Mehdi's Morning Memo: Leveson Watch

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 29th November...

1) LEVESON WATCH

Only a day to go! Or less than four hours to go if you're the prime minister: David Cameron receives his advance copy of the Leveson Inquiry report at noon today, giving him 24 hours to read it, digest it, decide how to respond and, perhaps, choose which bits to leak ahead of tomorrow's official publication.

The papers are all over this story (why wouldn't they be?); we're offered an eve-of-publication poll and an open letter.

First, the (YouGov) poll - via the Guardian splash:

"David Cameron is facing a public backlash if he fails to act to rein in the press when Lord Justice Leveson reports on Thursday, according to a poll which finds that 79% are in favour of an independent press regulator established by law.

"Some 60% believe the prime minister should implement Leveson's recommendations, and while 79% favour legislation to create an independent press regulator, only 9% are opposed. Just over 80% said national newspapers should be obliged to sign up to the new system by law.

"Support for the creation of an independent body established by law is uniform across the voting spectrum, including 81% support from readers of the Daily Mail, one of the papers most vociferous in its opposition to any state interference."

Next, the open letter - via the Telegraph splash:

"State regulation of newspapers would pose the greatest danger to press freedom for 300 years, senior Conservatives warn ahead of the publication of the Leveson Report.

"In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 86 politicians from all three major parties urge David Cameron not to bring in new press laws if Lord Justice Leveson recommends state regulation on Thursday.

"The letter shows there is a major split in the Conservative Party over press regulation, as 42 Tories have already called for tough new laws to keep newspapers in check.

"...Dozens of senior Conservatives have signed the letter, including Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, Lord Howell, George Osborne’s father-in-law, Stephen Dorrell, a former Health Secretary, David Davis, a former Europe minister, Lord Forsyth, a former Scottish Secretary, Lord Trimble, former leader of the Ulster Unionists and John Whittingdale, the chairman of the media select committee."

My colleague Ned Simons notes:

"The letter has also been signed by the chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, John Whittingdale. He is joined by every other single Conservative member of the committee with Tracey Crouch, Therese Coffey, Damian Collins, Angie Bray, Philip Davies and Burns cautioning the prime minister against 'new laws'. None of the Labour MPs on the committee signed up, nor did the single Lib Dem."

2) LABOUR'S LEVESON SPLITS

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he will back Leveson's proposals - but not every Labour MP is keen on tighter press regulation.

Labour signatories to the Telegraph letter include former home secretary David Blunkett, Kate Hoey, Frank Field and Gisela Stuart (usual suspects, anyone?).

Blunkett's former cabinet colleague John Prescott isn't too pleased - last night he tweeted:

@johnprescott David Blunkett has done more money deals with Murdoch newspapers than any other politician. He still appears to be doing their bidding

Ouch.

3) WAR ON BINGE DRINKING

David Cameron and Theresa May will set out plans today to tackle the annual £12 billion cost to the taxpayer of binge drinking. The Times splashes on the story:

"Supermarkets will be banned from offering “buy one, get one free” deals on alcohol under plans announced today aimed at curbing binge drinking.

"A controversial minimum price for beer, wine and spirits will also be set for the first time as part of a plan that has divided opinion among ministers.

"Critics said that a sweeping prohibition of multi-buy deals would penalise moderate drinkers who shop around for bargains and who do not buy the cheapest alcohol on offer. The minimum price of alcohol will be set at 45p per unit, raising the lowest price for a can of beer or cider to about £1.12, and for a bottle of wine to £4.40.

"Ministers accept that a legal challenge to the proposal, which will be put out to consultation today, is highly likely if it becomes law."

4) DON'T BE SELFISH, MINISTER TELLS..ER..VOTERS..

From the front page of the Telegraph:

"More than 1,500 square miles of open countryside – an area twice the size of Greater London – needs to be built on to meet housing demand, the Government's planning minister will warn tonight.

"Nick Boles, a Conservative minister appointed in the September reshuffle, wants to increase the amount of land built on in England by a third.

"... Mr Boles suggests that people who oppose more development are being selfish for denying adequate space for their children and grandchildren. 'It's my job to make the arguments to these people [those who oppose development] that if they carry on writing letters their kids are never going to get a place with a garden to bring up their grandkids. The built environment can be more beautiful than nature and we shouldn't obsess about the fact that the only landscapes that are beautiful are open – sometimes buildings are better.'"

5) VOTE CARNEY 2018

The incoming governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, won't be serving a second term because he wants to be... prime minister of Canada. How do we know this? Mrs Carney says so, on Twitter. Yep. From the Times:

"Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada, was actively thinking about moving into politics over the summer and changed his mind only when a rival candidate declared his hand, according to reports endorsed by Diana Carney.

"John Ivison, a leading Canadian commentator, suggested in a article published yesterday that Mr Carney had calculated he had a one in four chance of becoming prime minister. Mrs Carney took to Twitter to praise it.

"'Thanks John, for the nice piece on Mark'. She also wrote: 'Canada is certainly a hard country to leave. But we will be back in 5.'

"The Liberal Party, the country’s centre-left opposition, has been in flux after suffering a heavy defeat in last year’s general election, providing a potential opening for Mr Carney.

"The decision of Justin Trudeau, the son of the former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, to run for the party’s leadership is said effectively to have killed that possibility. "

The thing is, if - if! - the UK economy he leaves behind in 2018 is a growth-free wreck, will the Canadian electorate want him?

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this clip, from Brazilian television, of a pretty disturbing 'ghost' prank played on unsuspecting members of the public. Jeremy Beadle, eat your heart out!

6) SICK CYRIL

From the Mirror:

"Monster MP Sir Cyril Smith was a paedophile who should have stood trial, authorities admitted yesterday.

"The Liberal Democrat was accused of molesting eight boys in a children's home in his constituency of Rochdale in the 1960s. It is now confirmed that the Crown Prosecution Service failed to prosecute Smith three times - in 1970, 1998 and 1999 - despite being passed files by the police.

"Greater Manchester Police said after yesterday's hearing that if the allegations had been made today they could have taken the case to court. The force has taken command of the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse made against the MP, who died in 2010."

7) DON'T MESS WITH LORD PATTEN

From the Huffington Post:

"'Do you want to know my toilet habits?' Lord Patten asked during a bad tempered exchange with Tory MP Philip Davies on Tuesday.

"Appearing before the Commons culture, media and sport committee, the chairman of the BBC Trust got into a series of tense arguments with Davies, who wanted to know exactly how many days he spent on his BBC job compared to his other roles.

"... 'If you think I am going to do a diary for you in order to satisfy some populist pursuit of somebody you didn't want to run an organisation which you don't want to exist, you are kidding yourself,' [Lord Patten] said.

"'I think it's a thoroughly impertinent question. I think you're entitled to know how much time I'm spending, I think you're entitled to put down freedom of information requests for how many days I spend in the office, or how many days I spend doing other things.'

"He added: 'Do you want to know my toilet habits? What else do you want to know?'

"Davies fought the apparent slapdown, saying: 'Given you have been presiding over a shambles at the BBC I think it's perfectly reasonable to say have you been actually putting in the hours, putting in the yard as you should have been as chairman of the BBC Trust.'

"Patten who was chairman of the Tory party in the early 1990s, also took the opportunity to take a swipe at his right-wing rival by reminding him that the last time the Tories won a general election was in 1992 - when he was chairman."

Boom!

8) SURPRISE, SURPRISE

From the Sun:

"UKIP last night soared to its highest poll rating in the wake of the fostering scandal.

"An exclusive YouGov poll for The Sun put the party on 11 per cent — up from eight per cent just two weeks ago.

"It comes as a huge boost ahead of tomorrow’s by-election in Rotherham, where a UKIP-supporting couple had their three foster kids taken away by the town’s Labour-run council and where the party hopes to win its first Commons seat."

9) YES TO STATEHOOD?

From the Daily Mail:

"Britain is preparing to recognise Palestine as a state in its own right, senior officials have revealed.

"Foreign Secretary William Hague will tell MPs tomorrow that the UK is willing to vote in favour of Palestinians having non-member status at the United Nations if their leaders agree to re-enter peace talks with Israel."

The report adds:

"The UK is also calling on the Palestinians to ditch calls for the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to include Israel, which is opposed by the Israeli government.

"Failure to tweak their motion would lead to Britain abstaining in Thursday’s landmark vote."

Now there's a slogan for you: 'Yes to statehood as long as you forget about those pesky war crimes committed against you'. Nice.

10) SAY SORRY, NADINE

From the Express:

"Nadine Dorries was told yesterday that she must 'show some contrition' after spurning the Commons for reality TV.

"The MP, suspended from the Parliamentary Conservative Party for taking part in I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!, had a 15-minute dressingdown with Tory Chief Whip Sir George Young.

"He told her she must mend fences with her Mid-Bedfordshire constituency party...

"Last night Ms Dorries insisted she and Sir George had 'a very happy meeting'."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Cyril Smith was a larger-than-life character and one of the most recognisable and likeable politicians of his day... Rochdale and Britain have sadly lost one of their great MPs, and I think we can safely say there will never be an MP quite like Cyril Smith again." - Nick Clegg, speaking after Smith's death in September 2010. Will he now disown those remarks?

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 31
Ukip 11
Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 120.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@BBCNormanS I'm told Nick Clegg believes an Ofcom style regulator for press wd be "too heavy handed" #leveson

@DPMcBride So the Min Unit Price is every bit the forerunner for Leveson; both impossible to enforce except through unacceptable means, so both DOA.

@DMiliband Thanks Louise for 14 special years. Happy anniversary!

900 WORDS OR MORE

John Kampfner, writing in the Guardian, says: "Statutory regulation would hinder still further journalists who preen too much and probe too little."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "At last, the Coalition is poised to end the dithering over properly funded social care."

Philip Stephens, writing in the FT, says Mark Carney's "problem now is that he is bound to disappoint. Unless by some miracle the British economy soon heads towards the sunlit uplands, those now so keen to lavish praise on Mr Carney will start asking whether Britain has got what it paid for."

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