Cameron isolated over public inquiry

Clegg, Miliband, and Boris demand a judge-led inquiry. Will Cameron give in?

It may now be easier to compile a list of those who didn't have their phones hacked, than those who did, but the revelation that the families of dead soldiers were targeted is still in a sordid class of its own. Naturally, it's increased the pressure for an immediate public inquiry into the scandal. Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and, now, Boris Johnson are all agreed that the inquiry should be led by a judge. But David Cameron insists that it need not be.

One Downing Street source tells the Guardian: "We do not have to have a judge-led inquiry to make it effective." The suspicion, of course, is that the Prime Minister is unwilling to testify under oath that Andy Coulson did know about the phone hacking.

It's a stance that puts him at odds with Clegg, who, in an email to Lib Dem members explicitly declared that the inquiry "must be presided over by a judge". Clegg's call was echoed by Chris Huhne, a persistent critic of News International, who told the Today programme: "the inquiry is going to have to be judge-led." Similarly, Boris declared this morning: "There should be a judge-led inquiry and it should be immediate ... get the editors in, get the proprietors in."

But for others an inquiry, judge-led or otherwise, is a distraction from the priority -- to stop Rupert Murdoch getting his hands on the 61 per cent of BSkyB he does not already own. Lord Oakeshott, a close ally of Vince Cable, tells the Independent: "What is the point of an inquiry if Mr Murdoch is allowed to walk away with the big prize [BSkyB]?" Intriguingly, the paper reports that some MPs believe there could be "discreet contacts between Downing Street and senior News Corp figures urging the company to suspend its bid." Others speculate that the government may use emergency legislation to halt Murdoch's takeover.

The expectation among some is that all of this could persuade Murdoch to toughen his stance and cut Rebekah Brooks loose. But it's hard to see how the departure of Brooks, however cathartic, could assuage News Corp's political foes. The damage, as Murdoch well knows, has been done.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn fans are getting extremely angry at the wrong Michael Foster

He didn't try to block the Labour leader off a ballot. He's just against hunting with dogs. 

Michael Foster was a Labour MP for Worcester from 1997 to 2010, where he was best known for trying to ban hunting with dogs. After losing his seat to Tory Robin Walker, he settled back into private life.

He quietly worked for a charity, and then a trade association. That is, until his doppelganger tried to get Jeremy Corbyn struck off the ballot paper. 

The Labour donor Michael Foster challenged Labour's National Executive Committee's decision to let Corbyn automatically run for leadership in court. He lost his bid, and Corbyn supporters celebrated.

And some of the most jubilant decided to tell Foster where to go. 

Foster told The Staggers he had received aggressive tweets: "I have had my photograph in the online edition of The Sun with the story. I had to ring them up and suggest they take it down. It is quite a common name."

Indeed, Michael Foster is such a common name that there were two Labour MPs with that name between 1997 and 2010. The other was Michael Jabez Foster, MP for Hastings and Rye. 

One senior Labour MP rang the Worcester Michael Foster up this week, believing he was the donor. 

Foster explained: "When I said I wasn't him, then he began to talk about the time he spent in Hastings with me which was the other Michael Foster."

Having two Michael Fosters in Parliament at the same time (the donor Michael Foster was never an MP) could sometimes prove useful. 

Foster said: "When I took the bill forward to ban hunting, he used to get quite a few of my death threats.

"Once I paid his pension - it came out of my salary."

Foster has never met the donor Michael Foster. An Owen Smith supporter, he admits "part of me" would have been pleased if he had managed to block Corbyn from the ballot paper, but believes it could have caused problems down the line.

He does however have a warning for Corbyn supporters: "If Jeremy wins, a place like Worcester will never have a Labour MP.

"I say that having years of working in the constituency. And Worcester has to be won by Labour as part of that tranche of seats to enable it to form a government."