Mehdi's Morning Memo: To Regulate Or Not To Regulate?

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The ten things you need to know on Sunday 25th November 2012...

1) TO REGULATE OR NOT TO REGULATE?

Dave's in a bit of a dilemma as he prepares to respond to the Leveson Inquiry report, which is due to be published this coming Thursday.

From the Mail on Sunday:

"David Cameron is heading for an explosive confrontation over press freedom this week by resisting calls to introduce heavy-handed new laws to police UK newspapers.

"But he will order them to 'clean up their act' immediately with a tough new watchdog - using the threat of sweeping legal action if they fail to do so.

"Well-placed sources have told The Mail on Sunday the Prime Minister will reject any move by the Leveson report on media ethics to introduce full-blown state regulation."

However, a Downing Street spokesman yesterday claimed: "The Prime Minister is open-minded about Lord Justice Leveson's report and will read it in full before he makes any decision about what to do."

Meanwhile, the Independent on Sunday takes a different line to the Mail on Sunday:

"The Prime Minister, who is among a tight circle of people in government who will receive Lord Justice Leveson's report 24 hours ahead of publication on Thursday, is expected to back some form of tighter regulation, despite a last-ditch campaign by newspapers and ministers to defend press freedom.

"...Mr Cameron is facing entrenched opposition to state regulation from key Tory ministers, including the Education Secretary Michael Gove, the Chancellor George Osborne, Foreign Secretary William Hague, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Cameron has ringing in his ears the words of Mr Gove and Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, who both restated their defence of a free press at the Spectator awards last week. But one Conservative MP who will vote in favour of statutory regulation urged the Prime Minister not to fall for Mr Gove's comments through 'erotic absorption'."

Everyone seems to have a view on what Lord Justice Leveson should or shouldn't suggest - even foreign journalists.

From the Observer:

"Statutory controls on the British press would send an "appalling message" abroad and encourage some of the most illiberal regimes in the world, the foreign secretary, William Hague, will be warned ahead of a landmark report that could usher in a new era of newspaper regulation.

"However, the claim was rejected by campaigners for greater regulation, who say such a move is supported by the majority of the public.

... In the letter, Ronald Koven, the European representative of the WPFC [World Press Freedom Committee], warns that a "chill will go through the world's media - matched by a warm glow in the ministries of some of the most illiberal regimes," if the Leveson report recommends legislation. He says editors around the world have contributed to a WPFC report making the case against state regulation."

The Obs also carries an interview with Christopher Jefferies, the former landlord of the murdered architect Joanna Yeates, who was implicated in the latter's death by the press, which smeared and vilified him, and who now - unsurprisingly, perhaps! - supports statutory regulation:

"Jefferies has received considerable financial compensation. Richard Wallace, then editor of the Daily Mirror, told the Leveson inquiry that he regarded the treatment meted out to Jefferies as a black mark on his career as a journalist. 'I give him some credit for that,' says Jefferies. 'I have not had a letter of apology from any of the editors, any of the journalists. The editor of the Scotsman described it as a mistake. He didn't elaborate,' he says holding his stare."

So, on Thursday, will it be the views of Jefferies, the Dowlers and the McCanns that Cameron goes with, or Boris, Gove et al?

2) SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE MUSLIM

The Mail on Sunday - which broke the story last week of how Lynton Crosby, the PM's new election guru from Down Under, allegedly referred to "f**king Muslims" - is back today with a new series of revelations about the ex-aide to Boris Johnson, including:

"- A Sikh aide to Boris Johnson claimed he was ‘sidelined’ by Mr Crosby because of his views on the need for Tories to win ethnic minority votes.

"- Mr Crosby reportedly joked: ‘Let’s put a rag round the battle bus’ – referring to a Muslim headscarf."

It also quotes Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory deputy chairman and polling expert, as saying:

"'The danger is that other people will see it as racist'... According to reliable sources, Lord Ashcroft added: ‘When I heard about Mr Crosby’s comment, I was sorely tempted to send him a list of nine Muslims who have won the Victoria Cross fighting for this country.’ The peer, a military historian, owns 162 VCs, the world’s largest collection."

The best (worst?) quote, though, has to go to Tory peer, Baroness Flather, who tells the Mail on Sunday: "I don’t condone swearing, but Lynton is right to say it is pointless for the Conservatives to chase Muslim votes. They are all on benefits and all vote Labour."

Well, I can assure you, if Cameron and co allow such bigoted views to go unchallenged, ethnic minorities, and Muslims in particular, will be voting Labour for a long time to come.

3) WIND FARM WARS

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall at the Department for Energy and Climate Change? From the Sunday Times splash:

"Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, has taken legal advice to have his Conservative deputy stripped of his responsibilities for green energy policy in an increasingly bitter coalition battle over wind farms.

"Davey appealed to David Cameron over comments made by John Hayes, the energy minister, who is a firm opponent of onshore wind power.

"The fallout comes as Britain's onshore wind-farm industry is under threat from councils using new planning rules to block the construction of thousands of turbines.

"Earlier this month Hayes insisted no more wind farms beyond those already planned would be built. 'Job done ... end of story,' he said.

"Last night it emerged that after the prime minister failed to take action Davey consulted lawyers in an attempt to have Hayes stripped of his responsibility for green energy policy."

Time to call in Relate?

4) BACK TO THE 50s?

Oh, and the two coalition parties aren't just divided on wind farms. From the Sunday Telegraph:

"Conservative ministers are drawing up plans to deliver tax breaks to married couples from next year in a move which will please their own MPs but spark a new clash with the Liberal Democrats.

"Senior Tory sources said the “likeliest option” for bringing in the long-awaited but controversial move – worth around £150 a year – was to include it in the Budget in Spring 2013.

... Last December Nick Clegg launched an attack on the plans, claiming: 'We should not take a particular version of the family institution, such as the 1950s model of suit-wearing, breadwinning dad and aproned, homemaking mother, and try and preserve it in aspic.'"

5) KEEP THE KIDS AWAY FROM UKIP?

If ever there's a story that'll run and run, it's this one. From the Mail on Sunday:

"A row over two UKIP members having their foster children removed took a new twist last night when another woman claimed she had been barred from looking after children because she was a party candidate.

"Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, condemned 'another appalling case of discrimination' after former district nurse Anne Murgatroyd said she had been prevented from volunteering as a mentor for young adults by leading children's charity Barnardo's.

"Ms Murgatroyd, a mother of three, claims she told the charity of her political affiliation and was told it would 'not be appropriate' for her to perform the role, which involves supporting children coming out of the care system, because UKIP 'opposes multi-culturalism'.

"The charity said there were other reasons for Ms Murgatroyd's rejection but refused to disclose further details. The claim came as two investigations were launched into a council's 'indefensible' decision to remove three vulnerable children from their foster parents because of their support for UKIP."

Yesterday, as Michael Gove came to the defence of the UKIP, Downing Street couldn't quite decide if it was retracting David Cameron's infamous 2006 comments that UKIP was a party of "closet racists".

Either way, a jubilant Nigel Farage will be singing in the shower this morning...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch the legendary clip of JR Ewing being shot in 'Dallas'. (Larry Hagman RIP.)

6) TAXING TIMES

Writing exclusively for the Huffington Post UK, the shadow chancellor Ed Balls unveils a five-point plan for tackling the politically-explosive issue of tax avoidance: 1) strengthening UK tax laws "so as to properly deter tax avoidance", 2) improving "the capacity of the HMRC", 3) improving "transparency and reporting" to "help restore public trust and improve enforcement", 4) action at an international level to "tackle the problems that are caused by the use of tax havens", and 5) "international reform" of the rules through the EU, OECD and the G20 "to deliver a better, fairer and more robust system... UK Ministers should be putting tackling tax avoidance at the top of the agenda at these international meetings."

Meanwhile, the Observer reports:

"Radical plans to force the UK's tax havens to reveal the names behind hidden companies, account holders and trusts have been drawn up by the Treasury.

... A leaked document reveals that the UK plans to impose its own version of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) on the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, as well as its overseas territories, such as the Cayman Islands."

Isn't it great to see both government and opposition both vying to see who can crack down harder on tax avoiders and evaders - and not just 'benefit cheats'? However, the proof of the pudding, as always, will be in the eating...

7) WHOOPS!

Perhaps Ed B should have a word with Ed M. From the Mail on Sunday:

"Ed Miliband faced embarrassment in his crusade against tax avoiders last night after it emerged a key Labour donor has saved millions of pounds by running online gambling from a tax haven.

"Peter Coates, chairman of bet365, has donated £300,000 to the party in the past decade, including £10,000 to Mr Miliband this year.

"Mr Coates has built a £700 million fortune on the back of the firm, one of the world’s largest internet sites for sports betting.

"But company accounts filed in Gibraltar reveal more than a third of bet365’s profits come from its subsidiary based in the British overseas territory. Between 2009 and 2011 it paid a ten per cent rate of corporation tax in Gibraltar – compared with 28 per cent in the UK at the time – saving £13 million."

8) HE'S BACK. PART 33.

From the Observer:

"Tony Blair will make an impassioned intervention in the debate over Britain's future in Europe, warning that any disengagement from the European Union's "top table" would be a disaster for the UK's economy and its power on the world stage.

"With more senior Tories backing moves that could see the UK leaving the EU mainstream, Blair will seek to rally the business community behind a campaign to halt the Eurosceptic bandwagon before it is too late.

"At a speech in London on Wednesday, Blair will say that with major economies such as China, India, Brazil and Russia emerging as formidable competitors in the global economic power game, EU membership has never been more important. A source close to the former prime minister said: 'Whereas the postwar argument for Europe was about peace versus war, he will make the point that the 21st-century case for Europe is about power versus irrelevance.'"

Irrelevance. Now there's a word you could never apply to the former Labour leader.

9) IS MORSI MORPHING INTO MUBARAK?

More bad news from Egypt, via the Independent on Sunday:

"The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has called for a mass demonstration in Cairo this week to show support for the embattled President, Mohamed Morsi, who is facing widespread protests over his controversial decree granting him extensive new powers.

"In a statement published on its website, the Brotherhood also called for demonstrations in public squares across the country after early evening prayers today.

"The latest blow to Mr Morsi came yesterday when the Supreme Judicial Council, Egypt's highest body of judges, called the move by the President to grant himself near-absolute power an 'unprecedented assault' on the judiciary."

Shame on you, Mo!

10) AUSTERITY HITS... EUROVISION

Yes, you read that right. Now, it seems, the spending cuts aren't just wrecking national economies, driving up unemployment and killing growth - they're wrecking the Eurovision Song Contest, too!

From the Mail on Sunday:

"Portugal has pulled out of the Eurovision Song Contest, blaming the economic crisis.

"It follows Poland’s decision last week not to take part again.

Both countries said the financial situation meant they could not afford to join in next year’s event in Malmo, Sweden."

Damn you, Austerians!

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 44
Conservatives 33
Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 118.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@krishgm Downing Street now say they do NOT retract David Cameron's comments on UKIP.Utter confusion.

‏@Nigel_Farage Cameron's office retracts the retraction: if he wants a war with UKIP on his immigration policy he can have one.

‏@labourpress Membership of UKIP shouldn't block parents from adopting children. There needs to be an urgent investigation by Rotherham Council into this.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "For the Prime Minister to offer the newspapers a final chance would be both statesmanlike and a complete political nightmare."

Will Hutton, writing in the Observer, says: "[O]ur press passionately protests its fealty to principles it then abuses. Leveson is a once in a generation to put that right."

Toby Young, writing in The Sun on Sunday, says: "Most Brits have same views as UKIP foster pair."

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