Wednesday News Review

Rebels hunt for Gaddafi

The massive green gates were blasted open after seven hours of ferocious fighting and exultant rebels poured into Bab al-Aziziya, Muammar Gaddafi’s fortress and the symbol of the regime’s bloody resistance in Tripoli. The fighters scoured through the complex shouting to each other that they had trapped the dictator in his lair. Frantic early searches failed to find the quarry and the revolutionaries were last night trying to locate a network of tunnels supposedly hidden inside the complex. Meanwhile, they tore down the regime’s green flag from the top of his home, which had been bombed in 1986 by US warplanes, and replaced it with the banner of the revolution. For the revolutionaries, frustrated and angry that their entry into the capital had not resulted in the immediate vanquishing of their hated foe, the fall of the bastion gave cathartic relief. They hugged each other amid repeated cries of “Allahu Akbar”. One of the fighters climbed on to the statue of a clenched fist, a symbol of defiance against the West, and raised his hand in a victory salute. Another statue, that of Colonel Gaddafi, was dragged out of a building by rope, the head torn off and tossed from hand to hand. – the Independent

Clegg in charge of Libya as Cameron goes on holiday… again

Nick Clegg has defended David Cameron’s decision to resume his summer holiday even though the Libyan crisis remains unresolved. The Deputy Prime Minister spoke after taking the Prime Minister’s place as chairman of the National Security Committee dealing with Libya. Mr Cameron is now on holiday in Cornwall – his third week of holiday this summer – with his family. He returned to London on Monday morning, before resuming his holiday again yesterday morning. Earlier this month, he also cut short an Italian holiday to return to work to respond to rioting in London and other English cities. The Deputy Prime Minister insisted that there was nothing wrong with Mr Cameron’s decision to return to Cornwall, saying that the Government could deal with the Libyan situation without him. “We as a Government work collectively very effectively. I regularly chair meetings of the National Security Council and have done so today,” Mr Clegg said. Mr Cameron is “in constant contact with other world leaders and leaders of the National Transitional Council in Libya, and that is exactly the way that we will continue to operate,” Mr Clegg said. – the Telegraph

Cameron red faced as details of NI payments to Coulson revealed

The Conservative party is struggling to defend itself against the disclosure that Andy Coulson, its former head of communications, received six-figure payments from News International while working for the party, despite having previously stated categorically that he had no other income. The party has been asked repeatedly about Coulson’s income, insisting that he was not paid by anyone else during his time at Conservative party HQ and in Downing Street. It offered comprehensive assurances that he had no other income as recently as last month, and apparently after seeking assurances directly from Coulson…. But in a sign of the continued loyalty to Coulson at the top of the government, senior sources in the Conservative party stressed that the severance payments were different from receiving a salary or co-payment from News International. The party refused to answer detailed questions about what assurances Coulson gave about his earnings, whom he had given assurances to, and when. – the Guardian

The Prime Minister is once again facing embarrassment over his decision to hire the former News of the World editor after the BBC reported Mr Coulson received hundreds of thousands of pounds from the newspaper group after he was hired by the Conservative Party. It is alleged that News International continued paying him in instalments until the end of 2007. If confirmed, it would Mr Coulson was receiving money from Rupert Murdoch’s media empire for at least five months while working as the Conservative’s Director of Communications, a role for which he was apparently paid £275,000 a year. The payments were said to be part of a “compromise agreement” following his resignation from the NoW after royal editor Clive Goodman was convicted of phone hacking. This morning, two of News International’s former editors said they did not receive any payment when they left the company. – the Telegraph

So now we hear that Andy Coulson was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by News International for several months when he was working for David Cameron’s Conservative party. This despite the fact that he let the Commons culture committee believe that he’d had no secondary income. It seems everyone in the Tory party is now running for cover. Nobody knew of anything untoward. Everyone is categorical in their denial. But what they surely cannot deny is that they never really did due diligence. This was a man who had resigned from the News of the Worldunder a cloud. One of his employees had gone to prison for hacking phones, along with a commissioned freelancer. Did anybody ask whether Coulson was still being paid by News International when he arrived at Conservative Central Office? If not, that would be culpable negligence on the side of the accounting officers at the Conservative party in my book. – Chris Bryant, the Guardian

MPs try to save cheques

MPs are battling banks’ plans to abolish cheques. A Treasury Select Committee has warned banks not to attempt to abandon cheques by stealth or deter customers from using cheques. It has also recommended that the Payments Council be brought under regulatory control to stop its “unfettered power to decide the future of cheques”. Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the committee, said: “The Payments Council is an industry-dominated body with no effective public accountability. It should not have unfettered power to take decisions on matters such as the future of cheques, that are of vital importance to millions of people. Banks have given customers the impression that the abolition of cheques was a foregone conclusion. This type of behaviour is unacceptable.” – the Independent

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