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Mehdi's Morning Memo: "Minister For Shell"

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** "Minister For Shell" ** Gategate: The Logs ** Ready And Cable ** The Osborne Slapdown ** Poor Tories ** ** British Trials For British Citizens? ** Dave V Dave **

"MINISTER FOR SHELL"

A letter describing Vince Cable as the "contact minister for Shell" has raised fresh questions about the business secretary's relationship with the oil giant - which also happens to be his former employer.

In the letter to Cable - released under FOI and seen by the HuffPost UK - dated 19 March 2012, Malcolm Brinded, the then chief executive of Shell Upstream International, sets out how the company would like the coalition to harden its line against the European Fuel Quality Directive, a policy initiative aimed at reducing emissions from transport fuels.

GATEGATE: THE LOGS

Scotland Yard may have launched an investigation into how the Sun was leaked the internal report suggesting Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell did call the police "plebs" in Downing Street last week but, today, it's the Daily Telegraph that has published the full text of the official police log of the incident.

The 442-word report reveals that Mitchell repeatedly refused to comply with police requests to dismount his cycle and use the pedestrian gate of Downing Street and then swore at officers who, the report claims, "were extremely polite to Mr Mitchell".

The Sun, in its splash ("Spindaloo"), says Mitchell's "long and frustrating day" included lunch at "UK's poshest curry house". (That's Westminster's Cinnamon Club, in case you're interested. Personally, though, I'd give that accolade to Benares in Berkeley Square...)

The PM and the Cabinet Secretary have ruled out an inquiry and continue to stand by the chief whip. But we're into Day 5 of Gategate. Where will the story go next? Alastair Campbell is said to have once declared that any minister who appeared on the front pages for ten consecutive days was a goner. Earlier this year, however, Jeremy Hunt defied this golden rule of political execution. Will Thrasher?

READY AND CABLE

Vince Cable is EVERYWHERE in the papers, the day after his big conference speech. The Independent on Sunday says Cable "raised the prospect of a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government after the next election as he strongly defended his continuing contacts with Ed Miliband's party".

"Excitement, punch, fistshaking hooplah: these are not found in a Vince Cable speech," writes Quentin Letts in the Mail. "Yet he sounded as if his pet gerbil had just been scoffed by the family dog."

An ICM poll for the Guardian reveals that "if Cable was leader at an election now, the Lib Dems would gain five points, three from Labour, plus one each from the Tories and the assorted minor parties", taking "their rating from the current 14% to 19%".

"Vince the pleb has his eye on power," declares a Times headline. "A new job? I am ready and Cable?" says the Mirror.

Meanwhile, the strange similarity between Cable's business bank proposal and the BBC political satire, The Thick Of It, hasn't gone unnoticed - the Guardian's Paul Owen refers to "a slight feeling of deja vu":

"Saturday's episode of The Thick of It saw the show's Lib Dem surrogates - junior minister Fergus and his adviser Adam - bumble their way into accidentally agreeing to a pretty young female economist's proposal of a £2bn micro-bank... although Cable is unlikely to echo Adam's verdict that the idea is "so fucking us it's brilliant" when he addresses the Lib Dem conference today, he could do a lot worse than copy Fergus's description of the bank as 'a helping hand for hands-on people - making sure the can-doers don't get canned.'"

THE OSBORNE SLAPDOWN

"We all want the [fiscal] consolidation to be fair, but that doesn’t mean coming after Middle England with higher taxes,"
a source close to the chancellor tells the Daily Mail. Take that, Clegg!

The Independent, however, reports that "people with homes worth more than £1m face a rise in their council tax bills", in the form of two or three new council tax bands, under a new proposal from the Lib Dems. Take that, Osborne!

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a kitty getting its head stuck in a party hat.

POOR TORIES

Calling all anti-aid headbangers on the Tory backbenches - your leader is baiting you! From the Guardian:

"In one of his first engagements in New York...[t]he prime minister will reaffirm his commitment to meeting the UN target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid by 2013."

Bring 'em on, as President Bush used to say...

BRITISH TRIALS FOR BRITISH CITIZENS?

The papers this morning are filled with stories about the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to reject an appeal bid by extremist preacher Abu Hamza and four other terror suspects which was aimed at preventing their extradition to the United States to stand trial ("Sling your hook," is the rather predictable headline in the Daily Mail).

The media's focus may be on the hook-handed Hamza but what about one of the other suspects, Babar Ahmed, the IT worker from Tooting, south London, who is accused of running an extremist website? The CPS has repeatedly refused to try Ahmed, who has been held in detention, without charge, for eight long years, despite the fact that his alleged crime was committed here and not in the United States. Forget about British jobs for British workers, whatever happened to British trials for British citizens? (I wrote about Ahmed's predicament last November.)

DAVE v DAVE

Move over Barack Obama and Boris Johnson, here comes David Cameron. The Guardian's Nick Watt reports on how the prime minister is:

"...taking the brave, if slightly foolhardy, step of following in the footsteps of Boris Johnson and will appear on the Late Show with David Letterman in New York on Wednesday night.

The prime minister, who believes he has a sharper wit than his fellow Etonian, appears to think he will have little difficulty in coping with the CBS host."

Hmm. Good luck Dave. The big question is whether the PM decides to do a Joaquin.

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Who can be surprised if, after 100 years out of government, we were a little opportunistic? We knew there was not going to be a Lib Dem government." - Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown speaking about tuition fees at a fringe meeting in Brighton yesterday.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

The new ICM poll for the Guardian gives Labour its biggest ICM lead over the Tories since 2003:

Labour 41
Conservatives 31
Lib Dems 14

This would give Labour a majority of 110.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@jimmurphymp Downing Street must be only road in country where there's a row with police and the neighbour at Number 10 doesn't want to know the facts.

@SJacksonMP Cable's pandering to prejudices of the be-sandalled weirdy beardies is both pathetc and craven #trygrownuppoliticsVince

@BorowitzReport Romney says if Iran develops a nuclear weapon "I would respond with the strongest possible tax cuts."

900 WORDS OR MORE

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "David Cameron should have sacked Mitchell instantly to stop that word dogging his government for ever. "Pleb" says not just how Cameron and co think, but it defines with deadly accuracy who they govern for."

Kevin Maguire, writing in the Mirror, says he hopes Mitchell survives: "[H]e's the poster boy for what Tory snobs think of most of us."

Dominic Lawson, writing in the Independent, says: "Any Lib Dems who care to look at the figures will see the rich are paying their fair share."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com), Chris Wimpress (chris.wimpress@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @chriswimpress, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol