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Downing Street Hints At Jeremy Hunt Inquiry
Embattled Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is running perilously short of friends, with even Downing Street now saying it may investigate his behaviour.
A statement from Number 10 reiterates its line that Mr Hunt should be allowed to appear before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards first.
"It does not make sense to cut across a judicial inquiry with a parallel process that would risk pre-empting, duplicating or contradicting it," a spokesman said.
But, tellingly, he added: "Once Jeremy Hunt's evidence is made public and he is questioned, if there is anything that suggests there has been a breach of the code the Prime Minister would of course act."
That reference was to the rule-book for Government members, the so-called Ministerial Code, alleged breaches of which the Leveson Inquiry says it is not prepared to investigate.
Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry has also declined to bring forward the culture secretary's appearance to answer allegations his handling of the Murdoch bid to buy all of BSkyB.
His task, of arbitrating whether the deal should be allowed to go ahead, was compromised by his own special adviser being too close to a member of Rupert Murdoch's team.
The adviser, Adam Smith, went. And Mr Hunt's accusers say that, guilty by association, so shoud he.
He insists that all relevant communications between him and the now departed assistant will be given to Leveson. And that that documentation, combined with the testimony he will be giving under oath, will clear his name.
But the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, told the Commons on Wednesday it "beggars belief" that the Prime Minister should try and defend him, and that he should instead sack him.
And he returned to the attack today, saying: "The longer the Prime Minister resists this the more people will conclude he has something to hide, that he is engaged in a cover-up."
In addition, the deputy Liberal Democrat leader, a senior Conservative MP, and the Westminster sleaze watchdog have all said Mr Hunt's case should be referred to the Prime Minister's independent adviser on ministerial conduct, Sir Alex Allan.
The entire affair is awkward for David Cameron, given the questions raised over his own judgement in hiring former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson as his chief spin doctor.
Mr Coulson left Number 10 after being caught up in the phone-hacking scandal that led to the closure of the Sunday tabloid and the setting up of the Leveson inquiry.
But there are also risks involved for Mr Miliband.
Demanding the dismissal of a minister is like throwing down the gauntlet and losing a duel can be very painful.