In the last couple of days, David Cameron
threw his full support behind Mr Hunt insisting the Culture Secretary acted “wisely and fairly” and had given “a good account of himself” at the Leveson Inquiry.
Both David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt examined Hunt’s behaviour over the BSkyB bid, and Hunt decided
“I did think about my own position, but I had conducted the bid scrupulously, and I believed it was possible to demonstrate that, and I decided it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go.”
Today, as it came out that Warsi had made a series of profitable “mistakes” when claiming MP expenses,
David Cameron has ordered an inquiry into whether Conservative Party co-chair Baroness Warsi breached the ministerial code when she was accompanied by a business partner on an official visit to Pakistan.
The Prime Minister called in Sir Alex Allan, his independent adviser on ministerial interests, to investigate after she admitted failing to disclose her business relationship with Abid Hussain.
Sayeeda Warsi has apologised, and says she understands she should have declared her share in a spice business (Ruperts Recipes) and made clear she had a business link with Hussain. There also appears to be some question about whether she claimed for rent that she wasn’t paying when she stayed in a friend’s flat in London when attending the House of Lords. All in all, an independent investigation seems appropriate.
But as both Cameron and Hunt had decided there had been no breach of the Ministerial Code in Hunt’s case, there was no need to refer Jeremy Hunt to the independent investigator on ministerial interests to decide whether the Code had been broken. Zombie Alan Turing said:
”It seems that despite a minister sending personal texts to the person whose case he was deciding (when he was advised by lawyers not to have any communications with him), deliberately ensuring that he had unminuted phone calls with that person and his employees (when he had been advised by lawyers not have any meetings him), using a private email account to avoid any public accountability under freedom of information, and admitting that he was responsible for a department and directly responsible for a special adviser that had a thousand back channel communications (including early provision of documents) with the party in the case the minister was deciding such that any decision the minister and his department could have reached would have been struck down as unlawful in a judicial review action given the appearance of bias in the minister and his department’s dealings with News Corp, that this isn’t enough to break the ministerial code.
Over at the dragon fairy place, a former civil servant notes:
What struck me this week was how different the approaches were between Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt. Cable’s department seemed to play it ‘by the book’ as far as the takeover bid was concerned. Being the judge in a quasi-judicial process he and his advisers separated themselves from the lobbying, correspondence and the meetings that News International were pushing for. Quite the opposite with Hunt at the DCMS. From a public administration perspective, the significant difference in approaches is a matter of great concern.
Jeremy Hunt is the elder son of Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt, who is a Freeman of the City of London and who is descended from Sir Streynsham Master (a pioneer of the East India Company) and Sir Joseph Yates, a noted 18th-century judge. Jeremy Hunt’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, George Smith, was also a director of the East India Company and had a Parliamentary family career of the pre-Reform Act kind: the fifth son of a wealthy Nottingham banker and MP, “a portion of the family wealth was devoted to buying control of two pocket boroughs, Wendover and Midhurst”: one brother was raised to the peerage as Baron Carrington in 1796 and Carrington then kept those two seats in Parliament here almost exclusively for use by his family until the Reform Act of 1832. Via that pre-Reform MP George Smith, Jeremy Hunt can claim cousinship with Sir Oswald Mosley and Elizabeth Windsor. Jeremy Hunt went to Charterhouse School, fees said to be £25,000 a year (the Charterhouse was one of 60 private schools found to be part of a price-fixing cartel in 2004). Jeremy Hunt then attended Oxford University, at the same time as David Cameron and Boris Johnson, and a year or two before George Osborne (both Hunt and Osborne attended Magdalene College). After graduation, Jeremy Hunt co-founded “a marketing consultancy firm based in the technology field” which was eventually sold to Whiteoaks, and then co-founded Hotcourses, a company that seems to have had a very close funding relationship with the British Council. One of his former employees at Hotcourses notes:
Those three years working alongside Hunt give me an idea of the kind of government we currently have, run by these former public school boys who have barged their way through life not through merit or ability, but by birth. You would not have picked out Jeremy Hunt as a brilliant intellect, a powerful speaker, a man with any convictions other than those he was born with. This is the impression one also gets from the rest of his colleagues in the Conservative party. It was bad enough having him as a boss – the fact that he and his chums are running the country is far, far worse.
Jeremy Hunt was selected for a safe Conservative seat in 2005, and became Minister for Culture in 2010. Let’s not go into the question of the private assistant who got a civil service job after the hiring freeze and the cuts, while Hunt grumbled about the “absolute pain” of having to give up his Ministerial chauffeured car.
Let’s look instead at Sayeeda Warsi. Her parents immigrated from Bewal in Pakistan to Dewsbury in Yorkshire. Safdar Hussain, her father, was a mill worker who started and runs a bed manufacturing company. Sayeeda Warsi is the second of five daughters. She went to Birkdale High School, a state school with a very high local reputation, which closed in September 2011 due to government funding cuts: to a local further-education college, Dewsbury College (now Kirklees, after a couple of mergers), and then to the University of Leeds and the College of Law at York University, where she studied law and did legal practice training with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office Immigration Department. She worked for John Whitfield, formerly MP for Dewsbury, at Whitfield Hallam Goodall Solicitors: she set up her own solicitor’s practice: she worked in Pakistan for the Ministry of Law in Pakistan and in Kashmir as chair of the Savayra Foundation. She stood as a Parliamentary candidate for Dewsbury in the 2005 elections and didn’t win, but began to work directly for the Conservative Party: David Cameron appointed her chair “with special responsibility for cities” after she had been a special adviser to Michael Howard. In 2007 she was created a Baroness, and became the youngest member of the House of Lords. She was a Shadow minister has been a Minister in David Cameron’s Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet since July 2007.
You really don’t need any further explanation why David Cameron dismissed all charges against Jeremy Hunt after an hour’s consideration and kept him as a Minister, but referred Sayeeda Warsi’s case to be investigated, do you?
She may be a Conservative, but she’s decidedly not “One of Us”.
Update, 4th September
You could hardly have a better illustration of the Tory party attitude: Jeremy Hunt was promoted to Health Secretary today, while Sayeeda Warsi was demoted to senior minister of state at the Foreign Office (and a role as minister for faith and communities). Warsi was replaced as co-chair by MP Michael Green.
The news that the first and only Muslim Asian woman in politics from the north of England has been moved out of the Coalition cabinet in the mid-term reshuffle comes as no surprise to those of us in Bradford and West Yorkshire more widely who have been following Sayeeda Warsi’s career.
The tragedy is that despite the changing demographic profile of the UK, Warsi does not fit the cabinet demographic bill that has dominated UK politics for so long.
In demoting her to a newly created post as senior minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs and then allowing her to attend Cabinet meetings, the Prime Minister is engaging in more and worse tokenism.