Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today on Unite, Ken Clarke and the Vatican.

1. Purnell, Milburn, Kelly, Hewitt, Jowell: all members of Unite

The Conservatives' claim that New Labour figures such as James Purnell and Alan Miliburn have been replaced with union stooges isn't convincing, writes the FT's Jim Pickard. Almost all of the Blairites in question belong to . . . the Unite union.

2. Clarke calls for £30bn in additional cuts

Left Foot Forward's Will Straw discovers that Kenneth Clarke's pledge to reduce the Budget deficit to below 3 per cent of national income implies an extra £30bn in spending cuts.

3. Labour's collapse in Stoke

Over at Liberal Conspiracy, Phil BC looks at why Labour is struggling in its former stronghold of Stoke-on-Trent.

4. Civil servants told Tony Blair a Catholic could not be ambassador to Vatican

Nicholas Watt blogs about Blair's explanation of his role in breaking protocol and allowing a Catholic to serve as Britain's envoy to the Vatican.

5. Will the Indepenski give the Tories a fairer deal?

Finally, ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie looks at what Alexander Lebedev's imminent acquisition of the Independent means for the paper's political stance.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.