I listened to half of it from the press gallery and watched half on TV. From those two different vantage points, the Culture Secretary sounded slightly unsure within the rowdy chamber but his delivery seemed perfectly reasonable on TV. Every Tory MP backed Mr Hunt from the Tory backbenches – with Brandon Lewis, Therese Coffey, David Burrowes and Sajid Javid noting his personal integrity – although they were unable to match the noise and fury from the Labour half of the Commons.
Mr Hunt was at its best in insisting he'd referred the BSkyB bid to independent regulators at every point. He was also able to confirm that he'd had "zero" contact with Fred Michel, the NewsCorp lobbyist. He looked less comfortable when discussing the resignation of his Special Adviser, Adam Smith, who he said has overstepped the mark in some of his correspondence. Adam Smith resigned earlier in the day.
David Cameron and George Osborne stayed alongside Jeremy Hunt throughout his statement. Although Nick Clegg did not stay no Lib Dem MP stuck in the knife. That will be of some comfort for the Culture Secretary.
(Statement was still in progress when this blog was published).