The British minister due to oversee the London Olympics this summer has insisted he will stay in his role amid fresh pressure for him to quit over alleged collusion with Rupert Murdoch’s companies.
A spokeswoman for Jeremy Hunt, whose role as minister for culture, media and sport includes responsibility for this year’s Olympic Games in London, said he would “vindicate” his position when he appears at an inquiry into press ethics.
An email handed to the inquiry by Rebekah Brooks, former head of Murdoch’s British newspaper firm News International, appeared to show Hunt’s office seeking advice from Murdoch’s side on handling the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed the firm.
“This is absolutely not acceptable,” opposition Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman told BBC radio on Friday. “How much more evidence does (Prime Minister) David Cameron need that this man is not fit to hold this high office?”
The email from Frederic Michel, a lobbyist for Murdoch’s News Corporation, to Brooks said that the minister wanted the firm to “guide his and Number 10′s positioning” on the scandal, and that he would try to avoid a public inquiry.
It also indicated accurately that Hunt would play down the impact of the phone hacking revelations on a bid by News Corp. to win full control of lucrative satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Hunt has insisted that Michel’s only contacts were with his special adviser Adam Smith, who has already resigned over his “inappropriate” communications with Murdoch firms.
Hunt’s spokeswoman said he would respond fully when he gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, which was sparked by the phone hacking scandal and where he is expected to appear in the coming weeks.
“He is confident his evidence will vindicate the position that he has behaved with integrity on every issue,” she said.
More than 40 people have been arrested in a police investigation into phone hacking at Murdoch-owned newspapers and a linked probe into illicit payments to police and public officials.
The scandal has also prompted a furious debate over the close relations between politicians and the media.
Hunt is set to preside over the London Olympic Games starting on July 27.