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Mehdi's Morning Memo: "Jumping Through Hoops"

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The ten things you need to know on Friday 2 November...

1) "JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS"

From the Telegraph:

"Tens of thousands of children have been let down by a system forcing teachers to compromise their principles and inflate marks, a report into this year's GCSE English exam fiasco has concluded.

An investigation by Ofqual, the exam watchdog, found that there had been "significant over–marking" for GCSE modules supervised by teachers.

... It warned that children were spending increasing amounts of time "jumping through hoops" rather than learning "real life skills" at school."

No response so far from education secretary Michael Gove. Teaching unions, meanwhile, have accused Ofqual of trying to shift the "blame" onto teachers.

2) BANK OF ENGLAND MESS-UP

It isn't just teachers getting it in the neck from official reports this morning. From the FT splash:

"Excessive deference and hierarchy is damaging the Bank of England's effectiveness, according to three independent reviews that criticise the central bank's culture.

The reviews into operations during the financial crisis found that officials in Threadneedle Street had learnt 'rapidly' on the job during the crisis and handled it 'effectively', but were also critical of the central bank's governance culture."

3) PM'S EU PROMISE IS 'NONSENSICAL' - SAYS DEPUTY PM

The coalition, not just the Tory Party, is deeply divided on Europe - and the Mirror is delighted:

The ConDem coalition was wracked by infighting yesterday in a bitter war over Europe.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg savaged David Cameron hours after rebel Tory MPs inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister over EU spending.

He said Mr Cameron's plan to take back powers from Brussels was a 'false promise wrapped in a Union Jack'.

And the Lib Dem leader warned 'foot stamping' could have catastrophic results and lead to Britain exiting the EU.

He said: 'This idea that we should - or could - extract ourselves from the bulk of EU obligations is nonsensical. It is wishful thinking.'"

The Telegraph leader, however, says Clegg is "on the wrong side of history", noting: "The Deputy Prime Minister remains wedded to the aggrandisement of a bloated autocracy which looks increasingly like an outdated relic of the Cold War era." It continues, however: "That said, at least we know where he stands... we need to know what David Cameron thinks, too."

Meanwhile, the Times leader goes after Labour's two Eds: "... Mr Miliband and Mr Balls looked like two men playing politics, not planning for the future. Rather than highlighting the Tory party's problem with Europe, Labour has instead exposed its own."

4) WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER - EXCEPT THE SNAKE

Foreign secretary William Hague has spent £10,000 re-stuffing 'Albert', the Foreign Office snake. That's what we discovered yesterday, in the FCO's response to a Freedom of Information request from blogger Guido Fawkes.

Albert is believed to have been presented to the FCO by a Guyanese bishop in the late 19th century and, having been with the FCO for more than 120 years, is considered an "FCO asset". The official FCO statement said: "A decision was taken to use this opportunity to carry out a refurbishment to ‘Albert’... The work was undertaken by the Conservation Team at the Natural History Museum, over a 5-week period, from 21 May to 26 June 2012."

A Foreign Office spokesperson also told the HuffPost UK that they didn't know what Albert was stuffed with: "He is a very old snake, he is enormous, about 20ft long." The spokesperson also said they were not any other stuffed animals lying around the building adding: "I am only aware of Albert."

Still, £10k? Whatever happened to that "age of austerity", eh? The Sun says: "You couldn't snake it up." But the Mirror headline says it best: "ALL SLITHERIN THIS TOGETHER".

5) WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER - TAX EVADERS EDITION

According to the Times splash: "Hundreds of tax evaders identified on Britain's "Lagarde list" will escape prosecution and keep their identities secret under immunity deals offered by Revenue & Customs." The paper says "the Revenue's strategy is to offer most secret account-holders immunity in return for a settlement of their tax bills and payment of a penalty, rather than pursue them through the courts." So much for George Osborne's 2011 pledge to be "as tough on the richest who evade tax as on those who cheat on benefits."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a little girl in the United States, so fed up of the never-ending presidential election, that she bursts into tears.

6) MIKE LIKES BARACK

Both the Guardian and the Times devote front-page stories to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to endorse Barack Obama, citing, according to the Guardian, "Republican challenger Mitt Romney's failure to back climate change measures".

The Guardian notes that "Bloomberg's support comes at a time when the mayor's own profile has been boosted by his handling of the disaster... [his] endorsement could be a key moment in swaying independent and moderate voters towards Obama."

The right-leaning Economist also endorsed Obama yesterday. But the Obamians shouldn't break out the bubbly yet; unemployment figures are out later today and even the slightest rise could be damaging to the president's re-election campaign.

7) THE ROAD TO WAR WITH IRAN, PART 66

The Independent's splash says:

"Britain is considering stationing warplanes in the Persian Gulf as the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear programme continues amid rising tension in the region... The possible deployment of the Eurofighter Typhoons follows talks with the United Arab Emirates to bolster the UK's presence in the region at time when Israel is threatening military strikes against Tehran, and much of the Middle East is in turbulence in the aftershock of the Arab Spring and Syria's civil war... an announcement is expected soon."

Bet you can't wait for that, eh? Ratcheting up tensions with Tehran right now, when even the Israeli defence minister Ehud Barack admits that the Iranian regime has drawn back from its alleged pursuit of a nuclear bomb, doesn't seem too wise.

8) OSBORNE ATTACKS HAGUE. ACCIDENTALLY.

Forget the cost of the snake-stuffing, Hague should be more worried about George Osborne calling him "opportunistic".

Yep, as my colleague Ned Simons points out:

"Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme [on Thursday morning], the chancellor attacked the Labour Party for joining with Tory rebels to defeat the government over the EU Budget negotiations.

... 'Labour took a step further away from government last night because they took such an opportunistic position,' he said.

'It reminded me of the early part of the Conservative Party's period in opposition when we took opportunistic positions and unprincipled positions in parliament that actually pushed us further away from being an alternative government.'


The leader of the Conservatives at the time was of course, William Hague - now Osborne's senior cabinet colleague."

Ouch.

9) COBRA VS THE DIEBACK DISEASE

From the BBC:

"The government's emergency committee Cobra is meeting to discuss the fungal threat to the nation's ash trees.

The ash dieback fungal infection, which has killed some 90% of the species in Denmark, has been found in East Anglia.

Ministers have said 100,000 trees have already been destroyed to try to prevent the spread of the disease.

The meeting, chaired by Environment Secretary Owen Patterson, will co-ordinate the government's response to the outbreak."

10) WOMEN VS THE 'OLD ETONIAN CLIQUE'

Most papers this morning report on comments made by Dame Helen Ghosh, the former permanent secretary at the Home Office, to students at Cambridge University and first revealed in yesterday's Evening Standard.

"If you look at the current government, not necessarily back to the Bullingdon Club days, but Cameron, it is true, it is well known, has a clique, a network of friends – the friends he made at school, friends he made at university. That kind of clique network was reinforced in Cameron's case by the people who worked for him in opposition, the people who supported him in his leadership bid."

According to the reports, she said the fact that "politics is so driven by networks does impact on women": "Women don't network... It is actually quite difficult for a woman to get in as part of an Old Etonian clique. They are far too busy doing other things, like bringing up their children, looking after their constituency."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"We have been shocked by what we have found." The damning verdict of Glenys Stacey, the chief regulator for Ofqual, on the summer's GCSE exam fiasco.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 44%
Conservatives 33%
Lib Dems 9%

This would give Labour a majority of 118.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@NadineDorriesMP “@ConHome: The37 Tory MPs who participated in all three of big rebellions of this parliament http://bit.ly/Qao1T9 ”. PROUD to be on this list

@BryanAppleyard 'Nick Clegg is on the wrong side of history' odd headline for a Tel leader as it implies a quasi-Marxist historicism.

@electionista US - FiveThirtyEight forecast: Electoral vote BO 303.4 MR 234.6 Chance of winning BO 80.9% Popular vote BO 50.5 MR 48.4 http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com

900 WORDS OR MORE

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says Labour's "pusillanimous record [on Europe], along with Labour's vote this week, puts a heavy onus on both Eds and all the shadow cabinet to start speaking out for Britain's membership."

Ian Birrell, writing in the FT, says the Tory Party "is close to unmanageable, such is its amazing ability to inflict wounds on itself. Increasingly, it appears to have suicidal tendencies that would make a lemming proud."

John Kampfner, writing in the Telegraph, says there is a "global war on free speech" and "[f]orced to choose, I would rather have a public space that goes too far than one that – like so many countries around the world – is pliant in the face of power."


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