The "shadow of sleaze" now hangs over the government in the wake of fresh revelations about its links to News Corporation, Ed Miliband has told MPs.
In angry exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday the Labour leader told David Cameron that it was "time to stop putting his cronies before the interest of the country".
Miliband tackled the prime minister in the Commons moments after Jeremy Hunt's special adviser quit his post over allegations he had aided News Corp in its bid to take control of BSkyB in 2010.
"It beggars belief that the prime minister can defend the culture secretary, he wasn't judging this bid, he was helping the bid by News Corporation," Miliband told the Commons.
"He [Hunt] and his office were providing a constant flow of confidential information to News Corporation about statements to be made in this House in advance, his private discussions with regulators and his discussions with opposing parties."
David Cameron said he was not going to "pre-judge" the outcome of the Leveson inquiry but insisted Hunt had his "full support for the excellent job that he does".
"In judging this important bid the culture secretary sought independent advice from independent regulators at every stage, although he did not need to," he said.
However the prime minister admitted that "we all did too much cosying up to Rupert Murdoch".
REACTION: Twitter analysis of a rowdy prime minister's questions
Miliband also attacked the coalition for its handling of the economy following news the UK had slipped back into recession.
"Today we had the catastrophic news that Britain is back in recession, I am sure the PM has spent the last 24 hours of thinking of an excuse as to why tis nothing to do with him," he said.
"This is recession made by him and the chancellor in Downing Street."
Cameron said he would not deviate from his plan to cut the deficit and public spending.
"There is not a single business organisation or serous commentator or international body who thinks these problems emerged in the last 24-months," he said.
25/04/2012 13:18 BST
A good day for Theresa May?
@ BarnacleBum :
Theresa May is sat there thinking 'At least its not me today-phew!' looking rather uncomfortable even so. #pmqs
25/04/2012 12:55 BST
Ben Bradshaw says Hunt is wrong over OfCom referral
The former Culture secretary says that both OfCom and Vince Cable thought he BSkyB bid should be referred to the Competition Commission.
25/04/2012 12:49 BST
Jeremy Hunt - I never spoke to News Int lobbyist.
Hunt is reminding MPs that there is no paper trail leading to him from News International. Now he is blaming Labour for having done nothing about press governance.
25/04/2012 12:48 BST
Our liveblog is following the Commons...
Jeremy Hunt is now claiming that he took four decisions which "went against what News Corp wanted". Including checking the bids status with OfCom.
25/04/2012 12:46 BST
Hunt: I had not made my mind up over the BSkyB bid.
He says that while he had expressed sympathy for the Murdoch bid before he was made responsible for judging on it, he became genuinely impartial once it was handed to him from Vince Cable.
25/04/2012 12:45 BST
The front bench is out in force for Hunt
@ christopherhope :
#leveson Full front bench for Hunt's embarrassment. No one left after PMQs #showofsolidarity
25/04/2012 12:44 BST
Harman re-issues her call for Jeremy Hunt to resign
...at the end of her speech to the Commons
Hunt is now responding, saying he deplores Harriet Harman's fail our to rise above party politics.
Hunt is struggling to be heard, and the Speaker is now telling Hunt off for straying from the issues at hand, in attacking Labour for failing to show humility.
25/04/2012 12:43 BST
Harman suggests Hunt was accountable for his SPAD.
She says under 3.3 of the Ministerial Code Hunt is accountable for Adam Smith.
"He was not judging this bid, he was backing this bid, and he should resign."
25/04/2012 12:41 BST
Harman: Either Michel was Mystic Meg or he had been told.
She says there was a great deal of transparency for Murdoch but none for opponents of the bid or the House of Commons.
25/04/2012 12:40 BST
Harriet Harman: News International was given an unfair advantage.
She says Hunt was acting "like a judge" in a quasi judicial role. She suggests that James Murdoch was given an unfair advantage.
"is he really going to suggest to this house that James Murdoch's adviser knew all this was a co-incidence?"
Suggested For You
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more