Opinionomics: Cream of the commentators

The best of the blogs and op-eds from this morning and last night

1. Will there be a British Business Bank? (BBC)

Following the leak of Vince Cable's letter to the Chancellor, and the Treasury acknowledging that he was overruled, Robert Peston asks, "what is the state of play on the government's ambition to correct the perceived lack of credit for small and medium-sized businesses?"

2. Recalculating Romney’s Four Percent Gimmick (The Cato Institute)

Christopher Preble takes a look, from a hard-libertarian angle, at Mitt Romney's promise to spend 4 per cent of GDP on the military.

3. Can Matter succeed? (Reuters)

Felix Salmond looks at innovative new journalism startup Matter, and debates whether or not it has a chance.

4. Knights, damsels, and tax-advantaged debt buybacks (FT alphaville)

Lisa Pollack explains exactly what the dodgy tax deal that sparked Barclay's wrist-slapping from HMRC involved, saying, "It’s as if the Knights dressed up as Damsels and rescued themselves."

5. Scale models (Free Exchange)

The Economist explains the importance of transport costs and returns to scale in looking at where future economic activity is likely to end up.

Vince Cable arrives for a cabinet meeting. Credit: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.