The ten things you need to know on Friday 11 January 2013...
1% FOR YOU, 32% FOR US
Who says MPs are out of touch, eh? From the Mirror's splash:
"Grasping MPs sparked fury yesterday - by demanding a £20,000 pay rise.
"A poll showed 69% thought their £65,738 salary was not enough.
"Just days after capping benefits and branding hard-up families scroungers, they whined that they should get an average 32% increase."
That would take their salary to £86,250. According to the Guardian, the survey of MPs carried out by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) found that Conservatives - the guys and girls behind the below-inflation 1% rise in benefits - were "the most likely to believe they were underpaid, with 47% saying so, while 39% of Labour MPs and 9% of Liberal Democrats held the same view".
Personally, I think there is a case to be made for higher salaries for MPs - but clearly now is not the time to make it. It's difficult to disagree with Unison's Dave Prentis: "At a time when millions of workers are getting zero pay rises, the idea that MPs believe they deserve a 32 per cent increase is living in cloud cuckoo land."
2) HERE COME THE GERMANS
First, Barack, now Angela. From the Times:
"David Cameron's hopes of negotiating looser ties between Britain and Brussels are all but impossible, according to an ally of Angela Merkel.
"Gunther Krichbaum, chairman of the Bundestag's European Affairs Committee, said that the Prime Minister's strategy was unwise and risked opening a Pandora's box that would threaten European stability.
"He also urged Mr Cameron not to "blackmail" the rest of Europe with threats as he tries win opt-outs from EU treaties."
The paper notes how his intervention comes "after President Obama's Assistant Secretary of State for Europe warned that Britain would be diminished in America's eyes if it marginalised itself within the EU.
"The flurry of diplomatic activity underlines the high stakes for Mr Cameron and his Europe policy with Britain's closest allies. The Prime Minister will promise a referendum in the next Parliament on a new relationship with the EU in a speech this month."
However, the Sun reports that
"David Cameron will hit back at President Obama’s attack on his EU referendum plan by unveiling a major European ally — the Dutch.
"The Sun has learned the PM will spell out his vision of a post-crisis Europe on January 22.
"And he will almost certainly make the speech in The Hague. Dutch leader Mark Rutte will back his bid to fight for powers and money to be returned to nation states."
3) GIVE MONEY, GET A JOB
You could not make this up. From the Independent:
"A Conservative Party donor and venture capitalist whose charity funds two academy schools was appointed an education minister today.
"Labour raised questions about a possible conflict of interest after John Nash was named as the successor to Lord Hill of Oareford, who was promoted to Leader of the Lords on Monday following the surprise resignation of Lord Strathclyde.
"Mr Nash, his family and companies have donated about Â£300,000 to the Conservatives since the mid-1980s. The charity he founded, Future, sponsors the Pimlico Academy and Millbank Primary Academy in London. He is a former chairman of the British Venture Capital Association."
Nash will be made a peer but won't take a salary and won't take any decisions in which his charity is involved.
Well, that's okay then.
4) BLAIR'S BANKING UNION
There was a time, not so long ago, when Tony Blair had to make do with a modest MP's salary.
Nowadays, however, as the Times reports, the ex-premier is able to do things like this:
"Tony Blair is in talks about a commercial alliance with one of the most highly paid bankers in the world.
"The combination would bring together Michael Klein's unrivalled contacts in global finance with the former Prime Minister's relationships in politics and government, particularly in the Middle East.
"The discussions, which could lead to a merger of their companies, highlight Mr Blair's ambitions for his commercial operations, which generate millions of pounds a year from advising governments and companies around the world.
The paper says "Mr Klein was co-head of Citigroup's investment bank, which made billions of dollars of losses on holdings of mortgage securities in the financial crisis".
A shameless alliance? You tell me.
5) 'SOCIAL ENGINEERING'
The former defence secretary and darling of the Tory right, Dr Liam Fox, has written a letter to 60 constituents. So what, I hear you ask?
Let the Daily Mail explain:
"Liam Fox has become the most prominent Conservative yet to announce that he will vote against gay marriage.
"The former defence secretary dismissed David Cameron's 'absurd' plans as a form of 'social engineering' that is 'divisive, ill-thought through and constitutionally wrong'.
"In a letter seen by the Daily Mail, Dr Fox said same-sex unions will alienate Conservative Party members and weaken the Church.
"He warned that pressing ahead with plans to introduce gay marriage is enraging 'sections of the British public who are not normally stirred to political anger', and called for a rethink before 'things get out of hand'."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR..
Watch this video of two cats sharing one bowl of food. Go on, you know you want to..
6) PHONE HACKING, PART 557
The Guardian splashes on "the first hacking conviction":
"Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, 53, was found guilty of misconduct in public office at Southwark crown court after the jury decided she had tried to sell information from the phone-hacking inquiry, which was set up in 2010, to the News of the World."
Meanwhile, my colleague Ned Simons reports:
"The government will look 'absurd' if it rejects the Leveson Report’s recommendations for the regulation of the press in favour of a Royal Charter, a former chairman of the Conservative Party has said.
"Lord Fowler, also a former chairman of the House of Lords Communications Committee, has urged David Cameron to reverse his opposition to Lord Justice wrLeveson’s suggestion for the statuatory underpinning of the independent self-regulation of the press.
"On Friday peers will debate the Leveson Report, the recommendations of which has split parliament, the coalition and the Tory party down the middle."
7) WERE THE CURTAINS DRAWN, MATTHEW?
From the Daily Mail:
"Skills Minister Matthew Hancock missed his chance to publicise a flagship policy to help unemployed youths become more employable - by oversleeping.
"The red-faced minister was spurned by ITV's Daybreak after he was late for his primetime breakfast slot just before 7am.
"He has admitted that he could not get out of bed on time, despite the broadcaster sending a chauffeur-driven executive car to get him from his West London home."
8) 'THE RAPE OF JUSTICE'
A shocking story on the front of the Independent (with an eye-catching infographic as its image):
"Fewer than one rape victim in 30 can expect to see her or his attacker brought to justice, shocking new statistics reveal.
"Only 1,070 rapists are convicted every year despite up to 95,000 people – the vast majority of them women – suffering the trauma of rape – according to the new research by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics.
"The figures have reignited controversy over the stubbornly low conviction rates for sex crimes, as well as the difficulties in persuading victims to go to police in the first place."
9) 'BARBARIC SLAUGHTER'
Is Pakistan's Sunni majority engaged in a war on its Shia minority? From the Guardian:
"The vicious double bombing of a snooker club capped one of the bloodiest days in Pakistan for many months yesterday, leaving more than 100 people dead and hundreds injured in three different attacks.
".. Many of the dead and wounded, Murtaza said, were from the Shia sect of Islam, which extremist groups drawn from Pakistan's majority Sunni population regard as heretics.
"Shias, many of whom are members of the Hazara ethnic community in Quetta, have been particularly targeted by sectarian terror groups. Human Rights Watch said the government's failure to protect Shias 'amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens.'"
10) 'ONESIE NATION' LIB DEMS
'Call Clegg' on LBC yesterday morning didn't go so well for the deputy prime minister. Even though he had a little 'help' from his friends..
From the Daily Mail:
"After half an hour of tough questioning, Nick Clegg must have been relieved to get a light-hearted question about whether he had worn a onesie.
"But caller 'Harry from Sheffield', was later unmasked as Harry Matthews, 20, a Liberal Democrat student activist and former intern in Mr Clegg's office - who bought the outfit for him.
".. He describes himself online as 'King of the Young Liberals', and gave Mr Clegg the green Incredible Hulk onesie at a party.
"Speaking afterwards, Mr Clegg denied the call was a stunt, saying: 'Of course I had no idea who the guy was.'"
Nick Clegg's 'Incredible Hulk onesie' can be seen here.
The Huffington Post UK's picture desk has done a mock-up of Clegg wearing his green onesie here.
“My core philosophy," the Lib Dem leader joked in front of the parliamentary press gallery lunch yesterday, "is of the Onesie Nation"
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 11
That would give Labour a majority of 112.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@DavidJonesMP Huge gap in my zeitgeist awareness. Until today I didn't know what a onesie was and thought it was pronounced "oh-kneesy".
@StewartWood Big paradox for UK Eurosceptics that their view that EU membership holds back our engagement with US & China is not shared by the US & China
@caitlinmoran Nadine Dorries: "The teenagers ask me a lot of questions now." "What about?" Unspoken answer: what it's like eating balls. #bbcqt
900 WORDS OR MORE
Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "If David Cameron wants to win in 2015 he must find a big problem to take on. Championing care of the elderly fits the bill."
Menzies Campbell, writing in the Guardian, says: "Britain's future in Europe must be defined by its national interests, not those of the Conservative party."
Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The Tories have a moral mission – and David Cameron should say so."
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ned Simons (email@example.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol