Sunday News Review

Balls piles pressure on Osborne

Ed Balls has piled the pressure on George Osborne ahead of the Tuesday’s GDP figures, claiming they will need to show growth of at least 0.8%. In an article for PoliticsHome, the Shadow Chancellor wrote: “Last year’s recovery has already been hugely undermined by George Osborne’s policies. Our economy has seen no growth at all over the last six months.” He added: “Simply to stay on track for his Budget forecasts… George Osborne needs Tuesday’s crucial figures to show growth of 0.8% in the second quarter of this year.” Mr Balls claimed that consumers and businesses have reined in their spending because they fear the Government’s impending spending cuts and tax rises, and said the Government had undermined consumer confidence by comparing Britain to Greece. He urged the Chancellor to “get his head out of the sand” and take “urgent action” to boost growth through a VAT cut and a repeat of the bank bonus tax. – PoliticsHome

George and his News International buddies

George Osborne’s relationship with News International will be thrown into the spotlight this week when the Chancellor is forced to publish details of every meeting with media executives since the election. The revelations are expected to step up pressure on Mr Osborne as a senior political strategist at the heart of the Tory party, and his role in persuading David Cameron to hire the ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief. Sources close to Mr Osborne confirmed that he flew to New York last December and had dinner with Rupert Murdoch, two weeks before Ofcom was due to rule on his bid to take over BSkyB. More details are expected early next week when the Cabinet Office releases details of every meeting between a cabinet minister and media executives and proprietors since May 2010. Mr Cameron released his meetings 10 days ago. A senior Whitehall source feared the release would be “hideous”. – the Independent

Questions over inquiry judge

Ed Miliband is considering demands by MPs for the judge in charge of the phone-hacking inquiry to be removed from his post after reports that he had socialised with members of Rupert Murdoch’s family. Sources close to the Labour leader said he shared the concerns raised over the impartiality of Lord Justice Leveson after it emerged that the judge attended two parties at the London home of Elisabeth Murdoch, the News Corporation chairman’s daughter who is regarded as the heir to the business, and her husband, Matthew Freud. David Cameron knew about the parties before appointing Lord Leveson to chair the inquiry into the scandal, Downing Street admitted… Lord Leveson attended two parties at the London home of Mr Freud and Ms Murdoch, on 29 July last year and on 25 January this year. A source close to the Labour leader said: “The Prime Minister must make clear whether he considered all aspects of the appointment [of Lord Leveson] properly. Ed is aware of and shares the concern about this.” – the Independent

New Labour and News International

Blair has… used the scandal to call for a wide investigation into the role of the media. “Both Ed Miliband and David Cameron are right to say that this is not just News International,” Blair told one interviewer. Dan Hodges, commissioning editor of the Labour Uncut website, and a commentator on the party, said he was not surprised Blair was reluctant to wade into the row. “A lot of Labour party members will find what comes out at the official inquiry [into the role of the press] about New Labour’s relationship with News International quite hard to take,” Hodges said. “Revelations about the depth of the relationship as it existed under both Brown and Blair are going to be uncomfortable for the party.” Indeed, Brooks confirmed to parliament that it “was under Labour prime ministers that I was a regular visitor to Downing Street and not the current administration”. Blair in particular has enjoyed a relationship with the tycoon that stretches beyond the political to the personal, continuing to socialise with the Murdochs after leaving office. This month it was alleged Blair urged Brown to persuade Tom Watson, the Labour MP who led the efforts to expose phone-hacking at the NoW, to back off. The claims were denied by Blair. – the Guardian

Sugar vs. Mensch

A war of words erupted between Alan Sugar and Conservative MP Louise Mensch on Twitter on Saturday over comments she made about alleged phone hacking at the Daily Mirror. Lord Sugar accused the MP for Corby of abusing parliamentary privilege during a culture, media and sport select committee hearing on Tuesday where she incorrectly claimed Piers Morgan had admitted hacking into celebrities’ phones when he edited the tabloid. Sugar launched the astonishing attack after she refused to repeat her claims outside the hearing because she would not be protected by parliamentary privilege and would leave herself open to being sued. He wrote: “Louise Mensch should be fired by Cameron for abuse of parliamentary privilege. Last night on Newsnight shown to be a liar. Media Wannabe”. Mensch responded that Lord Sugar should apologise for remarks he made about pregnant mums who are looking for employment, adding: ‘Your comments disgrace the Labour party.” – the Guardian

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