Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron Vs The Conservatives

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The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 6 February 2013...

1) CAMERON VS THE CONSERVATIVES

It was a historic night in the Commons - both for gay rights and for the Conservative-led coalition. My colleague Ned Simons reports:

"David Cameron successfully saw his gay marriage bill pass its first hurdle in the Commons on Tuesday, but most of his MPs failed to endorse the move.

"On an historic evening for gay rights, an overwhelming majority of MPs, 400 to 175 voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – a vote made perhaps even more symbolic given it occurred under a Conservative led government."

136 Tory MPs, including two cabinet ministers (David Jones and Owen Paterson) and several junior ministers, voted against the bill and the final count, as the Times points out, "left Mr Cameron at odds with nearly 60 per cent of his MPs amid warnings from his backbenchers that the issue could cost him the 2015 election".

Speaking after the vote, Tory backbencher Stewart Jackson said: “The only comparable rebellion is the Iraq war vote in 2003 which undermined Blair's Premiership. Tonight's vote will do the same for Cameron."

The Telegraph's leader notes how "the politics of last night’s vote on gay marriage, and specifically the divisions it has created within the Conservative Party, threaten to overshadow its momentous social significance".

Indeed. The headlines on the front of this morning's papers won't please Downing Street - rather than focus on the substance of the historic vote, almost all of them go on the party political angle and the Cameron's isolation:

"Half of Tories defy PM on gay marriage," declares the Telegraph.

"Cameron reels from huge revolt on gay vote," proclaims the Times.

"Historic gay marriage vote leaves PM adrift from party," pronounces the Guardian.

2) 'LYING' LIB DEMS

Despite turning on each other over gay marriage, Conservatives haven't forgotten who their real enemies are. From the Times:

"Tory high command moved swiftly to exploit Liberal Democrat agony over Chris Huhne’s lies yesterday as they rushed a by-election plan into action.

"Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, sent officials from London to the disgraced former minister’s Eastleigh constituency; the by-election campaign is due to start at the weekend.

"Mr Shapps took the gloves off even before the date for the contest had been set. 'For too long the people of Eastleigh have been let down by an MP who was being less than straightforward,' he said. 'Residents will take a dim view about having been lied to by their Lib Dem MP.'"

But guess what? Ukip leader Nigel Farage has decided to duck out of the Eastleigh contest. I guess he thought twice about trying to improve on the 954 votes he secured in the 1994 Eastleigh by-election...

On a side note, the trial of Huhne's ex-wife Vicky Pryce - who has pleaded 'not guilty' to perverting the course of justice on grounds of 'martial coercion' - continues. The Telegraph reports:

"Vicky Pryce sought to 'nail' Chris Huhne by exposing his lies over a speeding offence in revenge for him leaving her for a younger woman, a jury was told on Tuesday.

"In attempt to destroy his career, she tape-recorded a series of telephone calls in which she tried to coax Huhne into admitting that he got her to accept speeding points on his behalf, it was claimed."

3) 'THE DOWNTON ABBEY PARTY'

Education secretary Michael Gove, says the Guardian, launched a "scathing" and "almost openly rude" attack on Labour's education policies in a speech yesterday to the Social Market Foundation entitled 'No Excellence Pleace, We're Labour':

"Dipping into popular TV culture, Gove said: 'The current leadership of the Labour party react to the idea that working-class students might study the subjects they studied with the same horror that the Earl of Grantham showed when a chauffeur wanted to marry his daughter. Labour, under their current leadership, want to be the Downton Abbey party when it comes to educational opportunity. They think working-class children should stick to the station in life they were born into - they should be happy to be recognised for being good with their hands and not presume to get above themselves.'"

4) BIDDING FOR BIEBER?

Talking of pop culture, what on earth were the Conservatives thinking? From the Sun:

"David Cameron has flogged a meeting with Justin Bieber to raise thousands for Conservative Party coffers.

"A wealthy financier paid more than £10,000 for exclusive backstage access to the pop sensation for four teenage girls.

"The meeting with Canadian Justin was sold to the highest bidder at an auction at the Tories’ annual Black and White Party to raise cash for future election campaigns.

"But in a major bungle, the 18-year-old heart-throb was NOT told — and if he refuses to go ahead with it party chiefs may have to hand back the £10,000."

To borrow a phrase from a certain Sun columnist: You could not make it up!

5) BASHING BANKERS

Are the authorities finally cracking down on rogue banks? From the Daily Mail:

"Royal Bank of Scotland is set to be slapped with a £400m fine for rigging interest rates.

"The state-backed lender is also expected to part company with investment bank boss John Hourican in a bid to satisfy pressure from regulators and the Government for a senior scalp. He will leave at the end of the month and will forfeit up to £7m."

Yes, but what about prosecutions? £400m is peanuts to a big bank like RBS - so, are we ever going to send anyone to jail for the misdeeds and misbehaviour that we've seen in the City over the past five years?

"It is not known whether RBS has managed to secure a non-prosecution agreement with regulators to escape criminal charges as Barclays did."

Hmm... I wouldn't hold your breath...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a three-year old boy from Wales reciting the Thai (Thai!) alphabet.

6) 'WORK IN PROGRESS'

You've gotta love the honesty (bluntness?) of Jon Cruddas. The Daily Mail picks up on his remarks on yesterday's BBC Daily Politics show:

"Ed Miliband has failed to win back the trust of the voters and remains a 'work in progress', his own policy chief warned yesterday.

"In a revealing interview, Jon Cruddas said the public still blamed Labour for issues such as immigration and the housing crisis.

"He suggested Mr Miliband had work to do in portraying himself as a credible Prime Minister in waiting. And, in an extraordinary comment, he said Labour would lose the next election if it adopted his own policy ideas."

7) FALKLANDS FIGHT

The Argentinian foreign minister was busy building bridges with his British counterpart William Hague on a visit to the UK yesterday. From the BBC:

"The Falkland Islands will be back under Argentine control within '20 years', the country's foreign minister Hector Timerman has said.

"On a visit to London, he claimed 'not one' other nation supported UK sovereignty of the Falklands."

That's very, er, diplomatic of him to say so...

8) LORDS A LEAPING

There are currently 810 peers in the House of Lords, more than twice the number that the chamber can accommodate, and so the coalition's plans further increase that total aren't too popular with the Lord Speaker - from the Times:

"David Cameron and Nick Clegg will leave the House of Lords open to ridicule when they announce a number of new peers, the Lord Speaker will say today.

"The already 'bloated' Upper House is in danger of 'collapsing under the weight of its own numbers', according to Baroness D’Souza."

9) GOODBYE 12 ZEROES

Oh shame. Deficit hawks in the United States will no longer be able to castigate President Obama for presiding over a (catchy-sounding) 'trillion dollar deficit' - from the Huffington Post/Associated Press:

"The federal budget deficit will drop below $1 trillion for the first time in President Barack Obama's tenure in office, a new report said Tuesday. The Congressional Budget Office analysis said the government will run a $845 billion deficit this year, a modest improvement compared to last year's $1.1 trillion shortfall but still enough red ink to require the government to borrow 24 cents of every dollar it spends."

10) DAVID JONES VS USAIN BOLT

From the Telegraph:

"David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, has been spotted taking his Chauffeur-driven jaguar around 100 metres from his office to Downing Street - and back again.

"Mr Jones was photographed making the short trip in his official car to this morning's Cabinet meeting with the Prime Minister.

"One witness said the chauffeur waited outside the meeting for around 90 minutes before driving him back again.

"The Wales Office is one of the closest departments to the Prime Minister's official residence."

We're all in this together, eh?

QUOTE UNQUOTE

“I have no doubt that I definitely want to nail him, more than ever actually and would love to do it soon.” - email from Vicky Pryce to Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott, as revealed in court yesterday.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 11
Ukip 8

That would give Labour a majority of 112.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@David_Cameron Strong views exist on both sides but I believe MPs voting for gay people being able to marry too, is a step forward for our country.

@ShippersUnbound Jesse Norman's abstention on gay marriage screams leadership hopeful who doesn't want to offend anyone. But leadership means taking a view

@Jesse_Norman @ShippersUnbound actually Tim it screams someone who's tried to think hard about it and thinks there are good Tory arguments on both sides

900 WORDS OR MORE

Mary Riddell, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says: "Ed Miliband’s response to the Francis report on the Mid Staffordshire scandal could be the first step towards a Labour victory in 2015."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "Good conservatives understand the value of tradition, but know when to welcome gay marriage or shopping malls."

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says: "Tory metrosexuals won the gay marriage vote – but at what cost?"

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