Mehdi's Morning Memo: 2020? You'll Be Lucky

Posted: Updated:
DAVID CAMERON
AP

The five things you need to know on Sunday 6th January 2013...

1) 2020? You'll Be Lucky

Dozens of Tory backbenchers - as well as the mayor of London - will have groaned this morning when they looked at the splash headline on the front of the Sunday Telegraph:

"Cameron: I want to lead country until at least 2020"

The prime minister has done an interview with the paper's political columnist, and card-carrying Cameroon, Matthew D'Ancona:

"'Yes - look, I want to fight the next election, win the next election and serve - that is what I want to do,' he said, when asked if he would stay as Prime Minister until 2020.

"Mr Cameron rarely discusses his planned departure date, which has prompted speculation that if re-elected in 2015, he would stand down midway through the Parliament, clearing the way for leadership contenders such as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and George Osborne. However, such a strategy is quashed in today's interview."

There is, of course, a teeny-weeny, iddy-biddy problem with Cameron's "Seven More Years!" call, which D'Ancona himself identifies in his column today:

"Cameron has a mountain to climb if he is to win an outright majority in 2015 – the steepness of which is currently the matter of intense debate among pollsters."

As 2013 kicks off, the polls don't look so good for Dave (see item number 2, below). The PM, however, uses his newspaper interview to make more 'centrist' noises: re-pledging his support for gay marriage and foreign aid and mounting a 'progressive' defence of the government's cut to child benefit for high-earners.

And, speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme this morning, Cameron said he didn't think "it would be right" for the UK to quit the EU and denied that his ministers had been engaging in a 'strivers vs shirkers' campaign in order to sell the coalition's welfare cuts to the public:

"I don't accept that's how we sold it."

NOTE: This Memo's 'five things you need to know' will revert to being 'ten things' tomorrow morning, when MPs return to Westminster.

2) 'THE BIG LIE'

Hey Labour chaps and chapesses - need some ammo ahead of Tuesday's Commons vote on the benefits uprating bill? Check out this exclusive report in today''s Observer:

"Half a million soldiers, nurses and teachers will have their income slashed under the coalition's benefits crackdown, according to a new report. The chancellor's sub-inflation rise in benefits and tax credits over the next three years will hit a whole range of the country's most trusted professionals.

"Up to 40,000 soldiers, 300,000 nurses and 150,000 primary and nursery school teachers will lose cash, in some cases many hundreds of pounds, according to the Children's Society. The revelation appears to contradict the government's stated intention to target shirkers and scroungers, and will raise the temperature of the Commons debate and vote on the plan on Tuesday.

Hmm. Gideon's "trap" for the opposition continues to backfire on the chancellor's own welfare-obsessed government. And the rhetoric continues to ratchet up - the Obs has obtained this rather explosive quote from the shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne:

"Iain Duncan Smith is going to come to the House of Commons this week and say this bill is all about punishing Britain's shirkers and scroungers, when that is a big lie. This is about an attack on Britain's working families."

Gideon and IDS - over to you.

3) HERE COMES UKIP

From the Mail on Sunday:

"Ed Miliband is on course to record a thumping victory at the next General Election owing to a surge in popularity for the anti-Brussels UKIP party.

"The dramatic rise in Ukip support will cost David Cameron a staggering 51 seats at the next Election, giving Labour an overall majority of 94 seats, according to survey for The Mail on Sunday.

"Support for Ukip, led by maverick Nigel Farage, has soared from 3 per cent in 2010 to an all-time high of 16 per cent in the Survation poll, transforming the likely outcome of the next Election, due in 2015.

"... Tory victims would include Ministers Chloe Smith and Brandon Lewis, and rising star Jacob Rees-Mogg."

Oh dear. Cue lots of hand-wringing and Europhobia on the Tory backbenches...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a woman 'dancing like nobody's watching'... in the middle of a busy airport!

4) THE BLAIR BOOM

From the Sunday Telegraph front page:

"Profits at one of Tony Blair's businesses tripled last year, and the former prime minister plans expansion.

"Windrush Ventures - which is thought to handle fees from his Government Advisory Practice - increased profits from £1.1million in 2011 to £3.6 million.

The Sunday Times notes:

"Blair uses an elaborate group of companies and partnerships for his worldwide operations, but does not disclose earnings from either his foreign government advisory service or his business consultancy, Tony Blair Associates.

"... Blair is reluctant to provide information on his list of clients, but The Sunday Times revealed last year how he had negotiated a new advisory contract with Kazakhstan. Blair's team is advising on public procurement, regulatory reform and green growth."

Good to see the ex-PM so focused on his role as Middle East 'peace envoy' and so committed to his liberal-democratic principles, eh?

5) PLANES, TRAINS AND... GOVERNMENT LIMOS

Hats off to Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, whose parliamentary question produced the Mail on Sunday's splash:

"The Minister for rail fares is being chauffeured to and from work each day – so he can avoid the overcrowded trains he is responsible for.

"Simon Burns is ferried the 35 miles between his Essex home and his Whitehall office in the comfort of a Government car which costs the taxpayer £80,000 a year.

"The expensive perk sparked outrage from fellow politicians and from commuters reeling from last week’s inflation-busting fare rises."

My favourite bit of this glorious piece? The minister's 'explanation':

"He claimed he took the £400-a-day car from his Chelmsford home only because he was barred from working on his Red Box of official Ministerial papers on the train for security reasons.

"But he was immediately contradicted by the Cabinet Office, which said Ministers could work on papers in public as long as they ensured sensitive material could not be seen."

Whoops.

Say it with me: "We're all in this together!"

PLUG ALERT: I will be on the Sky News 'Murnaghan' show later this morning, at 11:30am, discussing the political year ahead with Isabel Hardman and Kirsty Buchanan.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Mail on Sunday/Survation poll of the year:

Labour 38
Conservatives 29
Ukip 16
Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 94.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@Mike_Fabricant Conservatives need to a clear policy and referendum on Europe if UKIP challenge is to be countered. Cannot bury heads in the sand about this

@paulwaugh Cam on EU "I don't think it would be right for Britain" to quit EU altogether. #marr

‏@MichaelDugherMP Summary of Cameron's Sunday Telegraph interview: 1.My critics should stop complaining & 2.I'm here til 2020 #GoodLuckWithThat #OutOfTouch

900 WORDS OR MORE

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "The chancellor's cunning plan to embarrass the opposition could end up being very costly for the Conservatives."

Janet Daley, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "The Tories can win if they put real people first... Voters worry about the cost of living and immigration controls, not gay marriage."

George Osborne, writing in the Mail on Sunday, says: "This week my family will not receive the child benefit we’ve been getting every week since our children were born... I am determined that our children should not be saddled with paying off the bills our generation has racked up."

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