Mehdi's Morning Memo: Romneyshambles, Episode 74

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** Romneyshambles, Episode 74 ** Crime and punishment ** Drifting to the right ** Who are you calling a liar? ** Et tu, Tony? ** No. Shit. Sherlock. **

ROMNEYSHAMBLES, EPISODE 74

What were you thinking, Governor Romney? The Republican presidential candidate's bizarre remarks at a fundraiser held at the Florida home of a private-equity boss back in May continue to grab headlines around the world.

That private equity boss, Marc Leder, incidentally, is said to be a fan of sex parties, according to the New York Post - but the Republicans' Christian base will be delighted to read liberal magazine Mother Jones confirm that "at Romney's fundraiser at Leder's Boca Raton home, not a single sex act was recorded".

On Monday night, after the Huffington Post and Mother Jones first reported his comments on the feckless "47 per cent", Romney demanded that the full video of his "off the cuff" remarks be released. Well, Mother Jones, which first obtained the recording from an anonymous source, has since done so and it doesn't look great for the GOP candidate.

Romney is seen and heard describing the Iranian leadership as "crazy guys", imagining a scenario in which an Iranian-inspired dirty bomb is set off in Chicago and (falsely) claiming that "the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace" and that, as president, he would just "kick the [peace process] ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it". Come back Dubya, all is forgiven!

Republican congressional candidates like Scott Brown have distanced themselves from Romney's remarks. And, appearing on David Letterman's chat show last night, a jubilant Barack Obama made his first comments on the latest Romneyshambles, saying it was wrong to "write off" voters because US presidents have to "represent the entire country". He described his own view of Republican voters as "hard-working, family people who care deeply about this country."

Take that, Mitt!

(On a side note, Politico has done a story on whether future historians will credit Mother Jones or the Huffington Post for the political scoop of 2012.)

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

The horrific double murder of two female police officers in Greater Manchester dominates this morning's front pages. Their deaths have also prompted calls to reintroduce the death penalty for cop killers and to arm all the police.

Cue lots of Daily Mail columns.

DRIFTING TO THE RIGHT

Oh look, Ken Clarke's gone and said something that'll make his leader and his cabinet colleagues rather annoyed. That doesn't happen very often, does it?

According to a story on the front of the Telegraph, based on remarks which first appeared on Twitter, the new minister without portfolio reportedly told supporters of the Tory Reform Group on Monday night that “the party has accidentally drifted to the right”.

Accidentally?

WHO ARE YOU CALLING A LIAR?

The antiwar Labour backbencher Paul Flynn was kicked out of the Commons on Tuesday afternoon after he called defence secretaty Philip Hammond a liar.

"Isn't this very similar to the end of the First World War when it was said that politicians lied and soldiers died and the reality was, as it is now, that our brave soldiers lions are being led by ministerial donkeys," said the Labour MP, as he called for an immediate withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.

Flynn will be explaining his "liar" charge in a blogpost for the HuffPost UK later today. In the meantime, check out Max Hastings's scathing column in the Mail: "It is depressing to see politicians trying to preserve tatters of national dignity at the cost of lives in Afghanistan."

The Guardian notes in its leader: "If the decision to suspend joint operations [with the Afghans] sticks, it strikes at the heart of the exit strategy...Far from bombing the Taliban to the negotiating table, it may well be that the US is bombed to it first."

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour reports that David Cameron "plans a full-scale cabinet-level review of British policy in Afghanistan soon after the US elections in November".

GRINNING GIDEON

25 senior academic economists have penned a joint letter to the Times backing Chancellor George Osborne's proposal to end national pay bargaining in the public sector. "It is time for the government to act," they say.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this spoof video of Barack Obama as MC Hammer.

ET TU, TONY?

What is it about the Assange affair that has caused so many politicians on the left (hello George Galloway) to join politicians on the right (hello Todd Akin) in saying mad, inaccurate and offensive things about rape? It turns out that, speaking at a 'Defend WikiLeaks' rally in February 2011, leftie legend Tony Benn claimed "non-consensual sex" is "very different from rape". Eh?

With Benn due to receive an honorary degree from Goldsmiths University in London, later today, the university's student union decided to demand an apology and, yesterday, Benn issued the following statement:

"I wish to apologise sincerely for my previous remarks on rape...These comments do not represent my position...my position is that non-consensual sex is rape, that no means no and that all allegations of rape must be treated with the utmost sincerity."

Over to you George.

AUSTERITY WATCH, PART 67

From the Financial Times:

"The £1bn Youth Contract will not be enough to solve the youth unemployment problem without a return to economic growth and a substantial increase in new jobs, MPs have warned.

The Commons work and pensions committee said in a report there was a 'real risk' that the government scheme, launched in April, would miss its main targets."

NO. SHIT. SHERLOCK.

From the Independent:

"The Liberal Democrats could suffer serious losses at the next general election if the Coalition Government fails to achieve economic recovery, the party's deputy leader conceded yesterday."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

“George wants me in to keep an eye on Vince, and Vince wants me in to keep an eye on George” - Ken Clarke, speaking at a private gathering on Monday night

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest YouGov/Sun poll:

Labour 43%
Conservatives 34%
Lib Dems 8%

This would give Labour a majority of 102.

IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@chrisrockoz Much like Kim Kardashian, Mitt Romney will be remembered for one terrible video #RomneyEncore

@BorowitzReport Romney's candidacy is coming dangerously close to qualifying as a prank.

@D_Blanchflower big problem with calls to abandon national pay bargaining is that this will be another excuse for govt to cut public spending in the north

IN 900 WORDS OR MORE

Benedict Brogan, writing in the Telegraph, says Nick Clegg "shows every sign of being if anything even more resilient. His capacity for enduring is one of the qualities that those around Mr Cameron cite again and again".

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "Whether or not you think now is the right moment [to cut the deficit], it’s the moment."

Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian, says: "The [Muhammad] video is manifestly only the latest trigger for a deep popular anger in a region where opposition to imperial domination is now channelled mainly through the politics of Islam rather than nationalism."

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