Tuesday News Review

Coulson, the plot thickens

David Cameron’s media adviser Andy Coulson will face fresh claims today over his alleged involvement in the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Mr Coulson, Downing Street’s director of Government communications, has always denied knowledge of the practice during his time as editor of the Sunday tabloid. The newspaper’s former royal editor and a private investigator were jailed for hacking into the voicemails of celebrities. But an anonymous former executive at the Sunday tabloid has told Channel Four’s Dispatches programme that Mr Coulson was well aware of the practice, and even listened in to recordings of hacked messages so he could satisfy himself about the source of stories. – The Daily Mail

The former Labour minister, Tom Watson, has written to David Cameron, calling on the prime minister to make a statement in parliament about thelatest allegations against his media adviser Andy Coulson relating to theNews of the World phone-hacking affair. Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, said the new allegations made against Coulson – to be aired in an edition of Channel 4’s Dispatches tonight – were “new, far-reaching and warrant investigation”. – The Guardian

There’s lots of good stuff in Peter Oborne’s* Dispatches programme on the News of the World phone-hacking story even if, in the end and like many TV documentaries it over-reaches and tries too hard to build too large a conspiracy when simply laying out the established facts would seem enough. Nevertheless, it certainly deserves your time. – The Spectator

Osborne gives a little, takes a lot

The Mail’s front page this morning sets out the real challenge for the government over yesterday’s shock announcement by George Osborne on the withdrawal of child benefit from those who are paying tax at the higher rate. For as is well summed up in the headline it seems to be unfair and to penalise stay-at-home mums. The paper sums it up succinctly: “It will mean that any couple with one earner paid more than the £44,000 higher-rate tax threshold will lose their child benefit, even if the other stays at home and has no income. So two working parents each earning just under the higher-rate tax threshold could earn more than £80,000 and retain child benefit, while a household with just one income of £45,000 would lose theirs.” Such apparent unfairness touches a raw nerve – particularly in the “Mumsnet” community which has evolved into a powerful political force. – Political Betting

George Osborne was due soon, they’d just be getting him out of his portable coffin in the wings. But they needed some device to depress our expectations. A parade of the Undead! That would do the trick! The Treasury team of Gauke, Hoban and Greening lurched onstage groaning. They’re not dead but very far from alive. They gave a perfectly judged performance. And so he got a walk-on standing ovation. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Some of us still aren’t used to that arrangement of words. His chinwork is more developed. His face a little broader but even more bloodless. He makes a grim statement and his mouth snaps shut like a trap. He does persist in those terrible old lines about the sun and the roof. And a new one, “Don’t give the keys back to the people who wrecked the car.” But he made another – yet another – game-changing speech. Perfectly triangulated to take the right with him in the first half, and the left in the second. – The Independent

But as always with an Osborne speech, there were subtle messages interwoven into the theme, like the barely audible double bass in a jazz riff. Or a slug of Drambuie in a bottle of vinegar. Lower taxes for the poor! Capital gains tax up! No retreat on the 50% rate! “We will not allow money to flow unimpeded into huge bonuses, if nothing is flowing out for small businesses, who did nothing to cause this crash!” Whole chunks that could have come from the Labour manifesto were slipped into the speech when no one was looking. As for the Lib Dems, people said he and Vince Cable would not get on. “We’d knife each other in the back, and try to end each other’s careers. What do they think we are? Brothers?” – The Guardian

Possible backlash over Clarke’s criminal justice reform

Ken Clarke may come face-to-face with the anger of Tory members today, when he makes the case for his liberal criminal justice policy at the party’s conference. The justice secretary faced condemnation from Tory backbenchers when he announced his intention to reduce short-term sentencing. He is supported in his efforts by Labour. Ed Miliband announced that he would support the former chancellor’s efforts last week. Some Labour figures believed the issue put the Conservatives on the wrong side of the law and order agenda – something of a role reversal given the way the two parties battled on the issue in the 80s. – Politics.co.uk

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