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Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron Vs Everyone Else

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DAVID CAMERON
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Given Leveson dominates this morning's papers, here are the five, rather than the usual ten (!), things you need to know on Friday 30th November 2012...

1) CAMERON VS LEVESON/CLEGG/MILIBAND/VICTIMS

The Prime Minister's decision to reject the core proposal - an independent regulator backed by statute - of the judicial inquiry into the "culture, practice and ethics of the press" that he himself set up over a year ago dominates the papers' coverage of the Leveson Inquiry this morning.

The Prime Minister has the backing of a delighted press (shock! horror!) but his opponents now include his own deputy, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and victims' families, as well as Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lord Justice Leveson himself.

Cameron wants a new press regulator to be set up by the newspaper industry itself without any legislation - that, he said, would "be crossing the rubicon". Speaking in the Commons debate yesterday, Lib Dem party president Tim Farron said it was barely "crossing a brook". Leveson himself said a failure to legislate would mean newspaper proprietors and editors continuing to "mark their own homework".

The headlines on the front of this morning's papers make it clear that Cameron's position is now the story. The Guardian - which, incidentally, opposes statutory regulation and quietly supports the PM's stance - splashes on:

"PM defies press victims" (over a picture of Milly Dowler's parents)

The Times goes with:

"Cameron spikes Press law"

The FT splash says:

"Cameron faces fight on press law"

But the 'Award for Best Splash' has to go to the Independent which, noting Cameron's decision to reject Leveson's proposals despite the cost and length of the inquiry, has a picture of a portion of chips wrapped up in a copy of the inquiry report, next to the headline:

"Tomorrow's fish and chip paper"

Boom!

Remember: Cameron went out of his way to argue, in his testimony to the Leveson inquiry, that this process should be about "the victims", and not about politicians or the press; that the Leveson report would have to pass "the Dowler test". He also said, ahead of publication of the report, that he would implement the judge's proposals "unless they're bonkers". Well, they're not - and they do pass the Dowler test. But he's still not implementing them. The words "hoist" and "petard" come to mind.

Yesterday evening, the victims of press abuse and hacking queued up to give the prime minister a kicking. Ed Blum, a filmmaker who was a victim of phone-hacking, said Cameron had "let down the victims of press abuse" and "ripped out the heart and soul of the Leveson report".

7/7 survivor John Tulloch, whose phone was hacked, said he was "disgusted: with the prime minister: "Cameron has undoubtedly sided with the [press] barons and that's outrageous." Jane Winter, another hacking victim, said the PM had "gone back on his word and I feel betrayed... I'm afraid he knows who his friends are – his friends in the media – and he's not really concerned about the victims."

Writing in the Guardian, Steve Coogan, who told the Leveson Inquiry that journalists had been going through his rubbish bins, said Mr Cameron was "playing a despicable political game - disingenuous at best, bare-faced lying at worst. By rejecting Leveson's call for statutory regulation, Cameron has hung the victims of crime out to dry." Fellow actor Hugh Grant tweeted last night: "With a group of (non celeb) victims including Hillsborough families listening to PM. Buzzword is betrayal."

So, can Cameron stick to his guns on this or will he be forced to perform one of his now-infamous U-turns? I suppose it depends on how quickly the press can set up and implement its own Leveson-compliant 'independent' regulatory body. Meanwhile, the BBC reports:

"Following cross-party talks on Thursday night - which will resume next week - the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will begin the process of drawing up a draft bill implementing the Leveson recommendations.

"The prime minister believes this process will only serve to highlight how difficult it is to try to legislate in a complex and controversial area while Labour and the Lib Dems think it will demonstrate the opposite."

On a side note, why didn't Lord Justice Leveson say a little more about the crucial issue of media ownership, about the concentration of power and lack of plurality? Fleet Street legend Harold Evans - who, intriguingly, supports a regulator backed by statute - says, in a Guardian column:

"The biggest disappointment in Leveson is how far he skates over the crucial issue of ownership... It surely matters a great deal that the greatest concentration of the British press was achieved by a backroom deal that gave News International such sway over British public life."

(Disclaimer: I should here point out that the Huffington Post UK's own official position on press regulation is closer to David Cameron's than Ed Miliband's or Nick Clegg's.)

LOSING MY DEPOSIT

It's been a very bad night for the coalition parties and a pretty good night for Labour and Ukip. From the BBC:

"Labour has won three by-elections, holding Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham parliamentary seats.

"The UK Independence Party came second in Middlesbrough and Rotherham, and finished third behind the Conservatives in Croydon North.

The Tories and the Lib Dems did abysmally, even by mid-term standards. From the Times website:

"In Rotherham, support for UKIP, the BNP and Respect pushed the Conservatives into fifth place, and the Liberal Democrats into eighth. In Middlesbrough, the Lib Dems were third and the Conservatives fourth."

No major party has ever come eighth before, psephologist Professor John Curtice told the Today programme this morning. In fact, given the recent result in Corby, the Lib Dems seem to be getting a habit of losing their deposit; meanwhile, over in Rotherham, Ukip's leader Nigel Farage was over the moon: “Our previous best ever by-election result a fortnight ago was 14.3 per cent and this one is comfortably over 20 per cent. UKIP is on the rise.”

WELCOME TO THE UNITED NATIONS

From the Huffington Post:

"The United Nations has voted in favour of upgrading the status of Palestine from entity to non member state in spite of opposition from the US and Israel.

"Celebrations could be seen on the streets of Ramallah on the West Bank ahead of the vote, with the crowd erupting in cheers as the enhanced status was announced.

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the bid as the "last chance to save the two-state solution" with Israel.

"... It also allows Palestine to join UN bodies, including the International Criminal Court. There are concerns that Palestine might use their enhanced status to pursue Israel for alleged war crimes, pushing back the peace process.

"The UN's recognition of Palestine as a state is not the same as creation of a state and the vote does not mean Palestine is a full member of the UN."

Indeed. Ordinary Palestinians will have woken up this morning to discover that they are still an occupied people; UN 'statehood' doesn't change the the number of illegal settlers or checkpoints in the West Bank, nor does it soften the impact of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

It's worth noting which nine countries voted against the UN statehood bid: the United States, Israel, Canada, the Czech Rep, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama; together they represent just 5% of the world's population.

Oh, and where was Britain as this historic vote took place? Sitting firmly on the fence. Foreign secretary William Hague instructed Britain's ambassador to the United Nations to join 40 other nations in abstaining on Palestinian statehood.

As shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander put it last night:

"The British Government's decision to abstain is worse than a blunder. It is a historic misjudgment which will be interpreted as a sign not of influence but of irrelevance.

"The Palestinians right to a state is not a gift to be delivered but a right to be acknowledged."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a cat refusing to give up its toy to a little dog.

THE WAR ON FOREIGN STUDENTS

Boris Johnson may be out in India imploring young people in that country to come and study in London but the number of student visas handed out by the Tory-led coalition has fallen by a quarter; from the Independent:

"The Government's tough stance on immigration is deterring genuine students and damaging the economy, it was claimed last night, after of-ficial figures showed that migration to Britain fell by almost one-quarter over the last year.

"As new rules on student visas took effect, the net migration figure - the number arriving minus the number leaving - dropped to 183,000 in the year to March, compared with 242,000 for the 12 months to March 2011, the largest fall for four years.

"The figures will renew the Government's hopes that it can fulfil David Cameron's promise to reduce to "tens of thousands" the overall number of people settling in the UK by the next general election, in 2015.

"... Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, said the UK "risked deterring international students, damaging our higher education sector and giving the impression that Britain is not open to talent from across the world. We support the Government's desire to crack down on the minority of bogus students, but legitimate students are also being put off."

THE WAR ON BRADLEY MANNING

From the Guardian:

"After 917 days in military captivity, yesterday the world finally heard from Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being the source of the largest leak of government secrets in US history.

"In a dramatic opening half-hour of testimony on the third day of the pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade military base in Maryland, Manning spoke at length for the first time about the period after his arrest in May 2010.

"'I remember thinking I'm going to die. I'm stuck inside this cage,' Manning said in response to questions from his defence lawyer, David Coombs."

Manning wants to enter a guilty plea on seven lesser charges of disseminating classified documents but US officials have not yet said whether they'll continue prosecuting him on the other 15 counts, including "aiding the enemy", which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"He is the embodiment of Fleet Street bullying, using his newspaper to peddle his Little-England, curtain-twitching Alan Partridgesque view of the world, which manages to combine sanctimonious, pompous moralising and prurient, voyeuristic, judgmental obsession, like a Victorian father masturbating secretly in his bedroom." - Steve Coogan blasts Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in his Guardian column on the Leveson report.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 10
Ukip 10

That would give Labour a majority of 112.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@stephenfry It would seem David Cameron's address is no longer Number 10 Downing Street: it's now Flat 2, Rupert Murdoch's arse. #leveson

@DouglasCarswell So. After Rotherham, are we still so sure of that no-pact-with-UKIP-under-any-circumstances thing? Tactics ain't strategy, folk.

@Kevin_Maguire Wonder if Rotherham's 22% will prove Ukip's parliamentary high water mark. The Faragists will never be dealt a better hand

900 WORDS OR MORE

Nick Davies, writing in the Guardian, says: "Coverage about 'imposing a government leash on papers' has proved to be no more than froth on the lips of propagandists."

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "David Cameron's gamble in siding with the press over Leveson's recommendations could backfire."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Cameron’s Tory principles are protecting our ancient liberties."

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