** Mitchell's 'Day Of Reckoning' ** Biden Bashes Ryan ** The Unconventional Candidate ** Oi Gideon, Look Over Here! ** I'm So Sorry ** "7 Marines On Murder Rap" ** Trading Up Or Down? ** The Housing Trap ** The Assange Peace Prize?
Squeezed Middle alert: British Gas have just announced a gas and electricity price rise of an average 6% from 16th November. What was it that Ed Miliband said about taking on "vested interests" in Manchester last week? An evasive British Gas boss Phil Bentley has just been on the Today programme explaining why "insulation" should solve all our problems...er, ok.
MITCHELL'S 'DAY OF RECKONING'
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock... how many hours till Andrew Mitchell is forced to fall on his sword? Pressure continues to build on the foul-mouthed chief whip, who'll be meeting a delegation from his local Police Federation, in the West Midlands, later today, for a 'clear the air' meeting.
"Come clean or quit, police tell Mitchell," says the Daily Mail. The paper's Tim Shipman says the chief whip "will be told to reveal exactly what abuse he hurled at police in Downing Street or resign from the Cabinet when he meets officers today". He adds that "at least six Cabinet ministers privately believe he will be a lame duck and unable to impose discipline".
"Mitchell faces day of reckoning as Maude waits in the wings," is the headline in the Independent. The paper's Andrew Grice says:
"There is growing speculation at Westminster that Mr Mitchell will be forced to resign and that Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, will replace him as chief whip. A growing number of Tory MPs believe the affair has left Mr Mitchell without the authority to enforce discipline when the Commons returns on Monday."
The Telegraph, in its leader, says Mitchell should "step down": "The problem is not simply that the Chief Whip is now a laughing stock... It is that he is a walking, talking embodiment of everything with which David Cameron would least like his party to be associated... In the end, it is not so much a matter of principle as of politics. If he stays, Mr Mitchell can do little good, and much damage. For the sake of his party, he should do the decent thing and stand down."
Tick tock, tick tock...
BIDEN BASHES RYAN
"Joltin' Joe Biden wins the bout," is the headline on the influential US website Politico. My colleague Ned Simons stayed up to watch the vice-presidential debate between incumbent veep Joe Biden and Republican rising star, Congressman Paul Ryan:
"Joe Biden went after Paul Ryan aggressively during the US vice presidential debate on Thursday evening, as the Democrat sought to make up for Barack Obama's lacklustre performance against Mitt Romney.
Since last week's presidential debate, widely seen to have been won by Romney, the polls have narrowed, giving a boost to the Republican campaign which had been falling significantly behind with less than one month to go until election day.
Smiling broadly in incredulity, rolling his eyes and raising his eyebrows, Vice President Biden gave expressive reactions to Congressman Ryan's answers and frequently interrupted the Republican candidate.
...Describing Ryan's "loose talk" criticisms of the Obama administration's foreign policy as alternatively "malarky" and "this is a bunch of stuff", Biden did not sit back as the president had done with Romney.
As the discussion turned to the US economy, Biden attacked Ryan for voting in favour of measures during the George W. Bush administration that caused the economic crisis.
"They talk about this great recession like it fell out of the sky," Biden said. "Now all these guys are so seized with concern about the debt that they created."
...An hour into the debate, a survey of more than 300 debate watchers conducted for The Huffington Post from across the political spectrum found that Biden was beating Ryan by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent."
Memo to Barack: take some tips from your deputy on how to get some fire in your belly. You've got less than six days till your next debate!
THE UNCONVENTIONAL CANDIDATE
My colleague Charlie Thomas reports on FSA boss Adair Turner's provocative speech last night:
"Adair Turner, current chair of the Financial Services Authority, spoke at Mansion House in what many are describing as an open pitch for the Bank of England governor role.
Addressing the house for the last time as chairman - Lord Turner is due to step down from his FSA role in spring - he claimed the FSA had been 'brutally honest' about its failures during the economic crisis."
He has repeatedly warned of the dangers of a deflationary spiral and last night called for much-needed "unconventional" measures to tackle the downturn, suggesting QE is reaching the limits of its effectiveness. What next? Outright printing of money and writing off of government debts by the B of E?
Of the current candidates, 'Red' Adair is, in my view, the best man for the job. I agree with Simon Jenkins in the Guardian (earlier this week): "We need an iconoclast to lead the Bank of England."
OI GIDEON, LOOK OVER HERE!
From the Guardian:
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, has forced through approval for a giant incineration plant in the chancellor's Cheshire constituency in the latest skirmish between the Department for Energy and the Treasury.
The chancellor is said to be "fuming".
I'M SO SORRY
From the Guardian:
"The most senior civil servant at the Department for Transport has issued an apology to former transport secretary Justine Greening over his officials' handling of the west coast mainline franchise.
In a sign of the depth of contrition among senior civil servants, Philip Rutnam made a point of reaching out to Greening, who is said to be livid at the conduct of officials in her former department.
... In his note to Greening, Rutnam reiterated that the problem was 'clearly the responsibility of officials and not ministers' and acknowledged that during the franchise process 'both you and Theresa Villiers [then a transport minister] were assured by officials in this department that the process was robust and sound'. That was "manifestly not the case", added Rutnam."
This could be the 'Get out of jail free' card that Greening and Villiers were looking for...
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a real-life recreation of the opening sequence from 'The Simpsons', featuring real-life humans in a real-life setting doing all the stuff Bart and co do on the show.
"7 MARINES ON MURDER RAP"
That's the splash headline on the front of the Mirror, which reports on how seven Royal Marines have been arrested on suspicion of murder relating to an incident in Afghanistan in 2011. It's believed to be the first time serving armed forces personnel have been arrested in the UK for an alleged crime committed in Afghanistan. A 'source' tells the paper that the arrests relate to the death of an insurgent in custody.
TRADING UP OR DOWN?
Senior Tories who were worried that the new minister without portfolio, Ken Clarke, wouldn't have much to do in his new, vague role and might end spending all his free time up running his mouth to interviewers and reporters will be delighted to see the former Justice Secretary take on a 'major new role' as a roving trade envoy.
A senior aide told the BBC that Clarke will focus initially on selling healthcare expertise and hardware to China. Yep, good plan guys, keep him OUT of the country...
THE HOUSING TRAP
From the Telegraph:
"Efforts to reduce people's dependence on benefits could be undermined by the Government's principal housing scheme, MPs have warned.
The £1.8billion affordable homes programme risks pulling poorer people further into a "benefit trap" and threatens the Government's plans to "make work pay", according to the cross–party Commons public accounts committee.
... Overall, the report estimates that the scheme could drive up the housing benefit bill by £1.4billion, they estimated."
THE ASSANGE PEACE PRIZE?
The winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced later this morning. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, holed up at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, is in the running (16/1, according to the bookies!) but the favourite is Gene Sharp, the veteran US theorist of nonviolent protest. Egyptian blogger Wael Ghonim, one of the prime movers in the Arab Spring, is also tipped for the prize.
"With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey." - Joe Biden rebuts claims made by Paul Ryan in last night's vice-presidential debate.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 8
This would give Labour a majority of 90.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@TomHarrisMP When the Telegraph demands the sacking of the Tory Chief Whip, you know what? The Tory Chief Whip's going to be sacked.
@sullydish Ryan failed to answer how he will pay for his tax cuts. Quite obviously. He has no answer.
@Simon_Nixon Imagine what Bundesbank's Jens Weidmann would make of Adair Turner idea that "independent" BOE write off UK debt. Meet Mr. Mephistopheles.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Samuel Brittan, writing in the FT, tackles the "harmful myth of the balanced budget".
Gavin Kelly, writing in the Guardian, says: "[A] working family struggling on a low income – the "strivers" being courted this week – who've heard the message that George Osborne's proposed £10bn of new "welfare cuts" will be paid for by the workshy – should prepare themselves for a nasty shock: they'll be paying too."
Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says Plebgate has "made it harder for David Cameron to advance the essential Conservative case: that if you loathe the inequality that seems hardwired into British society, voting Tory is the best way of doing something about it".
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Chris Wimpress (email@example.com) or Ned Simons (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @chriswimpress, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol