** Bitching About Mitch ** Eton Meets Gangnam ** Eurosceptics: Rejoice! ** Generals For Hire? ** Eurosceptics: Rejoice Further! ** Osborne's Blair Man Crush ** 'Pontius' Cameron ** Cameron, Hilton And The Case Of The 'Missing Mojo' ** Happy Birthday Maggie! ** White Tie Tories **
BITCHING ABOUT MITCH
Anonymous Tories continue their campaign to persuade Andrew Mitchell to fall on his sword. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, political editor Patrick Hennessy says: "Some 10 or more Conservative ministers want the Chief Whip to step down from his role enforcing party discipline after his unsuccessful attempts to defuse the row by meeting members of the Police Federation in his Sutton Coldfield constituency."
One cabinet minister tells Hennessy: "He is completely undermined now – how can he enforce discipline in the parliamentary party after all this?” Another says: "[M]any of us cannot see any other solution than Andrew going and it would be better done sooner rather than later. The PM, however, appears to be digging his heels in.”
The Independent on Sunday refers to signs of an "Operation Save Andrew" beginning to emerge; the paper says the minister has received about 70 messages of support from Tory MPs.
On Monday, however, parliament returns from recess and Mitchell will be under unprecedented t quit from opposition MPs - and some of his own colleagues. The Sunday Mirror says ministers "are privately urging [David Cameron] to show Mr Mitchell the door before Labour can go on the attack at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday."
The shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper's question could prove to be the most relevant: "David Cameron is the only person left still backing Andrew Mitchell," she claimed yesterday. "How long is the Prime Minister going to let this drag on?"
How long indeed...
ETON MEETS GANGNAM
We all chuckled, didn't we, when Boris Johnson told the Tory conference last week that he he had danced Gangnam Style with the Prime Minister? He was just having a laugh, right?
Wrong. According to the Mail on Sunday:
"[T]he dance-off with David Cameron, in the manner of the hit song by South Korean rapper Psy, actually took place - and in the most unlikely setting.
The two men were cavorting in Chequers... It came about after the PM invited the London Mayor to lunch two Sundays ago to stem growing talk of a Boris leadership bid in the run-up to the conference.
...After the lunch at the Plough Inn, the men returned to the house in relaxed high spirits. Mr Cameron then whipped out his iPad and started playing the Gangnam video in the hall of the historic pile. To whoops of delight from their wives, and cheering from their children, he and Mr Johnson aped Psy's famed 'horseriding' dance moves, complete with reins-holding and hands-onhips routines.
'It was uproarious - they completely brought the house down,' said one Chequers guest who witnessed the performance. 'A perfect post-lunch tension buster.'
Bizarre. I now can't get the mental image out of my head. But here's a question: if the two men have such fun together ("It was uproarious") then why has Boris turned down five separate invitations from the PM to visit Chequers over the past two-and-a-half years?
On a side note, a new YouGov poll for the Sunday Times finds the Tories would only be two percentage points behind Labour if Boris, not Dave, was in charge of the party.
Oh look, Michael Gove makes the front page of the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday again: "Gove: We're Ready To Walk Out Of Europe".
The paper reports that the education secretary, a close confidante of the PM and a darling of the Associated Newspapers group, is annoyed by EU legislation that slows down his ambitious school reforms and wants the British government to warn its European neighbours: “Give us back our sovereignty or we will walk out”.
"Mr Gove," says a gleeful Mail on Sunday, in its leader, "has raised the banner of national independence inside Westminster. He and others should consider speaking out openly, and the Prime Minister should let them."
There was a time, of course, when Cameron was praised for having helped the Tories to put the 'Europe issue' behind them. That now seems like another era. Tim Montgomerie, of ConservativeHome, claims eight other Tory cabinet ministers, like Gove, would happily support a threat to withdraw from the EU.
Defence secretary Philip Hammond, speaking on the Andrew Marr show earlier, said: "We are not satisfied with the current relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom. The balance of competencies is not right. The mood has changed..."
GENERALS FOR HIRE?
Some of Britain's most important institutions, as Ed Miliband pointed out in a recent speech, have taken a battering in recent years, in terms of trust, credibility and legitimacy - including parliament (over expenses); the press (over phone hacking) and the police (over hacking and Hillsborough). Should we now add the military - or, more specifically, senior officers - to that list?
A classic Sunday Times 'Insight' sting, involving undercover reporters posing as lobbyists for South Korean drone manufacturers, includes hidden-camera films of various retired military officials offering to influence MPs and civil servants on behalf of arms firms.
The paper says:
"Top-ranking retired military officers have been secretly filmed boasting about lobbying to win multi-million-pound defence deals for arms firms in breach of official rules.
The 'generals for hire' can be exposed after a Sunday Times investigation recorded them offering their contacts with ministers and former colleagues for six-figure sums."
The four named former officers are Lord Dannatt, the ex-chief of the general staff, Lt Gen Sir John Kiszely, the ex-director of the Defence Academy, Lt Gen Richard Applegate, the ex-MoD procurement chief, and Adm Sir Trevor Soar, ex-commander of the Naval fleet. There's no suggestion, I should add, that any of the retired officers accepted any money from the fake lobbyists and all four of the men have denied wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has said: "We will be looking to see if any of these individuals have broken any rules."
I suspect they have. Whether or not the MoD agrees remains to be seen. The number of lobbying scandals continues to grow...
EUROSCEPTICS: REJOICE FURTHER!
They've been a bit glum since Friday's Nobel Peace Prize announcement but Tory Eurosceptics will be delighted to read this story in the Sunday Telegraph:
"Britain is poised to announce it plans to claw back more than 100 key powers from Brussels as the first stage in a major drive to repatriate European Union laws.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is preparing to tell MPs that the Government will exercise its opt-out from a large 'block' of EU powers covering crime, justice and policing - including the controversial European arrest warrant.
The move, which could come as early as Monday, the first day of the new parliamentary session and just days before an EU summit this week, is likely to cheer Conservative Eurosceptics who have demanded a clear restatement of Britain’s sovereignty.
However, it could also open up a new rift with the Liberal Democrats, according to senior Conservative sources, who admit that some of the measures on the table are 'highly sensitive' politically."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a baby deer and a bobcat having a fight over a laundry basket in the middle of someone's living room.
OSBORNE'S BLAIR MAN CRUSH
FT columnist Janan Ganesh's new biog of George Osborne continues to make, er, news; the Mail on Sunday says:
"It claims: 'Perky' Osborne revelled in Tony Blair's election victory over John Major in 1997, calling Mr Blair 'the Master' - even though he worked for Mr Major; When Iain Duncan Smith was Tory leader, Mr Osborne called Mr Blair 'our real leader' behind IDS's back; He called Gordon Brown a 'b*****d' and mimicked him as 'lurching monster'; When Osborne was a young adviser and his boss, Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg, was humiliated in the mad cow disease row, Osborne 'knew Hogg was f***** so treated the job as a staging post in his career'; 'Juvenile' Mr Osborne ended up 'doubled over in agony' after challenging a fellow Oxford student to a wasabi eating contest."
The book, George Osborne, The Austerity Chancellor (published by Biteback), also exposes Gideon as, um, a bit of a hypocrite:
"Although Mr Osborne last week ruled out a mansion or property tax, the book says he agreed one with Nick Clegg last year in return for the Deputy Prime Minister's go-ahead to cut the top 50p tax rate. However, it was vetoed by David Cameron.
'Osborne secured agreement in principle from Clegg but Cameron [was] ever-skittish about anything that might compound his party's image as custodians of the wealthy.' The book's portrayal of Mr Osborne's lack of traditional Tory principles may shock some."
On a side note, "George Osborne's drastic deficit-cutting programme will have sucked £76bn more out of the economy than he expected by 2015, according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund of the price of austerity," says the Observer. "Calculations made for the Observer by the TUC reveal that if the real multiplier is 1.3 - the middle of the IMF's range - the OBR has underestimated the impact of the cuts by a cumulative £76bn, more than 8% of GDP, over five years. Instead of shaving less than 1% off economic growth during this financial year, austerity has depressed it by more than 2%."
SICK SAVILLE STUFF
Sorry, you'll have to read it all yourself. I can't bring myself to...
From the Sunday Times:
"One of the most senior Tories in Scotland has accused David Cameron of handing the fate of the union to Alex Salmond 'like Pontius Pilate'.
Lord Forsyth, former secretary of state for Scotland, said the prime minister had displayed appalling negotiating skills ahead of a Scottish independence referendum deal that he will sign with Salmond, leader of the Scottish National party, tomorrow.
...'Salmond has been able to get what he wants. If that's called a negotiation, that's stretching the language," said Forsyth. "It sounds like a walkover to me.'
Salmond is expected to suggest that the referendum question is worded: 'Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?' Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, claimed that the wording was 'loaded' and could swing the result for the SNP.
Forsyth agreed: 'What is going on here is the prime minister is Pontius Pilate. He is just saying, over to you, Alex. Once that order is passed it's a matter for Alex Salmond so he is going to dictate the terms.'
CAMERON, HILTON AND THE CASE OF THE 'MISSING MOJO'
Jane Merrick and Brian Brady's amusingly-entitled piece in the Independent on Sunday - "How Steve Hilton helped the PM find his mojo again" - is worth a read. They say that Hilton's "fingerprints" were all over Cameron's most memorable - though totally ridiculous - remark, during his conference speech last week: "I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it." (The PM's one-time guru jetted back from California for a few days - to help his former boss with his speech and attend two weddings.)
Thye also report on a "shake up" in Cameron's inner circle and refer to "speculation about the future of the communications chief Craig Oliver after Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, was sent into the conference press centre to brief the media after Cameron's speech."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAGGIE!
Yesterday was the former PM's birthday. The Mail on Sunday reports:
The traditional Tory blue outfit is immaculate and the famous 'helmet hair' - now platinum white - is perfectly coiffed.
This is former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on her 87th birthday heading for a celebratory lunch yesterday with her son Mark and his wife Sarah. Baroness Thatcher - nicknamed The Iron Lady after she made a typically scathing speech about the Soviet Union - walked arm-in-arm with Mark as she left her home in London's Belgravia.
The trio dined at Green's, a fashionable restaurant and oyster bar in St James's. Carol Thatcher, whose relationship with her mother is said to be strained, was not present.
... One close friend who saw Mrs Thatcher for lunch last week said: 'She still watches the news, reads the papers and always has something to talk about.'"
Perhaps Dave should ring her up for advice...
WHITE TIE TORIES
Forget Red Tories vs Blue Tories. How about 'White Tie Tories'? The Sunday Times reports:
"While David Cameron was telling Tory conference delegates that he wanted to spread privilege rather than defend it, members of his party's youth wing were preaching their own gospel — the revival of formal white tie dinners.
They have created a movement to 'further the use of full evening dress beyond the highest state balls and ambassadors' receptions'. An inaugural dinner will take place on Friday in the rarefied surroundings of a private members' club in St James's Square, central London. Tiaras are optional, according to the dress code.
Business cards for the new venture, the White Tie Club — featuring the penguin motif — were being distributed last week at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham."
Glorious. Just glorious. The paper quotes club member Sarah Nazer, chairwoman of Yorkshire and Humber Conservative Future, jokingly writing on Facebook: "I think this is the image CCHQ [Conservative campaign HQ] have been searching for."
"You are a leading cabinet member..." - Andrew Marr lavishes praise on, um, er, Michael Moore, the Lib Dem Scottish secretary, on his show this morning.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From today's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 10
This would give Labour a majority of 116.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@paulwaugh Grayling on Mitchell #gategate:"I think it's a mistake for Police Fed to be trying to use this in the way they are" #murnaghan
@oflynnexpress Michael Gove has driven a coach and horses through PM's rule that Better Off Outers cannot be ministers. Hope more will emerge soon.
@MSmithsonPB YouGov for the S Times has LAB lead back in double figures - so no CON conference bounce. CON 33%/LAB 43%/LD 10%/UKIP 6%
900 WORDS OR MORE
Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "'Compassionate Tory’ is not a contradiction in terms".
Andrew Rawsley, writing in the Observer, says: "The party leaders impressed their own gangs – the voters less so."
John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "Miliband hands Cameron a map back to the centre".
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
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