Could Coulson be charged with perjury?

He told the Sheridan trial that he had no "knowledge" of payments to the police.

Speculation is mounting that several arrests will be made in the phone hacking case over the next 24 hours, potentially including that of Andy Coulson. The Evening Standard puts a figure (£100,000) on the unlawful payments the police received from News International. One source tells the paper: "They were running a criminal enterprise at the News of the World. Serious crimes have been found. The question now is about the scalps. There will be high-profile arrests at the paper."

But it's worth noting that if Coulson is ever charged with anything it could be with perjury. During Tommy Sheridan's trial last December, Coulson was memorably asked by Sheridan (who acted as his own counsel): "did the News of the World pay corrupt police officers?" Coulson replied: "Not to my knowledge."

But as became clear on Tuesday night, News International has now passed emails to Scotland Yard showing that Coulson authorised payments to police officers in return for help with stories. Then there's the fact, as I've previously noted, that Coulson admitted in 2003 that payments had been made, although he insisted they were "within the law". A jury of his peers may yet decide otherwise.

The Crown Office has now asked Strathclyde Police to conduct a "preliminary assessment" of witness evidence from the Sheridan trial in light of the latest revelations. Coulson, one senses, is living on borrowed time.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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

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