Political Week Ahead - Monday 11th June 2012

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After a fairly quiet news spell prompted by the Whitsun recess and the jubilee celebrations, politics returns with a bang this week. The stuff that actually affects peoples' lives is happening in the eurozone, but let's face it, economic catastrophe is just so 2008. Instead we're more likely to see a week dominated by yet more media navel-gazing.

The Leveson inquiry is hearing from senior politicians past and present, but the real box-office appearances will be George Osborne and Gordon Brown on Monday and then an all-day grilling for David Cameron on Thursday.

osborne cable hunt

What Was Osborne's Role In Swapping Cable For Hunt In The BSkyB Takeover?

After Jeremy Hunt's evidence session a fortnight ago it became clear that George Osborne played some role in handing responsibility for the BSkyB takeover bid from Vince Cable to Hunt. A text message sent from the Chancellor to Hunt on the day Cable lost control of the bid in December 2010 read: "I hope you like the solution".

How deep was Osborne's involvement in the machinations during that period, we wonder? It adds to quite a long list of questions for Osborne about various dinner parties he attended where News International executives were also present. Some of these happened at the Chancellor's grace-and-favour stately home of Dorneywood.

Regardless of what Osborne says, expect the Chancellor's critics to say, "hang on, shouldn't you have been focusing on the economic hell, rather than things which have nothing to do with your job?"

Gordon Brown's appearance will in all likelihood be another chance for the former PM to have a general rant about how awful News International was, the challenge for Robert Jay will be to keep Brown focused on the questions he wants answered - like how seriously did Gordon Brown take the decision by The Sun to drop their support for him in September 2009?

As for David Cameron, the list of questions is so long it needs an article all of its own. The Prime Minister will be asked why he allowed Jeremy Hunt to rule on the BSkyB bid when he knew the Culture Secretary was clearly supportive of it. People will wonder whether it's possible for any minister to be seen to oversee media takeovers when they always have a material interest in what's written about the government by journalists. Will Cameron acknowledge that the whole system is flawed, as a way of excusing what many believe to be flaws in his own judgement?

All this is going on as Parliament returns from a two-week break. MPs are a few kilos heavier after numerous jubilee cream teas and clotted cream scones, hopefully they'll be able to burn off a few calories by shouting at each other about Jeremy Hunt and the BSkyB takeover. Labour has an opposition day debate on Wednesday afternoon in the Commons which they'll use to keep up the attack on the culture secretary. Labour insists he broke the Ministerial Code over his handling of BSkyB, David Cameron disagrees. The motion has no real power in itself but it'll be interesting to see who comes out to bat for the government in Hunt's defence.

Labour will probably want to contrast the treatment of Jeremy Hunt and the way Baroness Warsi has found herself facing two separate inquires. Warsi has even more questions to answer this week, after it was alleged on Sunday that one of her business contacts has been involved in the Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. The latest revelations seem less serious than some of those which emerged over Whitsun, but most people believe Warsi's fast running out of political capital. Many Tories think she never had much of that in the first place.

On Thursday George Osborne is in the City for his annual Mansion House speech. These are supposed to start with a few jokes but this year the Chancellor might end up resorting to gallows humour. On Sunday the Chancellor said the eurozone was "killing off" the UK's recovery. Rarely has a Chancellor sounded so downbeat - it reminds HuffPost of when Alastair Darling forecast "the worst recession for 60 years" back in 2008. And then look what happened.

There's no sign that Osborne is feeling the similar "forces of hell" from Number 10 for his dire predictions. Quite the opposite in fact; this is a clearly planned managing of expectations. But how the jittery markets will react to what he's said will be interesting.

As well as continuing to blame everything on the Eurozone and hectoring his counterparts over the Channel, Osborne's likely to talk on Thursday about the reforms to the Bank of England and the looming plan to ring-fence retail banks from another financial shock. The big question is whether that ringfence will be implemented in time.

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Week ahead, June 11-17