Mehdi's Morning Memo: The Tories Vs The Police

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ANDREW MITCHELL
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The ten things you need to know on Thursday 20th December 2012...

1) THE TORIES VS THE POLICE

Amusing to see how the Tories are falling over each other to declare their shock and horror - shock! horror! - that the police might not be the paragons of virtue, probity and honesty that they have always assumed them to be. Shocked Tory MPs should, perhaps, have a word with the victims of Hillsborough and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes...

From the Times splash:

"The row between the Conservatives and the police over Andrew Mitchell deepened yesterday when MPs questioned the credibility of the officers’ log at the centre of the “Plebgate” saga.

"David Davis, a senior Tory MP, said that the official record of the former Chief Whip’s brush with police officers in Downing Street contained a falsehood that would not stand up in court. The account was tainted because CCTV footage challenged its assertion that there were shocked witnesses, he added.

"The Tories also seized on the timing of a now discredited e-mail that helped to bring down Mr Mitchell as pointing to police collusion. The e-mail was sent by an officer posing as a passer-by before the police claims that Mr Mitchell had called them “f***ing plebs” became public.

"... Scotland Yard suggested that the 30 officers conducting a “large scale and complex investigation” would take well into the new year before they reached conclusions."

Might Mitchell now be able return to government in the next reshuffle? It could be difficult: he did, after all, admit to swearing at the police, plus it was Downing Street that seems to have orchestrated his apology - and resignation.

Then again, if expenses cheat David Laws can come back, anyone can come back...

NOTE: This is the last Morning Memo email of 2012. Not because the world is going to end tomorrow - sorry Mayans! - but because I'm taking a break. I'll be back with your free, daily-morning, read-all-the-papers service on 2 January 2013. Happy holidays!

2) TO SACK OR NOT TO SACK?

The Telegraph is outraged at the BBC's failure to get sacking, despite two damning reviews published yesterday into the Saville and McAlpine affairs.

From the paper's front-page story:

"The BBC yesterday failed to sack a single executive, despite admitting that a lack of leadership left it in such a state of “chaos” that it was “completely incapable” of dealing with the Jimmy Savile sex abuse allegations.

"... Six senior executives and editors were singled out for criticism in the reports – the findings of which were accepted by the BBC in full – but none have been fired. Two have quit, three are being moved into new positions in the BBC and one has kept her job.

But the BBC's acting director-general, Tim Davie, was defiant: "Succes for me is not necessarily how many people I dismiss," he said yesterday.

And, in a powerful column in today's Guardian, former BBC World Tonight presenter Robin Lustig writes:

"As for the calls from politicians and pundits for more scalps, how many newspaper editors quit after they libelled the parents of Madeleine McCann by in effect accusing them of her murder? How many 'decided to retire' after branding the wholly innocent Christopher Jeffries a killer? The BBC Trust said in its response to Pollard: 'The BBC portrayed (in the report) is not fundamentally flawed, but has been chaotic.'"

3) SQUEEZE BENEFITS? MAYBE NOT.

Hey, Gideon, how's that 'trap' you set for Labour working out for you?

From the Independent:

"George Osborne has failed to win the support of the majority of the public for his decision to squeeze most state benefits, according to a survey for The Independent.

"... according to ComRes, the public is split down the middle. While 49 per cent agree that the Government is right, a surprisingly high 43 per cent disagree and eight per cent say they don't know. The benefit uprating Bill will be published today and Labour will vote against it in the Commons in the new year."

Just wait for the polling results once the benefit cuts actually kick in from January and then April...

4) AUSTERITY WATCH, PART 779

From the Times:

"Millions of families could face council tax increases of up to 2 per cent next April after a decision to cut local government spending by 6 per cent next year.

"Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, announced reductions in individual grants ranging from 3 per cent to 8.8 per cent with the greatest squeeze in northern areas.

"The announcement brought a warning from the leaders of England’s biggest cities of a 'looming financial crisis' where vital services could no longer be protected."

Merry Christmas, eh? The Guardian reports:

"Pickles published a government document outlining 50 ways in which councils could save money, including scrapping the post of chief executive, cutting translation services by printing official documents in English only, opening coffee shops in libraries, and banning the provision of mineral water at council meetings."

If he thinks such gimmicks will cover the billions lost in local government budget cuts then coalition ministers are more financially illiterate than even I'd assumed...

5) BADDY BANKERS, EPISODE 955

From the Guardian front page:

"The first criminal charges in the Libor scandal were brought yesterday just hours after the Swiss bank UBS was fined $1.2bn (£940m) by global regulators for manipulating the key rate and making corrupt payments to brokers.

... The £160m portion of the fine levied by the Financial Services Authority is the largest ever imposed by the City regulator, surpassing the £59.5m imposed on Barclays in June for attempted manipulation of the Libor and Euribor rates.

... Just as the Barclays case revealed traders promising each other Bollinger champagne, the emails and phone calls published by regulators in relation to UBS asked brokers to be 'superman ... be a hero today' in helping to fix Libor. An electronic chat described a UBS trader and two traders at two unnamed banks being described as the three 'muscateers' (sic)."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a spider doing the rumba.

6) FAREWELL PMQS

Yesterday was the final Prime Minister's Questions of 2012.

Writing in the Guardian, sketch writer Simon Hoggart observes:

"The last prime minister's questions before Christmas is always like an amateur pantomime. We used to have an amateur panto where we live, and it was a lot better than the one the Commons puts on.

"At commercial pantos these days they have sponsors and someone in the cast throws the product into the audience.

"That's fine when it's Cadbury's.

"But sitting in the gallery is like being hit by a shower of baked bean tins or Toilet Ducks.

"Labour had its own vision of Christmas and it owed more to Dickens than Disney. Ed Miliband said there had been a sixfold increase in food banks. David Cameron welcomed this: "It is part of what I call the big cociety!" he said.

"The opposition jeered at the notion that soup kitchens might be bad for the poor but a great opportunity for Lady Bountiful. "I never thought that the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain," Miliband said."

7) HEY BRIAN - WAIT TILL 2013

The Indy's political editor Andy Grice has this report in the i:

"David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband edged closer to an agreement on how to implement the Leveson report on press standards when they held private talks yesterday.

"Although no deal will be reached by the Christmas deadline set by Labour, party differences narrowed in what Downing Street described as 'constructive' negotiations. They will resume in the new year.

"Mr Cameron wants to use a Royal Charter to create a body to oversee a new independent self-regulatory system to be set up by newspapers."

Grice adds:

"Downing Street sources confirmed that Mr Cameron had a lengthy conversation with Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, at a party in his Oxfordshire constituency last weekend - their first meeting since she was charged with offences relating to phone hacking."

LOL.

8) ENERGY RIP-OFF

Hey Dave, what can you do about this energy-price story?

From the Telegraph:

"Householders are being misled by advertisements from energy firms that claim to save them money if they switch accounts, but can actually end up costing them more, according to Which?.

"The consumer group said the confusing "special offers" had contributed to a collapse in trust. One British Gas advert offered £125 off a gas bill for switching to the company.

"Which? said the discount applied only to British Gas's "dual fuel standard tariff", which was £157 more expensive than the cheapest tariff on the market.

"British Gas disagreed with the findings."

I bet they did...

9) THE CURSE OF 'B'

Peter Oborne, in his Telegraph column today, seems to have spotted a rather alarming connection between Cameron's backbench critics:

"The backbench rebels (an unfeasibly large number of whom have surnames which begin with the letter B – Binley, Bray, Burns, Baker, Baron, Bingham, Bone, Bridgen, Burley, Bebb, Blackman, Blackwood, Brady, Brazier, Brine, Byles) appear to have fallen for the illusion that if only the Conservatives move sharply to the Right before the next election, all will be well and a tremendous victory will be won."

Unless I'm mistaken, there doesn't seem to be anyone in Cameron's cabinet whose surname begins with the letter 'B'. Convenient...

10) OBAMA VS SPIDERMAN

Forget the fiscal cliff: not long ago, the White House official photographer Pete Souza captured the President of the United States getting... captured: by a mini-Spiderman's imaginary web. Check out the amusing pic, which went viral yesterday:

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QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Can I ask what films he'll be watching at Christmas? The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, starring the Chancellor? The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring the Lib Dems? Or It's Not a Wonderful Life for the Poor, starring the Prime Minister himself?" - Labour MP Kevin Brennan has some fun at David Cameron's expense, at yesterday's PMQs.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 30
Lib Dems 11
Ukip 10

That would give Labour a majority of 122.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@MarkReckless Mitchell saga owes much to another monumentally useless performance by Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood. Time for the PM to take charge

@EricPickles Congratulations to Windsor and Maidenhead for scraping the post of Chief Executive, good to see a council protecting the front line

@StewartWood From The Sun, 2012's Best Leading Question: "When asked whether the Govt shd borrow more to fund unlimited rises in benefits, 80% disagreed"

900 WORDS OR MORE

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "The storm drowned out the story - and Mitchell has every right to be angry."

Martin Kettle, writing in the Guardian, asks: "Is plebgate a product of the push for police reform?"

Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The Tory leader David Cameron can do nothing to satisfy his selfish MPs. The only winner is Ed Miliband."

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