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27 April 2012

Access all areas

Access all areas

Tagged by the Guardian as the 'minister for Murdoch', Jeremy Hunt is under increasing pressure because of emails released by the Leveson Inquiry following testimony from James Murdoch. Hunt has not yet given his own evidence to the inquiry but it would appear not only were key players in the Murdoch empire in close contact with his department of culture, media and sport, but the accusation is flying that Hunt was biased towards approving News Corp's takeover of BSkyB. This after the decision was taken away from Vince Cable because he was seen as biased against approving the bid.

After resolutely pledging his innocence, Hunt appeared before parliament to answer - or perhaps dodge - these charges. This was also after his adviser had resigned for inappropriate contact with News Corp.

This is really all about access - who had access to whom, and what they did with that access. It is also seasoned with a heavy perception that those involved are 'a different sort of people'. They are privileged and aloof. They do not live in the real word. All of which chimes with an accusation this week by a Conservative MP that the prime minister and the chancellor are "a couple of posh boys who don't know the price of milk".

Without casting a verdict on what went on in the complexity of this furore, it looks from a distance like this: a group of elite people making decisions between themselves and then presenting them as for the good of everyone else while in fact they are part of a self-serving cycle. The media give the politicians favourable coverage, and the politicians cover the media's back.

It looks awful.

Is it any wonder that trust in politicians and journalists is so low?

It leads us to step away from politics and view everything we read in the papers and watch on the news through a lens of scepticism. Access to the political process is siphoned through spin and media management: our knowledge of what goes on is mediated through the filters that are placed on it by those out of sight and beyond our control.

The news presents Jeremy Hunt's reaction to the charges against him with their own particular slant. We hear the lines delivered at the dispatch box, no doubt scripted by an adviser and tested to destruction. The opponents grab the limelight to denounce him and call for his resignation. And then we remember they've written the book on the topic that they're out to publicise.

It's almost a new form of sacerdotalism: the idea that we can only reach God through an appointed priest. In this murky context, can we get to the truth without going through a specially appointed gatekeeper, whether that's the politicians, the press or Lord Justice Leveson?

Perhaps it is worth remembering that in a world where we do not know what to believe, truth is still real and available.

Perhaps, in a world where access seems reserved for the privileged, we can remember that we have access to the God of all things. Not through the edicts of the press, the words of politicians or the judgement of an official inquiry. But straight to God.

And when we turn our backs, He does not turn His. When we walk away, He does not abandon us. Our access to God is not dependent on the favourable coverage we give to Him. He hears us in our distress. We can read the Bible and understand what it says. We can call on God and He will hear our cry.

Danny Webster, parliamentary officer