Mehdi's Morning Memo: Keeping The Lights On

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The ten things you need to know on Friday 23rd November 2012...

1) KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON

The 'pro-greens' of the Lib Dems, with their emphasis on clean energy, and the 'anti-greens' of the Tories, who favour gas-powered generation, seem to have reached a deal - and the chancellor George Osborne, as is so often case, seems to have come out on top.

From the BBC News website:

"The government has published details of its long-awaited Energy Bill, designed to keep lights on and emissions down.

"The government will provide £7.6bn towards low-carbon electricity infrastructure by 2020, but household bills are set to rise to pay for it.

"A decision about setting carbon emission targets for 2030 has been delayed until 2016, after the election."

Greenest government ever? Not quite. But Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, appeared on the Today programme a few minutes ago to argue: "I don't think it's gas or renewables... You need both... The mix is what's important."

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband, according to the Guardian, "has intensified the pressure on the coalition and its troubled energy plans by committing Labour to delivering a virtually carbon-free electricity system by 2030."

The paper quotes 'Green Ed' as saying: "Britain's growing green industry is facing a crisis of the government's own making, caused by scepticism at the heart of government. It is a policy shambles. But it is not just an embarrassment for the government, it is a crisis for the UK."

2) NO DEAL

Dave's still in Brussels. The talks are still ongoing. The budget still isn't signed off.

"I think we're advancing a bit, but I doubt that we will reach a deal," German chancellor Angela Merkel revealed last night.

Negotiations will kick off again today at 11am UK time. The Guardian reports:

"David Cameron launched an attack on the EU's bureaucracy last night, demanding €6bn (£4.85bn) in cuts to the pay, pensions and perks of thousands of European officials over seven years from 2014.

"As the prime minister prepared to water down his initial demands for swingeing cuts in overall EU spending, he handed a list of proposed cuts to the entitlements of EU officials to the European council president, Herman Van Rompuy.

"... Cameron urged further cuts to administration costs by: • Increasing the retirement age to 68 for all EU officials now under the age of 58. The current retirement age is 63. This would save €1.5bn.

•"Cutting the overall EU pay bill by 10% for officials, saving €3bn.

"Lowering the pension cap from 70% of an official's final salary to 60%, saving €1.5bn."

The inconvenient truth is that the gulf between those net-contributor countries that would like to see cuts in sending (e.g. us) versus those net-recipient countries that would like to see budget increases (e.g. Poland) may be, in the end, just too big and insurmountable.

And, as the BBC News website points out:

"Failure to agree on the budget would mean rolling over the 2013 budget into 2014 on a month-by-month basis, putting some long-term projects at risk.

"Analysts say that could leave the UK in a worse position, because the 2013 budget is bigger than the preceding years of the 2007-2013 MFF.

"The UK government could then end up with an EU budget higher than what it says it will accept now."

Uh-oh!

3) BALANCING THE EU BUDGET ON THE BACKS OF THE POOR?

Yesterday this Memo noted how few were willing to defend or make a case for the much-maligned EU budget - not even the Guardian. However, a letter published in that paper today, from a group of MEPs including Tory Nirj Deva, makes this rather impassioned and impressive plea:

"David Cameron has said we should not balance our books on the backs of the poorest people on the planet. That logic applies to the EU budget as well as the UK's...

"Budget negotiations have reduced the amounts allocated to aid for 2014-20 by about 10%. This is simply unacceptable, as aid is bearing a disproportionate cut. For example, the common agricultural policy budget would be cut by only 6.5%.

"... EU aid to the poorest nations is recognised by the government and the OECD as among the most efficient, effective and transparent in the world. In the past five years it paid for more than 10 million children to go to primary school and provided 32 million with clean water."

A brave and much-needed argument...

4) MINISTER: WELFARE CLAIMANTS 'HAVE A LIFESTYLE'

From the Guardian:

"The government's welfare reform minister has suggested lone parents, sickness claimants and other people on benefits are too comfortable not having to work for their income, saying they are able to 'have a lifestyle' on the state.

"In an interview with House Magazine, Lord Freud is reported to have said the benefits system is 'dreadful' and discourages poor people from taking the risks he implied they should be willing to bear to change their circumstances."

The paper quotes Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, saying, in response: "The nasty party is well and truly back."

Of course, the slight problem for Labour is that the "nasty" Freud was first hired as a government adviser on welfare by Tony Blair in 2006; he later worked for Blairite James Purnell at the Department for Work and Pensions.

5) LOCKED DOWN

David Cameron continues on his mission to win over Tory opponents of gay marriage. From the Times:

"Churches will receive an explicit opt-out from having to perform gay weddings amid legal fears that the Government’s plans to equalise marriage laws may fall foul of European human rights legislation.

"Ministers have decided to override warnings from lawyers that churches would be vulnerable to pressure from the courts and would end up being forced to marry gay couples.

"A Bill, to be published in the new year, will include a 'double lock' written into the legislation that would allow churches to refuse to host such ceremonies. Government sources conceded that some legal advice received by Whitehall suggested that churches that said 'no' to gay couples risked losing any case taken to the European Court of Human Rights."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States - so check out these (bizarre) pix, via BuzzFeed, of dogs dressed up (!) for Thanksgiving.

6) WE LOVE YOU, TONY!

The new BBC director-general Tony Hall will be pleased with the headlines this morning - especially those in the Murdoch-owned press. "Tough Job, Easy Choice," says the Times leader. "Tony Hall is the right man to lead the BBC."

The Sun editorial approves of the appointment of the former Royal Opera House boss and ex-head of BBC News, too: "At Covent Garden he's been an innovative leader...The Sun wishes him well."

The new DG, who was ennobled as Lord Hall of Birkenhead in 2010, will be paid £450,000 a year. Intriguingly, the BBC is now run by two peers - Lords Hall and Patten.

7) LABOUR'S NEW ATTLEE

"Don’t underestimate Miliband. He’s like Attlee," writes veteran Tory columnist William Rees-Mogg in the Times, echoing one of the key arguments expressed in my biography of the Labour leader ('ED: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader'). In recent months, watching the once-hostile, right-wing commentariat shift their views on Miliband has been a sight to behold.

"My own impression is that Attlee was the only person who could have kept the Labour Party together in the 1940s," says Rees-Mogg, "and that Ed Miliband, with or without David, may be the only person who will be able to prevent the post-Blair disagreements from posing a serious problem."

He concludes: "The Conservative Party is going to have to take Ed Miliband seriously."

Are you listening, Grant Shapps?

8) SHALL WE CALL IT A DRAW?

'Israel and Hamas claim victory," reads the headline in the FT. The paper notes:

"Much of the Gaza Strip celebrated what many said was an important Palestinian victory, as the coastal enclave returned to a semblance of normality after more than a week of heavy Israeli bombardment. Shops were open for the first full day since the fighting began, and Gazans formed long lines at cash machines.

... 'For sure, this was a victory for the Palestinians,' said Ibrahim Abu Halima, 23. 'We were steadfast and we showed our ability to fire rockets at their cities.'

Meanwhile, in Israel, says the paper, "Officials said Operation Pillar of Defence had succeeded in depleting or destroying much of the Gaza-based militants' arsenal of rockets...

..."'As they said, the gates of hell were open - this is what they said on the first day,' said Dan Meridor, deputy prime minister, making light of a claim made by Hamas early in the conflict. 'If that's what you produce with the gates of hell, hell may not be that bad a place.'"

9) 'EGYPT'S NEW PHAROAH'

Is this the Muslim Brotherhood showing its true colours? The Telegraph reports:

"Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian president, was accused of appointing himself as 'Egypt's new pharaoh' after he gave himself sweeping powers to oversee the country's political transition in the wake of his success in negotiating a ceasefire in Gaza.

"Mr Morsi declared unilaterally that until a new constitution is decreed all presidential decisions would be immune from legal challenge.

"'The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution,' said his statement, read out on television by his personal spokesman, Yasser Ali.

"The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal.

"The announcement caused outrage.

"Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who returned to Egypt to become a leader of the liberal opposition, said: 'Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh.'"

Oh dear.

10) DORRIES WATCH, PART 99

The papers are still pretty peeved by Nadine Dorries and her reality-show antics. "Nadine goes back to work as an MP (from her 5-star hotel in Oz)," says the Daily Mail. "Jungle MP Nadine 'back at work'...in luxury hotel room," says the Express. The Mail points out that the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire is now based at "the fivestar Palazzo Versace resort on the Australian Gold Coast, where a superior room costs £285 a night, and where she is due to stay until the series ends early next month."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that Dorries "may not be allowed back into the Conservative Party after it emerged that the MP may remain in Australia for weeks after being voted off I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!

"...Sources close to Conservative whips said the 'ball is in her court' and they will make no further attempt to contact her until she gets in touch to explain herself."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"You don't have to be the corpse to go to the funeral, which is the implied criticism there." - Tory welfare minister Lord Freud rejects claims that he's too rich to understand the problems of the benefits system.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 31
Lib Dems 10

That would also give Labour a majority of 118.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@JananGanesh British position on the EU budget is right but the proposed increase is the result of EU enlargement, which was our policy.

@DouglasCarswell Outsider appointed to restore confidence in BBC. He spent a whole decade away from it - apparently.

@davidschneider Just let criminals vote in the PCC elections. That's the one that really concerns them #bbcqt

900 WORDS OR MORE

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says: "Give prisoners the vote. But not because Europe says so."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Call a truce before centuries of free speech are brought to an end."

Robert Fisk, writing in the Independent, says: "What was it all for? The murder of Palestinians and Israelis is just a prelude to the next Gaza war."

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