Jeremy Hunt 'left holding the parcel when the music stopped'

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt Photo:

Ed Miliband tried to make the allegation of 'sleaze' stick at PMQs today, which takes some chutzpah given the long and inglorious history of his own party's closeness to News International over more than a decade.

Jeremy Hunt may be in serious trouble over the BSkyB bid, but we should be clear about one thing; the reality is that he was simply holding the parcel when the music stopped.

Millie Dowler

Up until the Milly Dowler revelations, politicians of all parties sucked up to Murdoch in a way that was often rather creepy. So if it is fair to judge Hunt's behaviour pre-Dowler by the rules of the Westminster game post-Dowler (and it may be), then it is fair to judge the behaviour of every Labour cabinet member in the same way. And this includes Ed Miliband. I don't recall his voice being raised on a single occasion until it was clear the rules of the game had changed.

Ed Miliband at PMQ's

I suspect the truth is that most members of the public think (rightly) that all parties were pretty much as bad as each other when it came to cosying up to News International and are largely indifferent to Mr Hunt's fate (though the newspapers are not). This is interesting, but it’s a Westminster story.

The economy is, however, a different matter. David Cameron's entire re-election strategy is based around the retention of his edge on economic competence. He did not wilt at PMQs today, true, but there is no doubt Ed Miliband is doing better and it may be that the gap between them is beginning to close. We all know mid-term polls can be misleading, but if Labour can erode and then reverse the Tories lead on economic competence, the game will change. There is everything to play for.