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Mehdi's Morning Memo: Ukip Up, Ukip Down

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As I'm about to run off to debate Tory MP Chris Skidmore on welfare reform on BBC1's Sunday Politics at 11am, here are the five (not ten! Sorry!) things you need to know on Sunday 16th December 2012...

1) UKIP UP, UKIP DOWN

The Sunday Mirror has some very good news for Nigel Farage and co:

"The UK Independence Party has soared to its highest poll rating and pushed Nick Clegg's Lib Dems into fourth place.

"The Sunday Mirror/ComRes survey puts Ukip on 14 per cent... a huge five points ahead of the Lib Dems, who are on a lowly nine per cent.

"Support for Ukip has surged by six per cent since our survey last month to give the party their biggest lead in any major poll over the Lib Dems."

So Ukip can now claim it is Britain's third party. However, the Observer has some bad news for the Ukip leader (and we all knew this was coming, right?):

"Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, is facing new accusations of homophobia in his party over its links with anti-gay, far-right European politicians and claims that he has backed a populist Polish priest who describes homosexual men as "sodomites".

"... While Farage is keen to portray Ukip as tolerant of gay people at home, investigations by the Observer show that it is in alliance in the European parliament with parties containing politicians who have expressed open hostility to homosexuals. Farage himself has been linked to a campaign in Poland supportive of hardline Catholic media outlets that are strongly critical of homosexuality."

But back to the good news - for Ukip, that is. According to the Sunday Telegraph, :

"David Cameron's determination to legalise same-sex marriage is driving Conservative supporters from the party and 'playing into the hands of Ukip', senior Tories warn today.

"Conservative associations say supporters have quit the party in recent weeks over plans to introduce homosexual weddings by early 2014. Local party leaders fear that older activists will be unwilling to campaign in the next general election, having an impact on votes.

"... In a survey of 38 association chairmen conducted by The Sunday Telegraph, 21 said they personally opposed homosexual weddings."

2) THE GREAT DECOUPLING

From the Independent on Sunday:

"David Cameron and Nick Clegg have already begun to decouple their parties from coalition in readiness to fight the next election, senior Tory and Lib Dem sources revealed last night. The Prime Minister and his new strategist, Lynton Crosby, are to start formal Conservative election campaign meetings next month, while Mr Clegg will begin to put distance between his party and the Tories in a major speech tomorrow with the clear declaration: 'Our offer is different from that of the Conservatives.'"

The problem for the Lib Dems is that on the biggest issue of them all - austerity - their offer isn't "different" at all...

3) RIGHTS OR WRONGS?

Talking of potential coalition splits, here's the splash from the Sunday Telegraph:

"A major Government-sponsored report to be published on Tuesday was originally designed to set out how the United Kingdom's human rights regime should be set apart from Europe's following a series of controversies.

... However, The Sunday Telegraph has established that the Commission for a Bill of Rights is fatally split ahead of publication and may even bring out a minority report along with its majority findings.

Some members of the commission are understood to be pushing for even more human rights to be enshrined in British legislation.

... Tories are furious that the commission appears to have been hijacked by lawyers with a pro-Brussels stance and Liberal Democrats."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch the 47 funniest (US) political videos of the year.

4) WHITEHALL'S WAGES

From the Observer:

"The campaign to pay a 'living wage' to all public sector workers gained momentum as two more government departments indicated that they hoped to introduce it.

"At the same time, a cleaner who was moved from the office of the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, for asking for enough to live on was on the verge of being offered his job back.

"... Although all three main political parties support raising the pay of low earners, the DWP is the only central government department to announce that it will actually introduce the living wage. However, the Observer has learned that the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice might soon follow suit. An MoJ spokesperson said: "Where possible, we will be encouraging the payment of the living wage when agreeing future contracts, subject to this being the best value for money for the taxpayer."

"Meanwhile, Valdemar Ventura, who was transferred from Clegg's office - much to the Liberal Democrat leader's dismay - after joining the campaign for a living wage, heard on Friday that he will be reinstated to his Cabinet Office cleaning post, subject to formalities and that he agrees to abide by security regulations. Ventura was transferred from the job after leaving a polite note on Clegg's desk urging action on the living wage. The Lib Dem leader subsequently wrote to the boss of the cleaning company employing him, to urge that he be allowed to return to his duties."

5) PORN, PARENTS AND PERRY

From the BBC:

"Ministers have rejected plans to automatically block internet access to pornography on all computers, saying the move is not widely supported.

"A public consultation found 35% of parents wanted an automatic bar while 15% wanted some content filtered, and an option to block other material.

"But the government says internet providers should encourage parents to switch on parental controls.

"Claire Perry, the MP who led the campaign, said she was 'disappointed'."

Perry, the combative Conservative MP for Devizes in Wiltshire, is of course the backbencher who (in)famously declared:

"What have I got to do to be called by the Speaker? Give him a b*** j**?"

Ahem...

QUOTE UNQUOTE

Quote of the week: "Thanks for reminding me that my Europe speech remains as yet unmade. This is a tantric approach to policy-making: it'll be even better when it does eventually come." - David Cameron puts an audience of political journalists off their lunch, earlier this week.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sunday Mirror/ComRes poll:

Labour 39
Conservatives 28
Ukip 14
Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 110.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@MarrShow @MayorofLondon tells the #marrshow we have been sending out negative messages about talented people coming to London.

@DAaronovitch I'm afraid, that in the absence of any new insight, the coverage of the #Newtown tragedy is beginning to feel like emotional pornography.

@RobbieGibb On the Sunday Politics @mehdirhasan and @Chrisskidmoremp go head to head on the future of welfare with @afneil 11am BBC1 #bbcsp

900 WORDS OR MORE

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "David Cameron's cold feet about televised leaders' debates suggest a new respect for his Labour opposite number."

Janet Daley, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "The commitment to gay marriage is seen, preposterously, by George Osborne and David Cameron as some sort of analogue with the Blairite renunciation of Labour's Clause Four."

John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "The Liberal Democrats are still in deep trouble. But they do have a plan and it is not stupid."

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