Miliband calls for Brooks's head

Labour leader says Rebekah Brooks should "consider her conscience and consider her position".

On last night's Newsnight, Tom Watson, who has pursued the News of the World with an unrivalled tenacity, raged against the party leaders for their collective failure to hold News International to account: "There have been plenty of hints to Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron that something very murky happened with [private investigator] Glenn Mulcaire and the News of the World. They have let the Dowler family down tonight by not calling for a public inquiry... Politicians are frightened of News International and they need to act."

But Ed Miliband's latest intervention should go some way to assuage Watson's anger. In his latest TV interview, Miliband became the first leader to suggest that Rebekah Brooks should resign over the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. He called for her to "consider her position" and to "examine her conscience". Significantly, he added: "[T]his goes well beyond one individual ... This was a systematic series of things that happened and what I want from executives at News International is people to start taking responsibility for this, people to start saying why that happened."

It's a bold move given that just two weeks ago, Miliband attended News International's summer party with Douglas Alexander and Yvette Cooper (who led Labour's criticism of the News of the World last night). For the first time, he also demanded a public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal.

The key question now is whether Miliband's intervention prompts Cameron and Clegg to take a tougher line on the scandal.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

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