The Tories still haven’t removed false claims on NHS spending from their website — at least 16 hours after being ordered to stop by the head of the UK Statistics Authority. Despite coverage in the mainstream press and on blogs, the site still reads:
In an embarrassing letter sent addressed to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the UKSA chief said, at best, spending would have “changed very little” under this government. He went on to demand that the Health department “clarify the statements” about the dubious figures.
Wakey wakey, CCHQ.
UPDATE: Cameron continued the fibbing at PMQs:
“let me quote him directly the figures from the head of the Office of National Statistics, which is that in real terms spnding in 2010 was £104.2bn in real terms and in 2011 it was £104.3bn in real terms. That is a real terms increase …”
More than three weeks have passed since Jeremy Hunt was promoted to secretary of state for health, with industry sources indicating that he has been briefed to keep the NHS off the front pages at all costs.
Perhaps this explains why he has yet to do a single interview, appear on any broadcast or make an intervention of any kind — despite new figures revealing 5,500 nurses have been cut since May 2010. His public activity can be summarised thusly:
- Hunt has featured in a single DH press release on dementia.
- He visited St Thomas’ Hospital — but there were no interviews, no live cameras, and as far as Scrapbook is aware, no advance notice of the visit. Only two photos of the excursion exist.
In the meantime, he has found time to appoint a new taxpayer-funded political spinner from a controversial private healthcare provider and, errr, go on holiday. His own website hasn’t been updated to reflect his new role — with a bio claiming he is still at DCMS.
Good to see he’s earning his £134,565 plus expenses.
Jeremy Hunt’s sudden promotion to Health Secretary raised many eyebrows across Westminster — and it seems that Conservative members and supporters share that concern. In a poll by Tory grassroots website ConservativeHome, voters said by 39% to 35% that the former Culture Secretary was not a good appointment.
The move attracted heavy criticism, when it emerged that Hunt had previously co-written a book branding the NHS a “60 year mistake” and calling for it to be scrapped. He also gained the unflattering epiphet “minister for magic“, due to his support for, erm, homeopathy.
The results of the poll also expressed concern on the part of rank and file Conservative members that Justine Greening had been sacked from her Transport Secretary post as a precursor to a u-turn on a Heathrow third runway — a view shared by the Mayor of London — and a deep worry about the under-representation of women at cabinet level.
The rapid departure of Jeremy Hunt from DCMS, before the Leveson Inquiry reports back, has the feeling of a rat off a sinking ship.
The evidence, including emails and texts, is out. When Adam Smith told Hunt that his decision not refer the BSkyB bid to the Competition Commission had an, erm, mixed reception, he replied:
“… good to be a hate figure, Maggie would be proud of me!”
In 1981 Margaret Thatcher famously waved Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of The Times through, despite concerns over media plurality. The Culture Secretary, supposedly acting in a non-political matter told another colleague that being a hate figure on the left in particular meant he “must be doing something right!” And there’s more:
Preparing for Hunt’s statement to the Commons in March regarding BSkyB’s Undertakings in Lieu (which got them out of referral to the Competition Commission), politically neutral Adam Smith prepared a series of friendly questions which could be planted with backbenchers, including:
“Can [the minister] confirm that Ofcom’s advice is that these arrangements are sufficient to address the plurality concerns that initially led them to believe the deal should be referred to the competition commission?”
Seems odd that one so confident in their quasi-judicial capacity should need political allies to throw him soft balls.
Scrapbook is sure that Mr Hunt has the full confidence of the Prime Minister.
In her unbridled enthusiasm for defending the honour of Jeremy Hunt this lunchtime, it seems Louise Mensch may have inadvertently skewered him. She told the BBC:
“[Hunt] said he didn’t interfere in a quasi-judicial process, and sending a memo to the Prime Minister does not interfere in that process. It would have been interference had he lobbied Vince Cable, which he was very careful not to do, so there’s been no lies to Parliament at all.”
But this poses a problem for Hunt, who in the closing line of his infamous memo to David Cameron on 19th November 2010 said:
“… I do think you, I, Vince and the DPM should meet to discuss the policy issues that are thrown up as a result.”
Hunt subsequently told parliament he had “made absolutely no intervention seeking to influence [the process overseen by Cable]“. By Mensch’s own logic, Hunt’s suggestion that he should meet with Cable — even if this suggestion was declined by Cameron — was a clear attempt to lobby someone acting in a quasi-judicial position.
Her cognitive contortions were such that she has even claimed Hunt’s SpAd had not been “thrown under the proverbial bus”.
Hunt’s account of Adam Smith’s resignation is particularly interesting:
Jay: “Did you say to him at about 9.30 in the morning “‘everyone here thinks you need to go?’”
Hunt: “Yes, I wasn’t particularly including myself in that description of ‘everyone’”
Jay: “So if something had gone wrong…it theoretically fell within your responsibility didn’t it?”
Hunt: “I do have responsibility for what he does, I have repsonsibility for what everyone in my department does…”
That last admission seems especially pertinent.
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Could there be a better time for Jeremy Hunt to quit than the day after his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday? With Britain scheduled to spend a four-day bank holiday weekend distracted by Diamond Jubilee celebrations, this timing could do much to soften the blow to David Cameron.
This theory has been gaining currency in Westminster circles since the evasive testimony of his former special adviser last Thursday. Such a move would mirror the fate of Liam Fox, who attempted to leave the media flat-footed by quitting as defence secretary at 4:10pm on a Friday.
Meanwhile, the expenses scandal which engulfed Sayeeda Warsi this weekend raises the delicious prospect of a double sacking. Liberal Democrat backbencher Bob Russell is already banging the drum for a police investigation:
“There are similarities [to the Lord Hanningfield case],” he said. “I think there’s a prima facie case for this to be looked at by the police.”
You’re in trouble when a convicted fraudster is defending you.
- Creepy texts between Hunt and Murdoch lobbyist
- The pair repeatedly call each other “Daddy”
- Hunt compares himself to Clint Eastwood
The text messages between Jeremy Hunt and Murdoch’s lobbyist are just plain embarrassing.
FM: great announcement today. Well done
JH: Merci papa [...]
FM: Full of energy and purpose on Andrew Marr! Liked your answer on Rupert and the BBC! Have a great visit to India. Fred
JH: Merci mon ami
In what is perhaps a reference to mutual fatherhood of new babies — their children were born in the same hospital on the same day — the pair resorted to calling each other “daddy”. At times this drifts off into what could be kindly be referred to as flirting.
FM: You were great on the BBC this week-end!
JH: U too daddy [...]
FM: Great speech. Watched it with cycling team. And I can’t believe you managed to do Newsnight as well! You have stamina daddy!
JH: We all find it somewhere!
When Clint Eastwood complained about Hunt abolishing the UK Film Council:
FM: Be strong! Even Clint Eastwood can’t stop it
JH: If they play Dirty Harry so can I!
And there’s more. We’re updating this page with the best ones.