Brown in the clear over Murdoch "war" call

Cabinet Office says it has no record of alleged call to Murdoch in September 2009.

Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry that an unbalanced Gordon Brown declared "war" on his company in a phone call following the Sun's defection to the Tories in September 2009. In his own appearance on Monday, Brown insisted that the call never took place. Who's telling the truth?

According to the Cabinet Office, Brown is. Earlier today, it announced that it had no record of a call that month, and that the pair spoke only once in the year to March 2010, when they discussed Afghanistan in November 2009.

Here's the statement in full:

Following Gordon Brown's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on Monday we have received a number of questions about our records, which we provided to Mr Brown to support his preparations for the inquiry.

We can confirm that there is a record of only one call between Mr Brown and Rupert Murdoch in the year to March 2010.

That call took place on the 10th of November 2009.

This was followed up by an email from Gordon Brown to Rupert Murdoch on the same day referring to the earlier conversation on Afghanistan.

Four witness statements have been submitted to the inquiry on the content of the call by staff who worked in No 10 Downing Street and who were the four and sole personnel on the phone call.

Brown's office said the statement "confirms Mr Brown's evidence to the inquiry and this document will now be submitted by Mr Brown to Lord Justice Leveson".

"The fact is there is no record of a phone call Mr Murdoch claims to have had with Mr Brown around the end of September 2009. There is no record of a call because because no call took place. Indeed even now Mr Murdoch has been unable to name any date or a time of such a call."

Guido speculates that the call could have taken place on a mobile (and gone unrecorded) but it's worth noting that Brown told the inquiry that all calls, "including those transacted through a mobile phone", went through the Downing Street switchboard.

It looks like it's Murdoch with the questions to answer here.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown leaves after giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.