Monday, 11 July 2011

Hunt the human shield

Having stammered out the sound “umm”, poor Jeremy Hunt cut the figure of a guilty school-boy just asked the question “have you done your homework?”

Hunt was answering one of a barrage of prickly questions after his statement on the BSkyB takeover and he gave satisfactory answers to few – he did not know, could not say and, on one excruciating occasion, said the knowledge required for the answer was above his “grade”.

This was an occasion that demanded a brass neck, a deep voice and a steely eye, yet Hunt had the demeanour of a man angry that his butterfly collection had been tampered with.

We shouldn’t be too harsh on the Culture Secretary though – he arguably played a horrendous hand as well as it could be played.

For one thing the situation has been changing so fast today that he would have had little or no time to prepare his statement.

But crucially, such is the importance of this issue now that the Prime Minister should have been in the House to take questions.

David Cameron’s absence will be remembered, and it meant Hunt was always going to find it tough against an Opposition Leader with invigorated confidence on the Commons floor.

There is no other event that can possibly have been as critical right now as a debate on the BSkyB deal and trying to suggest that it is Hunt’s portfolio and place to respond, while technically correct, simply made it feel as though the Culture Secretary was being used as a human shield.

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