An inquiry into the relationship between British politicians and Rupert Murdoch's media empire has rattled David Cameron's government. Culture minister Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday faced angry calls to resign over emails showing close cooperation between a senior aide and a Murdoch lobbyist during the tycoon's bid to takeover the BSkyb network.
Hunt's aide Adam Smith quit on Wednesday - a day after Murdoch's News Corporation released over 160 pages of emails that showed Hunt's aides gave regular updates to the company about his thinking. The emails reportedly suggest that Hunt's office secretly helped News Corp overcome opposition to the $12bn takeover bid.
News Corp eventually withdrew from the takeover bid, following the scandal over illegal phone hacking by Murdoch-owned newspapers. But the latest scandal erupted in parliament when opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband said "the shadow of sleaze will hang over this government" as long as the PM continued to defend Hunt.
"It's beggars belief that the PM can defend the culture secretary. He was helping the bid on behalf of News Corp," Miliband said. Cameron and Hunt accused Labour of prejudging the outcome of the probe by Sir Brian Leveson.
The political row erupted as Murdoch appeared before the Leveson inquiry, insisting that though he and former PM Margaret Thatcher were on the same page politically, she did not help him in his 1981 bid to acquire The Times and Sunday Times newspapers.