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Mehdi's Morning Memo: Bringing Up Baby

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** Bringing Up Baby ** Tax Cuts Anyone? ** Mensch Did A Runner ** 'Revealed: BAE's Arms Payroll' ** Was BBC 'Aware Of Savile Abuse Claims'? ** What Was Hague Told About Child Abuse Scandal? ** Owen Paterson v Killer Fungus ** Married Couples: Rejoice! ** Cameron's A-Team ** Poor Ol' Gordon

BRINGING UP BABY

Does any political party have a solution to the childcare cost crisis? The Resolution Foundation has produced yet another headline-grabbing report; according to the Observer, the thinktank says "childcare costs are eroding incentives to work for those on higher incomes":

"The study finds that a family with two children in which two earners bring in a total of £44,440 could end up just £4,000 better off than a similar family earning £20,000 less, because of the combined effect of benefits, tax, tax credits and childcare costs. In some cases a family's income can fall when a second earner takes on more hours, because of the complexities of the tax and benefits regime."

The Observer's editorial rightly calls for "universal free care for every child aged one to five".

TAX CUTS ANYONE?

But forget childcare. The big issue for Tory purists is - yes, you guessed it! - tax cuts. The boys and girls from the Tories' Free Enterprise Group - yes, I'm looking at you Kwasi Kwarteng and Priti Patel - want income tax cuts.

From the Mail on Sunday:

"David Cameron last night came under pressure from Tory MPs to live up to his promise to help the nation's 'strivers' – by cutting taxes for hard-pressed middle-class families.


The Prime Minister was urged to 'reconnect' with Middle England and exempt anyone earning up to £50,000 from the 40p tax band. It currently kicks in at just under £42,500.

Called Motivating The Middle, the paper [from the Free Enterprise Group] will say if the Tories want to appeal to 'strivers', slashing tax rates is the place to start."

Hands up, if you didn't see that coming?

MENSCH DID A RUNNER

Did Tory MP Louise Mensch quit her Corby seat because she was worried she'd be heavily defeated at the next general election? Did she 'get out early'? That's what her husband seems to think. Metallica manager Peter Mensch tells the Sunday Times that wanting to be with her family in New York played a big role in influencing her move to the United States but also...

"...there was Louise's belief that she was only going to be an MP for three more years. She thought - and I wasn't going to argue with her - that she'd get killed in the next election."

Smart move by Mensch. According to Tory peer Lord Ashcroft's polling, Labour has a 22-point lead in Corby right now, going into next month's by-election.

"REVEALED: BAE'S ARMS PAYROLL"

That's the headline on the front of the Sunday Times, which reports:

"The arms company BAE Systems used a bank account implicated in a global bribery investigation to make payments to a former prime ministerial aide, army chief and cabinet minister."

Oooh!

The trio, incidentally, consists of Lord (Charles) Powell, Margaret Thatcher’s former private secretary, Lord (Peter) Inge, the former chief of the defence staff and David Mellor, the former Tory heritage secretary. None of the men, however, are alleged to have done anything wrong.

WAS BBC 'AWARE OF SAVILE ABUSE CLAIMS'?

From the Observer:

A lawyer who specialises in sexual abuse cases is taking evidence from 12 people, both men and women, who claim to have been abused by the presenter. Alan Collins, of Pannone solicitors, said he had spoken to several former colleagues of Savile, who said it was apparently well known within the BBC that the TV presenter was "interested" in young boys.

"The claims appear credible," he added. "They are standalone allegations and stretch back to the early 1970s. There is also 'similar fact' [corroborating] evidence which is compelling."

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times' main splash focuses on former BBC director-general, and now New York Times chief executive, Mark Thompson:

"The office of Mark Thompson, the former director-general of the BBC, was alerted at least twice to claims that Jimmy Savile had abused children, The Sunday Times can reveal.


The revelation raises fresh questions about what Thompson, who left the BBC last month, knew about a Newsnight investigation into claims that Savile had abused minors on BBC premises and elsewhere.


A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times found that almost half — 48% — believed Thompson had not been honest about the affair. Three-quarters of respondents believed he should have investigated the matter as soon as he became aware of the Newsnight inquiry."

Last week, you'll remember, the New York Times' public editor wrote a blogpost on the paper's website questioning whether Thompson was the right person for the job of chief executive. Good luck, Mark!

WHAT WAS HAGUE TOLD ABOUT CHILD SEX ABUSE SCANDAL?

Remember Tom Watson's question at PMQs last week? From the Mail on Sunday:

A former Tory Minister last night made incendiary claims that one of Margaret Thatcher’s closest aides was implicated in one of the most harrowing child abuse scandals of recent times.

Rod Richards, a former Conservative MP and ex-leader of the Welsh Tories, made the shocking allegation that he had seen evidence linking Sir Peter Morrison to the North Wales children’s homes case, in which up to 650 children in 40 homes were sexually, physically and emotionally abused over 20 years.

...Mr Richards – who helped establish the inquiry that unearthed the scale of the abuse – said bluntly: ‘What I do know is that Morrison was a paedophile. And the reason I know that is because of the North Wales child abuse scandal.’

He added that William Hague, who was Welsh Secretary at the time of the inquiry, ‘should have seen the evidence about Morrison’.

Sources close to Hague tell the paper that the current foreign secretary didn't have a clue and never came across any such 'evidence'.

OWEN PATERSON V KILLER FUNGUS

Forget badgers. The latest environmental challenge for this coalition government comes from...killer fungus (!)

From the Sunday Telegraph:

A desperate fight has begun to save a third of Britain’s trees from a killer fungus which threatens to bring devastation to the country’s forests.

Ministers took urgent steps to address the deadly ash dieback disease — the greatest threat to British woodland since the Dutch elm disease of the 1970s.

The disease has already devastated ash across the Continent and is now at the centre of a major alert in this country.
... Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, said last night: “We will be introducing a ban on imports on Monday. I have already prepared the legislation and we’re ready to go. The evidence is clearly there. It will now be illegal to bring in ash trees and move them around.

... Timber is a £10 billion a year industry to Britain and any damage to it would concern a Government which has only just seen the economy come out of recession last week."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of well-mannered cat opening a sliding door for a bunch of dogs. Yes, really.

MARRIED COUPLES: REJOICE!

It's unlike Ken Clarke to give an interview and produce a gaffe, right? Right??

After the new minister without portfolio - and former justice secretary - suggested to the Telegraph yesterday that the government might not go ahead with the promised tax break for married couples during this parliament, and upset Tory traditionalists and the chancellor in the process, Clarke's spokesman was forced to issue not one but two separate statements of 'clarification', rowing back from Ken's on-the-record remarks.

First:

"It was a comment, not a statement of policy. Any tax changes are a matter for the Chancellor."

Second:

"He completely accepts it's going to happen."

Gotta love Ken, eh? As the Spectator's Isabel Hardman noted, Clarke also unveiled what seems to be the Tories' 2015 general election slogan:

"What I am confident we will be able to say at the next election is we were a strong hand on the tiller."

CAMERON'S A-TEAM

Tory traditionalists will be delighted. Just delighted. From the Sunday Telegraph's Mandrake column:

"David Cameron's "A list" of parliamentary candidates, which caused so much resentment at the last general election, is to return."

POOR OL' GORDON

He may have saved the world economy, in the famous words of Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, but, according to a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times, Gordon Brown has been voted the most incompetent prime minister since 1979.

(Cameron came second, Blair third, Major fourth and Thatcher fifth).

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 42%
Conservatives 35%
Lib Dems 9%

This would give Labour a majority of 88.

Note: I'm sitting in a hotel room in Belfast waiting to go on BBC1's Sunday Morning Live to debate drone strikes and prisoners' votes with ex-home secretary David Blunkett. So forgive me if this Morning Memo isn't as comprehensive or wide-ranging as you've come to expect. Normal service will - fingers crossed! - resume next Sunday.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@SJacksonMP Beginning prep for my EU Free Movement Directive (Disapplication) Bill on Wed. UK Parlt should decide which people live and work here not EU

@dsmitheconomics If I were offering PR advice I would suggest Max Clifford doesn't do any more interviews on Jimmy Savile.

@Slate Obama needs at least 38 percent of the white vote to win re-election. Right now, he doesn't have it

900 WORDS OR MORE

Peter Oborne, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "The return of political guru Lynton Crosby would restore order at the top of the Tory party -but signal the defeat of everything the PM stands for."

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says he meets "quite a lot of Conservatives who believe that, if growth can be sustained and the government manages to look competent for a change, Labour's poll lead is very vulnerable".

John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "It is not that Cameron and Osborne favour the rich, but that they are too incompetent to be able to persuade us otherwise."
Martin Ivens, writing in the Sunday Times, says: "Patten is fiddling while the BBC burns".


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