James Murdoch discussed BSkyB bid with David Cameron over dinner

The two men went for a meal at the Cotswolds home of Rebekah Brooks, the then chief executive of News International, just two days after Mr Cameron had been forced to replace the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, as the minister scrutinising the bid.

Until now, Mr Cameron has always refused to issue an outright denial that he spoke about BSkyB during the meeting with Mr Murdoch on Dec 23, 2010.

But the Prime Minister is likely to face renewed calls for a Cabinet Office inquiry into his meetings with the Murdochs after James Murdoch said he sought assurances at the Christmas get-together that Jeremy Hunt, who took over the brief, would be more “objective” than Mr Cable, who had told undercover Daily Telegraph reporters he had “declared war on Mr Murdoch”.

He also complained to the Chancellor, George Osborne, about the “slow” progress of the regulatory process holding up the takeover.

In his witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry he states: “I recall speaking briefly to the Prime Minister on one occasion about the proposal.

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Dear Mens’ Helpline

I really need your advice on a serious problem.

I have suspected for some time now that my wife has been cheating on me.

The usual signs – if the phone rings and I answer, the caller hangs up, and she goes out with the girls a lot.

I try to stay awake to look out for her when she comes home but I usually fall asleep.

Anyway, last night about midnight, I hid in the shed behind the boat.

When she came home, she got out of someone’s car, buttoning her blouse; then she took her panties out of her purse and slipped them on.

It was at that moment, crouched behind the boat, that I noticed a hairline
crack in the outboard engine mounting bracket.

Is that something I can weld – or do I need to replace the whole bracket?

(Signed)
Retired Engineer

Bahrain is bewildered by the world’s hostility

So, the Grand Prix in Bahrain is over. The teams have packed up and the circus has moved on. They have a left a small nation feeling bewildered. Bewildered at the level of ignorance about what is really happening here, at the level of animosity and bile, at the media bias. And bewildered that so many in the UK, a long-standing friend and ally for two centuries, could so readily swallow everything opposition groups and activists were saying.

The abiding image I have of the Grand Prix last weekend was of thousands of people enjoying themselves at the post‑event parties. Yet the media reports in Britain told a different story. Headlines suggested that the country was in flames and that there was a serious safety risk to the Formula One teams.

I do not mean to trivialise the situation in Bahrain. There remain difficulties, all of which require political solutions. But this is not Syria, to paraphrase David Cameron, not by a long way. There are regular peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain, and more peaceful demonstrations take place than violent ones. But these are seldom reported.

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If we must reform the Lords, here’s how…

The most important question to ask about the proposed reform of the House of Lords is this: will it make our system of governance better or worse? The democratic legitimacy of the Upper House or the past promises of political parties should be secondary considerations. This is not to say that the Lords works perfectly or cannot be improved. Its composition can be changed, as happened when the majority of hereditary peers were expelled by the Labour government. Its numbers can – and should – be reduced.

But any reform must, crucially, ensure that the chamber continues to carry out its essential functions, which are to act as a check on the Commons and to provide sage and, if possible, impartial scrutiny of legislation. The one guaranteed way of wrecking that purpose is Nick Clegg’s proposal for a 300-seat senate, mostly or wholly elected by proportional representation for 15-year terms. The idea that the administration of this country would be enhanced by the creation of another chamber of career politicians, beholden to party machines and government whips and locked in a constant “who rules?” fight with the lower house, is not so much fanciful as away with the fairies.

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France’s centre-Left is on the march, but so are darker forces from the far-Right National Front

The job of French president is grim, but someone has to do it. Such was the view of Charles de Gaulle. “My mission seemed clear and terrible,” he once said. “At this moment, the worst in her history, it was for me to assume the burden of France.” François Hollande, the first-round victor in the race for the presidency, is more upbeat.

The Socialist leader, nicknamed “Monsieur Flanby”, after a milk pudding, senses triumph against Nicolas Sarkozy. Adieu, Mr Bling; enter the human blancmange. “Change is afoot,” Mr Hollande tweeted. “Nothing will stop it now.” We shall see. Mr Sarkozy, who will fight to the end to prove him wrong, may yet prevail.

If, however, France elects its first Socialist president since 1988, Mr Hollande will shoulder not only internal problems but also the dreams of those leaders, Ed Miliband included, who hope the centre-Right’s grip on Europe is weakening. Angela Merkel, who has campaigned for Mr Sarkozy, faces possible ejection in the forthcoming German elections.

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What next for the euro if France rejects austerity?

At a time when the UK Government is imposing another £16bn of spending cuts, is abolishing pensioner tax reliefs, and is apparently so financially stretched that it needs to tax warm pasties, it has somehow managed to find an additional £10bn to bail out the eurozone. This from a prime minister who declares himself a “eurosceptic”. Is it any wonder that the Tories are trailing in the polls?

I’ve found myself genuinely torn by the debate around new loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On the one hand, I’m a supporter of multilateral solutions, and find the spectacle of so many countries, some of them quite poor, coming together to create a bigger and more credible financial safety net both noble and inspiring.

Britain was one of the founding fathers of the IMF, and whatever the rights and wrongs of the euro, our future is vitally dependent on a stable and prosperous Europe. It would have seemed isolationist and almost gratuitously self-destructive to have stayed out while so many others were participating.

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