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Hunt's 'daddy' texts to lobbyist
Beleaguered Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is under intense pressure after fresh disclosures at the Leveson Inquiry about his relationship with a senior News Corporation lobbyist.
Mr Hunt addressed Frederic Michel as "daddy" and "mon ami" in dozens of jokey and intimate text messages sent at all hours of the day and night.
The lobbyist responded with flattering comments about the Culture Secretary's "stamina" and "great" performances in TV interviews and the Commons. Mr Hunt also assured Mr Michel, then European director of public affairs for Rupert Murdoch's media empire, there was "nothing u won't like" in an forthcoming speech.
On Friday, the Leveson Inquiry released 67 texts sent between the two men from June 21 2010 until July 3 2011, the period when News Corp was seeking to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Mr Michel and Mr Hunt, whose wives both gave birth at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in late May 2010, regularly swapped updates about their young children. On June 21 2010 the Culture Secretary texted the lobbyist: "Baby fine just changed his nappy lucky daddy!"
A month later, on July 15, Mr Michel, who is French, praised Mr Hunt on a "great announcement", to which the Minister replied: "Merci papa (Thank you daddy)."
Mr Hunt also proposed meeting up for a drink with the News Corp executive to celebrate fatherhood, and said he would ask his special adviser Adam Smith to arrange it.
The lobbyist praised the Culture Secretary's appearance on a Sunday morning TV show on July 25, writing: "Full of energy and purpose on Andrew Marr! Liked your answer on Rupert and on BBC!" Mr Hunt responded: "Merci mon ami (Thank you my friend)."
The Culture Secretary is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry himself next Thursday when he will have the opportunity to defend himself from criticism that he got too close to News Corp.
On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron defended giving Mr Hunt responsibility for the decision on News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB. Mr Hunt sent a memo to the Prime Minister arguing the case for the bid just weeks before being given the role but Mr Cameron insisted he acted "impartially" once he was responsible for the decision. Mr Cameron said: "I don't regret giving the job to Jeremy Hunt, it was the right thing to do in the circumstances, which were not of my making."