Tuesday News Review

Welcome back: Theresa May faces tough questions over phone hacking

If Theresa May had been a luckier politician she might have faced an easier challenge on her first day back at Westminster: solving world hunger perhaps, persuading the Taliban to take up knitting or smuggling Tony Blair into Waterstone’s. Instead the home secretary got a big, black binliner full of stinking political rubbish dumped into her lap, the kind of raw material that News of the World reporters tiptoe away with from the dustbins of their victims. Except that in this case the investigators were outraged opposition MPs and the targets under surveillance were Scotland Yard, the News of the Screws itself and Andy Coulson, the boss’s pet rottweiler, all mixed up in the phone-hacking affair. A Lib Dem cabinet minister even called for Coulson to be sacked. – The Guardian

Backbencher Tom Watson said Mrs May must not join a ”conspiracy” to undermine the ”integrity of our democracy”. He called on her to confirm that Tony Blair had asked Scotland Yard whether his phone was hacked – a suggestion the former prime minister’s office has yet to shed light on. But the home secretary batted away demands for details, saying: ”There have recently been allegations connected to this investigation in the New York Times newspaper. ”Any police investigation is an operational matter in which ministers have no role.” – The Telegraph

Step forward, Tom Watson, the man they call “Tommy Two Dinners”. In fact, the man is becoming a star performer in the House of Commons. Before the recess, he savaged Michael Gove over the school rebuilding fiasco, dubbing him “a miserable pipsqueak of a man”. Now he launched into Theresa May with a machine gun-like summary of the latest allegations: succinct, easy-to-understand and extremely effective. Put that man in the Shadow Cabinet! He’s becoming one of Labour’s top attack dogs. Nick Clegg will be grateful that he didn’t have to face Tommy. – Sky

During the Commons debate, Labour MP Tom Watson asked May to clarify how many were on Mulcaire’s “target list” of people to bug. He also asked how the Metropolitan Police decided on the small sample of names which made up its 2006 investigation into the affair. He added: “Can she confirm that former Prime Minister Tony Blair has formally asked Scotland Yard whether his phone was hacked? “The integrity of our democracy is under scrutiny around the world. The home secretary must not join the conspiracy to make it a laughing stock.” – Press Gazette

Milibands court green vote

David and Ed Miliband are vying to pick up the green vote as the Labourleadership contest enters its final three weeks, with the former backing an environmental measure that his younger brother dismissed when climate change secretary. The elder Miliband is applying pressure on the green credentials of both his brother and the coalition by pledging firm support for an emissions performance standard (EPS). The measure would restrict carbon emissions from new coal and gas plants and was proposed by both coalition parties in opposition — when it was criticised by Ed Miliband as unworkable. Its implementation has been delayed since the Lib Dems and Tories formed a government. – The Guardian

Balls finds new admirers

Britain has a new political hero. His name is Ed Balls. Please do not choke on your cornflakes, for the rise of Mr Balls has been brewing for some time. His trademark pummelling of the Coalition reached new heights in a bravura speech denouncing George Osborne as a “growth denier” whose cuts imperil the recovery. As praise flowed in from expected and odder quarters, one Right-wing newspaper squared up to the grisly notion that Mr Balls might just be correct. – The Telegraph

Whatever you say about Spheroids, he not only has balls. He has ideas. He has conviction. He has a grasp of economic history, and as he showed in his Bloomberg lecture last week, he knows how to mount a compelling argument. Balls is like one of those Florida weather forecasters who has just seen something terrible on the long-range radar. Outside in the streets of Miami the sun may be shining, and the kids may be happily going about their daily business of shooting up and car-jacking each other. But far out over the Atlantic, deep in the armpit of Africa, Balls can see what he claims to be an accelerating whorl of low pressure. – Boris Johnson, The Telegraph

Blunkett questions Ed M’s credentials

David Blunkett, the former Labour cabinet minister, has strongly questioned Ed Miliband‘s leadership credentials, saying he cannot recall a single thing the younger Miliband has said in the past three months that has represented a “challenge” to the party or the country. In an interview with the Guardian Blunkett also criticised the 2010 Labour election manifesto for which Miliband junior had responsibility, saying it looked as if it had been written on Sunday morning and was “deeply uninspiring … it is a bit rich for those that were in what they amusingly call the Brown bunker to claim it was nothing to do with them, and it would be nice if we suddenly became radicals”. – The Guardian

Blair cancels book signing

Tony Blair has cancelled plans for a book signing in London’s Piccadilly, fearing the event would attract hundreds of protesters and that the disruption could bring parts of central London to a standstill. Mr Blair’s decision to scrap the signing on Wednesday at Waterstone’s flagship store dismayed the bookstore and will deprive anti-war protesters of a long-awaited opportunity to vent their anger at the former premier. – The FT

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