Friday News Review

More questions, few answers

The parliamentary sleaze watchdog is to investigate claims of phone hacking surrounding David Cameron’s chief spin doctor. MPs agreed yesterday that the powerful Commons Standards and Privileges Committee should hold an inquiry into the allegations. It comes amid growing pressure on Andy Coulson, No 10’s head of communications, over accusations he knew of illegal phone-tapping while he was editor of the News of the World editor. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who claims his phone was targeted, told MPs he was concerned that recent allegations were just the “tip of the iceberg”. – The Herald

Labour former minister Tom Watson told the Commons: “Something very dark lurks in the evidence files of the Mulcaire case, and dark and mysterious forces are keeping it that way.” He claimed too many powerful politicians were “afraid” of the power of newspapers. He said: “Here we sit in Parliament, the central institution of our sacred democracy, between us some of the most powerful people of the land, and we are scared. We are afraid, and if we oppose this resolution it is our shame. That is the tawdry secret that dare not speak its name. – The Express

David Cameron’s spin doctor suffered another blow yesterday when MPs ordered the Westminster sleaze watchdog to probe phone-hacking claims. Ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson has insisted he didn’t know the eavesdropping technique was used at the paper. But former employees claim Mr Coulson – now No10 director of communications – must have been aware of the practice. – The Mirror

THE POSITION of British prime minister David Cameron’s top media adviser is under increasing pressure following a decision yesterday by the government not to block an investigation into allegations of widespread telephone tapping by British newspapers. The adviser, Andy Coulson, who resigned in 2007 as editor of theNews of the World after one of his reporters was jailed for telephone tapping, has faced fresh allegations in the last week that he approved of the widespread use of such tactics during his time in charge of the powerful tabloid. The Standards and Privileges Committee at the House of Commons is to meet early next week to decide whether it will launch a full public inquiry into the affair, but there is little doubt that it will do so given the strength of feeling expressed by MPs from all parties present at a debate on the matter yesterday, who voted unanimously for an investigation to take place. – The Irish Times

All’s fair

Britain’s biggest union has been accused of ignoring Labour rules in the way it is urging its members to back Ed Miliband in the party’s leadership election. Unite included a leaflet pledging its support for Mr Miliband along with the ballot papers for the contest it sent to its 950,000 members eligible to vote. “He understands the Labour Party needs to change and he is the best candidate to reconnect Labour with the concerns of ordinary working people,” Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, Unite’s joint general secretaries, say in the leaflet. The mailshot has angered supporters of David Miliband, who believe it breaks the spirit of Labour’s rulebook. “This is sailing very close to the wind,” said one Labour MP.

Ed Miliband received more Labour leadership campaign money than his brother David last month, boosted by a £100,000 gift from the Uniteunion. The younger Miliband brother received a total of £152,501 in August – about £20,000 more than David and far surpassing the other contestants. The Electoral Commission’s latest publication of donations to politicians is dominated by the Labour leadership candidates. By comparison, Andy Burnham raised £15,000 and Ed Balls £5,000. Diane Abbott has yet to register any donations with the Electoral Commission. – The Guardian

DMili: Jobs, jobs, jobs

Labour leadership favourite David Miliband will put tackling the “jobs deficit” at the top of his agenda when he publishes his manifesto for Britain today. Mr Miliband will set out a 10-point plan of his priorities for the country if he wins the Labour leadership later this month. With unemployment fears rising, he will say as much effort must be put into tackling the jobs deficit as the budget deficit. It is the budget deficit – the amount the Government spends above what it raises through taxes – which the ConDems are using as the reason for savage cuts. – The Mirror

Red steel?

And with that, I’m told, my time is up. He’s awfully nice about it of course. On the walk back up Victoria Street to parliament, I wonder about his commitment to these causes he identifies his campaign with so closely. His comments about collective Cabinet responsibility are the standard response to issues of record, but they’re no weaker for it. He was well known to be profoundly loyal to the government, urging fellow Cabinet secretaries not to rebel against Gordon Brown in public. But the responses to questions about the manifesto were more evasive. I try to imagine him around the Cabinet table urging Brown to recognise civil liberties as an issue, but I can’t. That being said, I don’t doubt for a moment that these are his genuine views. One thing is certain. If he does win, David Cameron will use the same attack against him that Campbell used. Nice, but too innocent. Too nice for politics. As Tony Blair explained in his memoirs – the effective attack against a political opponent doesn’t need to be exotic, it just needs to be believable. It is believable, as it happens, but probably false. There’s steel there too. We might be about to find out how much. –

Ed’s secret weapon

Ed Miliband has insisted he has the momentum to win the leadership contest, and praised the ‘secret weapon’ of his campaign. Talking to, the Labour leadership candidate insisted he was running “the largest field operation that any political campaign has had in a leadership election in the history of British politics”. He revealed that the leadership bid had employed a campaigning system modelled on that employed by the Labour party, but given more freedom to its activists. –

One regret

When you have made a career out of being a thorn in the side of both the Tories and New Labour, there is little time for regrets. But Ken Livingstone admits that his decades-long battle for social justice has been fought at a huge personal cost. The veteran politician’s devotion to the cause has meant the father-of-five, who has just become a grandad, missed out on seeing his children grow up. Ken, 65, says: “The only regret I have in being a politician is that you miss quite a lot of things as your children grow up because you are working all the time.”When I get in at night you go straight into your kids’ bedroom and look at them because you do miss them so much when you are not there. And a lot of the time I wasn’t there.” – The Mirror

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