The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 20th December 2012...
1) YOU'VE BEEN FRAMED, POSSIBLY
Did police officers conspire to drive Andrew Mitchell out of the cabinet? A meticulously produced report from Channel 4 appears to cast serious doubt over some of the claims made against the former chief whip during the “plebgate” saga that forced him to resign.
CCTV footage broadcast last night [watch it here] appears to contradict an eyewitness account of Mitchell’s supposed expletive ridden tirade. For one, the video shows there are not really any people by the gates with eyes to witness anything.
The other key allegation is that the man who wrote a cabinet career ending letter to his MP claiming to be a member of the public who observed Mitchell ranting at police – is actually a police officer.
The angle and distance of the cameras, and lack of sound, mean it is impossible to work out definitively what Mitchell says to police as he tries to get out of Downing Street.
But Mitchell argues the footage proves he did not say the “toxic phrases” such as “pleb” due to his body language. What recognized stance one assumes while shouting class-based insults at police officers however is unclear. Whatever it is, Mitchell insists it is not: ‘wheel-bike-calmly-towards-gate-then-resign-weeks-later’.
Perhaps Mitchell could even be ‘unsacked’ and return to government as police minister. Because that would be fun.
Today’s Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan is busy scouring hours of HuffPost CCTV footage to see who stole his Christmas jumper. On an unrelated note, does anyone want a jumper? @nedsimons with offers.
2) AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL
David Cameron is expected to tells MPs later today that up to 4,000 British troops could return from Afghanistan next year.
The prime minister is reported to have agreed with president Obama during a video-conference last night that there are "further opportunities" for troops to be brought home over the next 12 months.
"On Afghanistan, they discussed progress on the plan to hand security responsibility from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the Afghan National Security Forces, and agreed that the Nato strategy to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 was on track," Downing Street said.
3) VERY IMPORTANT PERSONS VISIT WESTMINSTER
The Queen visited the cabinet yesterday and got some place mats and half a continent named after her. Tony Blair had lunch with journalists in parliament a couple of hours later and they gave him nothing. How rude. He gave little back however, as he insisted on avoiding the crafty question traps set for him, including: “say something bad about Ed Miliband.” Damn him.
Spotted on the BBC 10 o’clock news: Serious political reporters messing about outside No.10 after leaving a drinks reception.
4) THE LAST PMQS OF 2012
It’s the last prime minister’s questions of 2012 today. Both Ed Miliband and David Cameron will want to end on a high. Last year the prime minister got the better of the Labour leader by hitting back at suggestions the coalition parties were split, with the retort: “It's not that bad, it's not like we're brothers or anything." Miliband has had a good year however and could clinch it with a top end gag – as long as it is not that grim one about Cameron’s “tantric” approach to the EU he trailed last week in the Commons.
What we want to see: Cameron and Miliband pull a giant Christmas cracker across the Despatch Box. The one who gets the half with the joke, little toy and hat in it gets to be prime minister for 2013.
Also, the first MP to make an awful Christmas Scrooge joke about the coalition cutting benefits gets a lump of coal. Father Christmas is watching.
5) US WANTS UK IN EU, OK?
The Daily Telegraph reports Barack Obama raised concerns over Eurosceptic rhetoric in a video conference call with the prime minister on Tuesday. And the necessity of Britain remaining inside the EU was, according to the paper, at the top of the agenda when US security officials visited Downing Street this week. A US administration official told Daily Telegraph: "It is important to state very clearly that a strong UK in a strong Europe is in America's national interest.”
The news the United States government is not too keen on Ukip will not be good news to Nigel Farage. But then, at least one of his candidates for office wasn’t caught advocating compulsory abortions of disabled foetuses. Oh no. Wait a second…
6) DEMOCRATS TARGET GUNS
WASHINGTON -- House Democrats say they've seen a groundswell of support within their caucus for legislation that would prohibit the manufacturing of high-capacity magazines, Sam Stein reports. At least two lawmakers are planning to push for a vote on such legislation before the year ends.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Congresswoman Diana DeGette said that she now has approximately 125 co-sponsors on the bill in the US House of Representatives. "I'm not so naïve as to think that we can pass some law that will stop a deranged person from taking a gun and shooting people," the Colorado Democrat said. "What I am interested in is making it as difficult as possible for that deranged person to shoot as many people as possible."
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7) 'RACE IS NOT ON THE AGENDA'
The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has accused ministers of squandering advances in race relations. In an interview with The Guardian, Doreen Lawrence says, "race is definitely not on the government's agenda”.
She adds: "I don't really understand it because we all want a society in which we can live safely and live freely and to have police officers doing what they need to do on the street. But when it comes to race, they feel as if they are doing us a favour rather than doing what is right."
8) LIBOR SCANDAL
Swiss bank UBS has agreed to pay £940 million to regulators in the biggest penalty yet from the industry's Libor-rigging scandal.
The settlement, which includes a record fine of £160 million from the UK's Financial Services Authority, is far larger than the total of £290 million paid by Barclays for Libor manipulation this summer. The Zurich-based bank, which has around 6,500 staff in London, has endured a turbulent year after the jailing of rogue trader Kweku Adoboli.
9) SAVILE REPORT DUE
A review into why Newsnight shelved a report into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile will be released on Wednesday. Top BBC executives and journalists on the flagship current affairs show have given evidence into why a planned programme on the DJ did not go ahead.
The BBC has repeatedly denied claims it axed the show because it clashed with planned tributes to Savile, after his death in 2011.Figures including director of news Helen Boaden, Newsnight editor Peter Rippon and former director-general Mark Thompson are reported to have been questioned as part of the review which is carried out by ex-Sky News executive Nick Pollard.
10) THE OTHER UNION
Unionist peers rounded on the Scottish Secretary yesterday for refusing to approach the European Union's governing body for advice on Scotland's future.
Michael Moore has been accused of adopting a "puzzling, unsustainable and totally irresponsible position" by refusing to approach the European Commission (EC) for confirmation of what would happen if Scotland became independent.
Moore argued that there was no need to speak to the EC given the amount of information in the public domain already, including a letter to the committee by EC president Jose Manuel Barroso which suggested Scotland would have to reapply to the EU as a new member state.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@Jeremy_Hunt Incredibly concerned at v serious C4 Dispatches suggestion that A Mitchell was stitched up, never believed he used p-word anyway
@Mike_Fabricant A question that also needs to be answered: IF the police made the whole thing up, and they still deny it, what would be their motivation???
@dinarickman Not a bad thing to find on your desk at 7am http://lockerz.com/s/270098694
900 WORDS OR MORE
Keir Starmer in The Times: "Don’t confuse cyber-stalking with mere insults, my new guidelines for prosecuting abuse on social media will protect freedom of speech ."
Rafael Behr in the New Statesman: "The F-word that backbench Tories use when talking about Cameron’s Europe policy. Cameron's hope of a fantastic compromise over Britain's EU membership is fantasy."
Donald Macintyre in the Independent: "It did seem rather a lot of trouble to go to just to acquire a new set of place mats."
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