In this week’s New Statesman: Jemima Khan guest edit

Phone-hacking: Hugh Grant exclusive | Julian Assange defends WikiLeaks | Oliver Stone: Barack’s betr

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This week's New Statesman is a special issue guest-edited by Jemima Khan. Inside, Hugh Grant reveals what happened when he turned the tables on the News of the World phone-hackers by secretly recording a former NoW executive. Elsewhere, Jemima talks to Nick Clegg, the "Tim Henman of British politics", who admits that he "cries regularly to music", reveals that his nine-year-old son asks, "Why are the students angry with you, Papa?", and explains why he won't be dining with James Murdoch any time soon.

Other contributors include Julian Assange, who argues that WikiLeaks stands firmly in the tradition of the American radical press, the Hollywood film director Oliver Stone, who delivers a damning verdict on the Obama presidency so far, James Fox, who warns that the law in New Orleans is out of control, and the Conservative MP Rory Stewart, who says the west must learn the limits of intervention.

Also, don't miss Tony Benn on how freedom of information enabled the Arab revolt, Russell Brand on why Richard Dawkins is the best argument for the existence of God, and Jarvis Cocker on the long hangover since Labour's victory in 1997.

All this, plus Mehdi Hasan on why David Cameron, not Andrew Lansley, is the one to blame for the NHS fiasco, John Pilger on the real reasons for the military excursion in Libya, and Alain de Botton on the delicate art of conversation.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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