Mehdi's Morning Memo: Regulate The Press, Say Top Tories

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The top ten things you need to know on Friday 9th November...

1) REGULATE THE PRESS, SAY TOP TORIES

Phew. That's a relief. Just when Michael Gove's attacks on Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry had me convinced that the Tories weren't taking the issue of press regulation seriously, a group of more than 40 Tory MPs and peers, including four former cabinet ministers, has arrived to fill me with some hope. The group, in an open letter, says that proposals being put forward by the newspaper industry for more self-regulation "risk being an unstable model destined to fail".

Their letter, published in the Guardian and signed by 42 MPs - including the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and former environment secretary Caroline Spelman - and two senior peers, says:

"No one wants our media controlled by the government but, to be credible, any new regulator must be independent of the press as well as from politicians."

The group says Lord Justice Leveson's forthcoming report represents a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to put things right".

They're right. Let's hope David Cameron agrees with them - and not with Michael Gove.

2) GUARDIAN NAMES TOP TORY 'LINKED' ONLINE TO CHILD ABUSE CLAIMS...

...and says he "has been a victim of mistaken identity". You can read the controversial story for yourself here. This Morning Memo isn't naming any names. Yet.

3) HUNTING WITCHES

I bet when Phillip Schofield was sitting in the broom cupboard with Gordon the Gopher all those years ago, he never imagined he'd be the top story on BBC1's Question Time, as he was last night, or on the front pages of the national press, as he is this morning.

The former children's TV presenter has come under massive criticism for his decision to try and ambush the prime minister, live on ITV1's This Morning yesterday, with a list of alleged Tory paedophiles that he said he'd culled from the internet in a matter of "minutes".

The Independent splashes on the story on its front page:

"Downing Street has denounced “trial by Twitter” and a “silly stunt” by the ITV presenter Phillip Schofield who ambushed David Cameron live on air by handing him an internet-sourced list of suspected paedophiles - causing a shocked Prime Minister to complain of a “witch hunt” against gay people.

Schofield was forced to apologise after it emerged he had “misjudged the camera angle” and the names of several former senior Conservative politicians were visible on a card which he thrust into the hands of the Prime Minister before an audience of around 1.2 million. “You know the names on that piece of paper,” the This Morning presenter told the Prime Minister. “Will you be speaking to those people?”


The presenter claimed to have found the names of the Conservative Party figures in “three minutes” during a “cursory glance at the internet” for details of a scandal relating to abuse at children’s homes in north Wales during the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr Cameron took the card and said: “There is a danger if we are not careful that this can turn into a sort of witch hunt, particularly about people who are gay, and I’m worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now, taking a list of names off the internet.”

The Tory leader has since come under fire - from Stephen Fry, among others! - for appearing to link homosexuality with paedophilia - though the Telegraph's Tom Chivers mounts a pretty good defence of the PM here.

But the Telegraph, in its leader, goes after both Schofield and Cameron:

"Downing Street dismissed Schofield's coup de théâtre as a stunt, which it was, and a tawdry one at that. As Mr Cameron said, there is the distinct smell of the witch–hunt about the spate of child–abuse allegations that has accompanied the revelations surrounding the late Jimmy Savile. But was not Mr Cameron also engaged in a stunt; for what, otherwise, was he doing on This Morning in the first place?"

Ouch.

4) BALLS VS THE FUEL DUTY

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls is calling on the coalition to postpone the 3p rise in fuel duty, due to come into effect in January, until at least April.

Writing for PoliticsHome’s Central Lobby, Balls says Labour will force a Commons vote on the issue on Monday and claims the government could fund the delay "by clamping down on tax avoidance", which he argues could save the Exchequer around £1bn.

Over to you, George...

5) FROM OILMAN TO ARCHBISHOP

"New archbishop to throw oil on troubled waters," says the headline on the front of the Times, which notes how Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham who is expected to be formally confirmed as new Archbishop of Canterbury later today, will oversee the consecration of the first woman bishop in 2014. Welby, from the evangelical wing of the Church of England, supports women bishops - but opposes gay marriage. Bring on the splits!

Welby, incidentally, is a former oil company executive and an Old Etonian. His appointment, notes the New Statesman's George Eaton, means that "that the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London and, now, the head of the Church are all Eton alumni. When was the establishment last so dominated by public school boys?"

Meanwhile, the FT says Welby will keep his place on the parliamentary inquiry into banking ethics. The paper notes:

"He is already well known for criticising corporate excess and the "sinful" activities of payday lenders, whom he has compared to swindling Old Testament usurers... Bishop Welby's scepticism of business is clear from his earliest days in the Church and is spelt out in his theological dissertation, published in the early 1990s under the title 'Can Companies Sin?'."

Back in the Times, the lead editorial says:

"Though Bishop Welby's episcopal experience is brief (he was appointed Bishop of Durham less than a year ago), his personal and intellectual qualities make him an outstanding choice as the spiritual leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide."

Personally, however, I'll miss Rowan W.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this brilliant video of the Daily Show's Jon Stewart taking apart Fox News' BS-filled election-night coverage...

6) ET TU FLORIDA?

Remember the election that took place in the United States a few days ago? The one that everyone said was "too close to call"? Well, as the BBC reports, Barack Obama, the re-elected US president who enjoyed a comfortable win over his Republican rival Mitt Romney on Tuesday night, now also "appears close to victory in Florida, the only state yet to declare a result from Tuesday's US presidential election". Romney aides have been quoted saying that their man has conceded the state to the president.

If Obama has won Florida too, that'll mean he finishes the election with 332 electoral college votes, just 33 fewer than he won in his victory in 2008. So much for "too close to call", eh?

Here, incidentally, is the final 2012 electoral map.

7) BRITAIN'S ICELANDIC-SIZED IMMIGRATION BACKLOG

From the Telegraph:

"The immigration system is 'spiralling out of control' as officials run up a backlog of more than 300,000 cases, MPs have warned.


The Commons home affairs select committee said the growing number of immigration cases – which includes almost 174,000 missing illegal immigrants – is equivalent of the population of Iceland.


Mismanagement by the UK Border Agency could lead to tens of thousands more illegal immigrants being granted an "effective amnesty" as officials write off their cases, the MPs said."

8) NHS IN THE DOCK

From the Mirror:

"Complaints to the Health Service Ombudsman rose 8% in just 12 months.

The NHS received 150,859 complaints between 2011 and 2012 - 16,337 about how it tried to address patient concerns."

Also in the Ombudsman's report, says the Times, is "a complaint from a man who was accused by a surgeon of being a 'baby' when he expressed his anxiety about having a general anaesthetic".

9) THE DRUGDEALER, THE MINISTER AND HSBC

HSBC, "the world's local bank", is in trouble over alleged money-laundering. Again. From the Sun:

"Britain's top bank HSBC is being probed over tax haven accounts allegedly owned by crooks, it was claimed last night.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs were said by sources to be focusing on its Jersey operations.

Clients allegedly include a drug dealer in Venezuela and a Devon man convicted of possessing 300 weapons. Three bankers are understood to be subject to fraud inquiries.

The probe threatens to humiliate ex-HSBC chairman Lord Green — now a Government trade envoy. HSBC, facing a £1billion US fine for alleged money-laundering, last night said it could not comment on clients."

The Telegraph's front-page headline reads: "Drug dealers, gun runners and Britain's biggest bank."

10) "A REFINED SORT"

Have we misunderstood/misrepresented poor ol' Erick Pickles, the communities secretary? From the Mail's Ephraim Hardcastle column:

Why are the Tories always touting Communities Secretary Eric Pickles as a man-of-the-people oaf? Friends say he’s actually a refined sort who enjoys reading – he once told me his favourite literary character is Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell – and frequent trips to the opera. ‘He adores Wagner,’ I’m told.

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

@kenanmalik The problem is not an unregulated internet. It is a political culture that feeds on panics and is so sanguine about due process.

@holland_tom There's a lot to be said for Aaronovitch's Law - wherever people believe there's a conspiracy, there almost certainly isn't. @daaronovitch

@afneil Fox News could be major impediment to Republicans becoming electable.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Will Mitt Romney's defeat force a Tory party rethink? No chance."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says the new archbishop of Canterbury "will bring brains and bravery to the almost impossible job of Archbishop of Canterbury."

Douglas Alexander, writing in the Independent, says: "We want to reform the EU, not leave it."


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