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Mehdi's Morning Memo: Lock and Load

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The ten things you need to know on Thursday 22nd November...


It's time for battle. David Cameron sets off for Brussels today, to join 26 other European presidents and premiers for intense negotiations over the EU budget.

His Eurosceptic backbenchers want him to go to war with his fellow EU leaders and with the Brussels bureaucracy - many of them have demanded a real-terms cut, while Cameron himself says he will push for a real-terms freeze in the Union budget. The PM is talking tough and has promised to deploy his legendary veto - the same veto he claimed to have deployed late last year (but turned out, really, not to have done).

"Battle lines drawn for EU budget showdown," says the Times headline, which says France and Italy have taken aim "at Britain's prized European rebate on the eve of marathon budget talks that will be one of the biggest tests of David Cameron's leadership". "Mr Cameron must stand up for Britain in Brussels," demands the Europhobic Daily Express.

Even the pro-European Guardiann is at it. The paper reports, on its front page...

"Austerity Europe? Not at the European Union's Brussels HQ... to be one of the 56,000 EU eurocrats is to escape most of the pain felt in almost every country in the union. Officially, they work a 37½-hour week and take Friday afternoons off... Their children are educated for free at high-quality private schools... They retire at 63 on generous pensions and dozens a year are granted early retirement on full pensions. According to UK government calculations, 214 of the most senior eurocrats get paid more than David Cameron's £178,000 a year."


"Gaza ceasefire ends a week of bloodshed," says the Guardian splash, welcoming last night's Egypt-brokered deal between Israel and Hamas, which came into force at 9pm local time (7pm GMT).

It seems to have held overnight. Phew. Predictably, the Guardian report points out:

"Leaders on both sides were quick to claim victory. Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, said... Israel had 'failed in its adventure'... The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said Israel had destroyed thousands of missiles as well as Hamas installations."

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi comes out of this rather well - as does the re-elected Obama administration and especially outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in the region yesterday to put pressure on both sides.

Now comes the hard bit: Hamas wants a relaxation of Israel's six-year blockade on the Gaza Strip which has caused mass unemployment and poverty; Netanyahu and co want guarantees that the Islamist party won't use any softening of the siege to replenish its arms - via Iran or anywhere else.

Remember, however: Israel has used the blockade in the not-too-distant past to ban items such as coriander, nutmeg and ginger - which are, as we all know, key components of long-range missiles!

Another reminder: more than 150 Palestinians were killed in eight days of fighting - and five Israelis.


From the Mirror:

"Chancellor George Osborne has made a fortune by secretly flogging his second home which the taxpayer helped pay for.

"Neighbours say the top Tory has made about £450,000 profit from the sale of the Cheshire farmhouse.

"The bumper payday for Mr Osborne is mainly thanks to public cash used to pay interest on monthly payments for the exclusive property.

All in it together, eh?


From the Daily Telegraph:

"Britain could refuse to implement a European court ruling that would give some prisoners the vote, the Justice Secretary has suggested.

"Chris Grayling spoke as he prepared to publish a Bill that would offer MPs the option of defying the European Court of Human Rights on prisoner votes.

"The Strasbourg–based court has ruled that a blanket ban on all prisoners voting is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The Commons last year voted overwhelmingly to retain the British ban on prisoner votes.

"Today is the deadline for Britain to respond to the court's latest order on the issue.

"Ministers will respond by publishing a draft Bill offering MPs a range of options."

Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mail:

"Cabinet ministers have been instructed not to take a stand against a European court's controversial diktat that British prisoners must be given the vote."


I don't say this very often but hats off to the Daily Mail. It is one of the few newspapers to consistently splash on civil-liberties stories on its front page; this morning the headline reads:

"Secret courts plan in chaos"

Hats off, too, to members of the House of Lords. Yep. You heard me. The Mail reports:

"Peers voted by crushing majorities for fundamental changes to the Justice and Security Bill, which would allow civil cases involving national security to be conducted in secret.

"By margins of over 100 votes, peers voted to remove ministers's exclusive right to apply for secret hearings and to give judges ultimate discretion in deciding whether or not they should be held behind closed doors."



Watch this video of a drunk woman interrupting a US TV news reporter live on-air...


From the Daily Mail's front-page 'exclusive':

"Gay marriage could be approved by MPs within weeks after David Cameron and Nick Clegg agreed to rush through legislation.

"The Prime Minister decided to dramatically accelerate the timetable for the change in the law, which is now expected to come before Parliament in the New Year."

Tory traditionalists will be delighted. Just delighted.


From the Independent front-page splash:

"Funding for struggling schools has been slashed to cover a £1bn overspend in the academies programme, a report reveals today.

"Spending on a range of education programmes - including improving underperforming schools - has been cut to provide unplanned extra funding for academies, according to the National Audit Office, a public spending watchdog. Leaders of the teaching unions reacted with anger last night, describing the overspending as "appalling" at a time when non-academy schools were having to tighten their belts."

So, will this new NAO report help cut through the pro-academies propaganda churned out by most of our newspapers?


Yesterday was the Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year Awards

Former Speccie editor and London mayor Boris Johnson won Politician of the Year, for securing re-electing in a Labour city, and Tory backbencher Jesse Norman won Parliamentarian of the Year after his guerrilla campaign against David Cameron and Nick Clegg's House of Lords reform bill.

Speaking at the awards, guest of honour Michael Gove poked fun at his former Tory colleague John Bercow, now the Commons speaker, suggesting the latter be awarded the "Kim Kardashian memorial thong for relentless self-effacement and shirking of the limelight".


Well, DorriesWatch is over - at least, the jungle edition is. Last night the MP Nadine Dorries became the first contestant to be voted off of ITV's I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! "Nad's it for Dorries," declares the Sun. "Out of the jungle - but not out of the woods," says the Independent, referring to the MP's ongoing suspension from the Conservative Party.

The controversial backbencher's argument for going on the show was that she wanted to reach out to millions of viewers - but it turns out that they didn't want to reach out to her.

"I'm not disappointed at being the first, especially when you're starving. I kind of expected it," said a defiant Dorries to Ant and Dec. Er, ok.

Now, back to Mid-Bedfordshire and the Commons. Right? Right, Nad?


From the Telegraph:

"The entire Christian calendar is based on a miscalculation, the Pope has declared, as he claims in a new book that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly believed."



"It's a pity that His Honour Brian Leveson cannot be here so he could receive the Bureau of Investigative Journalism award for commitment to truth-telling for his wonderful comments." Education Secretary Michael Gove gently ribs Lord Justice Leveson at yesterday's Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards, where the former was guest of honour.


From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Lib Dems

That would also give Labour a majority of


@MattChorley Cameron and Farage texting each other tonight: "You can have her." "No no, you're welcome to her." #iacgmooh

@davidschneider Students. Remember if kettled the magic words are "Know your place, you f*cking pleb". That'll work. Well, for a month or so #demo2012

@jreedmp Hearing lots about Cameron and Clegg bringing forward gay marriage. Personally, I'm absolutely thrilled for them. Am I right? Etc.


Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the Guardian, says: "The relationship between Britain and its EU partners has reached breaking point. Both must abandon their cliches."

Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "It is selfish of Eurosceptics to try to force David Cameron's hand."

Rowenna Davis, writing in the Guardian, profiles US community organiser Arne Graf: "The man Ed Miliband asked to rebuild Labour."

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