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Mehdi's Morning Memo: "Fast, Unpredictable And Hard To Control"

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The ten things you need to know on Sunday 4 November 2012...

1) "FAST, UNPREDICTABLE AND HARD TO CONTROL"

Scoop of the day goes to the Mail on Sunday's Simon Walters:

"New details of intimate texts exchanged between David Cameron and disgraced media boss Rebekah Brooks have been obtained by The Mail on Sunday.

In one message, the Prime Minister thanks the former News International chief for letting him ride one of her family's horses, saying it was 'fast, unpredictable and hard to control but fun'.

In another, a gushing Mrs Brooks tells Mr Cameron that she felt so emotional listening to his Tory conference speech she "cried twice", adding: 'Will love "working together'."

"Working together"? Brooks sounds like a new member of the government - wasn't it Lance Prince who once described Rupert Murdoch the 24th member of Tony Blair cabinet?

Walters says these leaked texts are believed to have been supplied to the inquiry by Brooks - after Labour MP Chris Bryant harangued Cameron in the Commons a fortnight ago, demanding he release the full cache of emails and texts between him and Brooks and accusing the prime minister of a cover-up. The Tory leader, of course, has been desperately trying to play down his relationship with the ex-boss of News International.

Bryant tweeted last night: "‏These new texts are the tip of an iceberg. I've written to lord justice leveson ... "

I guess that's Chris Bryant 1, David Cameron 0. The PM will be thanking his lucky stars that he isn't doing PMQs this week...

2) MILIBANDS RE-UNITED?

Has the campaign for a living wage (!) brought the Miliband brothers back together again? The Observer's Toby Helm says David has "joined forces" with Ed to push for a living wage of over £7.20 an hour – rising to more than £8.30 in London – for millions of workers in both the public and the private sectors. Mili Snr and Mili Jnr "are working closely together" on how to make the living wage, rather than the minimum wage, the "new norm".

From the Observer:

"In a sign that relations are thawing with his brother and with the left of the party, David today reveals radical ideas on the living wage that are being considered by the party in a joint article for the Observer with Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public service union Unison. The former foreign secretary, who has declined an open offer to join the shadow cabinet, says that financial incentives could be offered to local authorities and other employers that require their private contractors to pay the living wage, as a condition of them getting work."

Tomorrow, during a visit to Islington in north London, Miliband is expected to say that the living wage is an idea "whose idea to come".

All good and well, but when will see a joint appearance? When do we get a photo of the two men kissing and making up? Not for a while, I suspect...

3) EUROPE, EUROPE, EUROPE!

Tory backbench rebel Nadine Dorries recently claimed that the 'splits'/Europe-related headlines in the newspapers have started to remind her of the Major government in the mid-1990s. It's difficult to disagree with her when you look at some of the Sunday papers this morning. Here's the Sunday Telegraph splash:

"Cameron in new EU cash fight"

The paper reports:

"The Prime Minister will use a European budget summit later this month to call for farreaching changes to the EU's £279billion structural funds, which cost British taxpayers more than £4billion a year.

His move will delight Conservative backbenchers after the Government was defeated in a Commons vote on Europe last week, but risks a new rift with his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners."

Then there's this story in the Mail on Sunday:

"A senior minister was on the brink of resigning from the Cabinet to join the Tory revolt against David Cameron over the Brussels budget, it was claimed last night.


The Mail on Sunday has been told that the unnamed Minister 'weighed up the pros and cons' of resigning to lead a new anti-EU faction in the Tory Party, before backing off at the last minute.

Was it Iain Duncan Smith? Asked on the Marr show this morning whether he'd "stay in" the EU if he had a choice now, IDS dodged the question.

4) ED BALLS' NEW TORY PAL?

From the Mail on Sunday:

"A rebel Tory MP had secret talks with Ed Balls as part of the plot to defeat David Cameron in Wednesday's shock Commons vote on the EU budget crisis.

Harwich MP Douglas Carswell discussed the rebellion with a member of Shadow Chancellor Mr Balls's entourage to make sure the rebel Tory-Labour ambush was carried out with deadly effect.

The two men discussed in detail how to dovetail their political guerrilla warfare tactics and prevent the Conservative leadership gaining vital time needed to scupper it."

My enemy's enemy is my friend?

5) OBAMA PREPARES FOR VICTORY

72 hours to go till the most expensive election in the human history comes to a close. It's a tight race but the New York Times' anorak-in-chief Nate Silver still maintains that Obama has an 84% chance of winning re-election on Tuesday. Fingers crossed!

From the Sunday Times front page story:

"With just days to go before America heads to the ballot box, President Barack Obama waves to supporters at a rally in Ohio yesterday, buoyed by opinion polls that suggest Superstorm Sandy, which struck the east coast last Monday night, has significantly boosted his chances.

Opinion polls in key battleground states showed him edging ahead of Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger.

The latest national polls have the two men neck and neck, with Romney on 47.3% and Obama on 47.4%, but in the states that will decide the eventual victor, the storm seems to have benefited Obama, who has been widely praised for his handling of the crisis.

Karl Rove, the Republican election guru, said the storm was the 'real October surprise': 'He [Obama] has been comforter-in-chief and that helps.'"

If you want a good read on the US election race, check out the HuffPost's "Then We Came To The End" feature.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Check out this video of pro-Obama comedian Chris Rock's "special message for white people" ahead of election day on Tuesday.

6) WAR ON BENEFITS, PART 76

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has appeared on the Andrew Marr show this morning to face some tough questions from the BBC presenter... e.g. "Do you think the welfare system has been too soft for too long?"

Marr then grilled IDS on his proposals to limit child-related benefits to families with two or fewer children - would it, he asked, apply to existing large families on benefits? IDS said it wouldn't: "These kind of things will have to be done...as you start to apply."

The minister then went on to make the usual sweeping, tabloid-pleasing claims:

"About 15% of all the families have more than two children and they cluster down in the bottom of the deciles ...and right at the top of the income distribution....most predominantly in the very very bottom areas."

"It's about fairness."

"These are choices you make, choices come with consequences."

Unless I missed it, there was no mention of the Lib Dems' opposition to this 'two child' policy; no mention of the IFS warning that the coalition is going to miss its child poverty target. Only at the very end, briefly, in passing, did Marr mention the fact that there are plenty of children (the majority, in fact!) living in poverty in the UK who reside in working, not workless, households.

7) BORIS JOHNSON VS HOWARD DAVIES, ROUND 2

In an interview with the Observer, Sir Howard Davies, the head of the new commission deciding the future of Britain's airports, hits back at Boris Johnson over the latter's constant interventions in the debate over the proposed Heathrow third runway.

Davies is worried about - shock, horror - the politicization of his inquiry. He tells the Observer's Daniel Boffey:

"I don't think we can afford them [the politics] to be [involved], quite frankly. I think the whole point of asking an independent commission to do this is in order not to do that. I observe the political debate swirling around this, but I don't think it makes sense to get involved in it."

BoJo isn't listening - according to the Observer, the mayor of London "has privately told the chancellor, George Osborne, that his assistance at the next general election cannot be guaranteed if the commission sticks to its timetable". This particular story isn't going away.

8) "TORY RAPIST WILL BE NAMED"

That's the rather unpleasant headline on the front page of the Sunday Express. The paper says:

"The sex abuse victim filmed by the BBC as part of an investigation into a paedophile at the heart of government will name the senior Conservative to police.

Steven Messham will tell Scotland Yard this week that one of his abusers was a key member of the Tory Party."

9) SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE? NAH, SAYS EU CHIEF

Alex Salmond will be none too pleased with comments made by EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy in a YouTube Q&A:

"Nobody has anything to gain from separatism in the world of today which, whether one likes it or not, is globalised," he said. "We have so many important challenges to take and we will only succeed if we can pool forces, join action, take common directions... How can separatism help? The word of the future is union."

It's quote the No campaign might want to consider using during the forthcoming referendum campaign...

10) IRAN SUSPENDS 20% URANIUM ENRICHMENT

From the Observer:

"Iran has suspended the enrichment of uranium stockpiles to the 20% purity needed to bring it a short step from building a nuclear device, news services in the region have reported.

Mohammad Hossein Asfari, a member of parliament responsible for foreign policy and national security, was quoted as saying that the move was a "goodwill" gesture, aimed at softening Iran's position before a new round of scheduled talks with the United States after this week's presidential elections."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Obama is a big government, quasi-socialist in a country which is almost defined by its belief in small government." - Michael Portillo, sounding like Donald Trump, on the Andrew Marr show this morning.

FACT OF THE DAY

"The Institute of Fiscal Studies, in a report two years ago, said that, for every person moved on to the living wage, the saving to the Treasury would be about £1,000 a year." - from the Observer

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Opinium/Observer poll:

Labour 41%
Conservatives 30%
UKIP 10%
Lib Dems 9%

This would give Labour a majority of 112.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@ChrisBryantMP Cameron won't be doing PMQs for three weeks - how convenient!

@nigelfletcher I'm sure @chrisbryantmp will condemn another public figure having the confidentiality of private mobile communications breached by the press

@BorowitzReport Romney Airdrops Two Billion in Small Bills Over Ohio

900 WORDS OR MORE

Matthew D'Ancona
, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "The Tories’ strategy for winning in 2015 is founded on the power of incumbency – but the US election may prove that this is no longer a strong card to hold."

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "The result of the unholy alliance between Tory Europhobes and Labour will be to increase the cost of the EU."

Menzies Campbell, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "Europe is the glass jaw of the Tory party. It has taken a hit."


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