Can Brooks really hang on?

The News International chief executive is either guilty of incompetence or something far worse.

Despite clear evidence that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked during Rebekah Brooks's tenure as News of the World editor, Brooks is sticking to the line that she knew nothing. Former NoW reporter Paul McMullan had previously admitted to Hugh Grant in April that the phones of Dowler's "friends and family" had been hacked.

Here's the key extract from Grant's NS investigation:

Me Ah . . . I think that was one of the questions asked last week at one of the parliamentary committees. They asked Yates [John Yates, acting deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police] if it was true that he thought that the NoW had been hacking the phones of friends and family of those girls who were murdered . . . the Soham murder and the Milly girl [Milly Dowler].
Him Yeah. Yeah. It's more than likely. Yeah . . . It was quite routine. Yeah - friends and family is something that's not as easy to justify as the other things.

But even by the standards of the NoW, the news that Dowler's own phone was hacked represents a new low.

The BBC's Robert Peston reports that Brooks, who is now chief executive of News International, has no intention of resigning and retains the full support of Rupert Murdoch. He writes: "Later today she is expected to tell staff at News International, the UK arm of Mr Murdoch's News Corporation, that she is deeply shocked by the allegations, which News International has been working through the night to substantiate. However she insists that she was not involved in that instance of alleged phone hacking, or others, and knew nothing about it."

The NoW hackers didn't even conceal their activities from Surrey Police (who chose not to pursue the tabloid on the grounds that this was only "one example of tabloid misbehaviour"), is it really feasible that they managed to conceal their activities from their own editor? Like Andy Coulson, if Brooks did know, she's too wicked to stay in her post, if she didn't know, she's too stupid.

Brooks has so far avoided the level of scrutiny that she deserves. She refused three times to give evidence to the Commons select committee investigating the phone hacking allegations. But the latest revelations mean that far more people, not least the tabloid's own readers, will be demanding an explanation.

Finally, it's worth recalling that Coulson resigned (twice) because hacking occurred under his watch. Surely, Brooks will eventually be forced to do the same and accept ultimate responsibility for the scandal.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Labour to strip "abusive" registered supporters of their vote in the leadership contest

The party is asking members to report intimidating behaviour - but is vague about what this entails. 

Labour already considered blocking social media users who describe others as "scab" and "scum" from applying to vote. Now it is asking members to report abuse directly - and the punishment is equally harsh. 

Registered and affiliated supporters will lose their vote if found to be engaging in abusive behaviour, while full members could be suspended. 

Labour general secretary Iain McNicol said: “The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society.

“However, for a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. They shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.

“Put plainly, there is simply too much of it taking place and it needs to stop."

Anyone who comes across abusive behaviour is being encouraged to email validation@labour.org.uk.

Since the bulk of Labour MPs decided to oppose Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, supporters of both camps have traded insults on social media and at constituency Labour party gatherings, leading the party to suspend most meetings until after the election. 

In a more ominous sign of intimidation, a brick was thrown through the window of Corbyn challenger Angela Eagle's constituency office. 

McNicol said condemning such "appalling" behaviour was meaningless unless backed up by action: “I want to be clear, if you are a member and you engage in abusive behaviour towards other members it will be investigated and you could be suspended while that investigation is carried out. 

“If you are a registered supporter or affiliated supporter and you engage in abusive behaviour you will not get a vote in this leadership election."

What does abusive behaviour actually mean?

The question many irate social media users will be asking is, what do you mean by abusive? 

A leaked report from Labour's National Executive Committee condemned the word "traitor" as well as "scum" and "scab". A Labour spokeswoman directed The Staggers to the Labour website's leadership election page, but this merely stated that "any racist, abusive or foul language or behaviour at meetings, on social media or in any other context" will be dealt with. 

But with emotions running high, and trust already so low between rival supporters, such vague language is going to provide little confidence in the election process.