Some MPs have told "total lies", says Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch denies he is going to sell up and hits out at Gordon Brown in his first interview since the

Rupert Murdoch has given his first significant public comments since the scandal engulfing News Corporation broke. Speaking to his own newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, he vigorously defended the company's actions and hit back at accusations against him.

He said that News Corp had handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible," making just "minor mistakes." This is despite claims by the Metropolitan Police that News International hindered its investigation.

Murdoch also addressed his appearance in front of a Commons select committee next Tuesday. He agreed to attend yesterday after initially declining. He said he wanted to:

[Address] some of the things that have been said in parliament, some of which are total lies. We think it's important to absolutely establish our integrity in the eyes of the public......I felt that it's best just to be as transparent as possible.

He singled out former prime minister Gordon Brown, who has accused reporters at News International of accessing his son's medical records and gave a rabble-rousing speech attacking Murdoch and News International in the Commons on Wednesday, saying: "He got it entirely wrong".

Murdoch added that "the Browns were always friends of ours" until the Sun withdrew its support for Labour before the last election. His biographer, Michael Wolff, tweeted that in the interview "Murdoch seemed genuinely distressed about Brown not liking him anymore".

In the last few days, speculation has been rife that Murdoch might sell off his British newspaper titles to prevent contagion in his empire. Murdoch, who is famously committed to the newspaper business, responded to these rumous:

Pure rubbish. Pure and total rubbish....give it the strongest possible denial you can give.

He also said he was confident that the damage to News Corp was "nothing that will not be recovered". Unsurprisingly, the Sun King is fighting back.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.