Cameron - There was no 'grand deal'

David Cameron knows that the stakes for him in the row about the government's dealings with the Murdochs are much higher than merely the future of one cabinet minister.

That is why in his interview this morning the prime minister asked himself "the big picture question" and then answered it.

He insisted that "there was no grand deal" between him and the Murdochs to trade backing for their company's ambitions for their newspapers in return for support for the Conservative Party in 2010.

"Yes" he admitted, he had got too close as he wanted their backing but "no" he had not traded policy for their political support.

There will now be many thousands of words written about the evidence for and against his claim. That will do the government no good at all but Cameron's calculation is, I suspect, that it's better to have that argument now rather than later.

Just as striking, though, was the fact that the PM has now put the culture secretary on probation. He says he will judge whether the ministerial code has been broken after seeing and hearing Jeremy Hunt's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

If it has he declared: "I will act."

If it is not clear he said he would seek the help of Sir Alex Allan, the man paid to advise Downing Street on the code.

I suspect - and it is only a hunch - that this will never happen.

If the trawl of Hunt's emails and texts reveals anything questionable about how he handled the process word will quickly reach Number 10.

Hunt will be given the chance to defend himself in public on oath before Leveson but, if his position looks untenable, he will be given the chance to resign rather than be sacked just as Liam Fox was.

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