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Mehdi's Morning Memo: The Horsemeat Summit

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OWEN PATERSON
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The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 13 February...

1) THE HORSEMEAT SUMMIT

"Now it's British horsemeat in burgers," screams the Daily Mail on its front page. The paper says:

"Meat from British horses was discovered in takeaway burgers and kebabs yesterday.

"The shocking find, which implicates the UK for the first time in the food fraud scandal, came during police raids in Yorkshire and West Wales.

"Environment Secretary Owen Paterson described the development as ‘utterly and totally disgraceful’ but pulled out of making an emergency statement to the House of Commons."

His opposite number, Labour's Mary Creagh said she wouldn't be buying mince of any kind for the moment: "Let's just say that I'm not very keen on mince at the moment, I think I know a bit too much now."

And you know you're in the middle of a crisis when our rulers start having 'summits'.

The BBC reports that "Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will travel to Brussels on Wednesday for a meeting of European countries linked to the horsemeat scandal.

"Ministers from the Irish Republic, France, Romania, Luxembourg, Sweden and Poland will attend."

I can't wait for the official picture of the French and Romanian ministers shaking hands...

2) NO POUND OF FLESH

From the Huffington Post:

"University graduate Cait Reilly has won her Court of Appeal claim that requiring her to work for free at a Poundland discount store was unlawful.

"Three judges in London ruled that the regulations under which most of the Government's back-to-work schemes were created are unlawful and quashed them. The Department for Work and Pensions has not been given leave to appeal, but has said that, regardless, it will appeal to the Supreme Court."

The papers are divided on straight left-right grounds - the Telegraph leader says: "Workfare can still do the job for Britain." The Guardian, however, pens an editorial "in praise of... Cait Reilly", noting: "[T]he point is that Whitehall had assumed a free hand in foisting arbitrary, harsh conditions on unemployed people. Cait Reilly has caught it out – for failing to play by the rules."

Writing in today's Sun, 'compassionate Conservative' Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is defiant: "Let me be very clear — our back to work schemes are successful and are not slave labour." He adds: "I disagree with the part of the ruling that found against our regulations and we will appeal against that, but crucially the court did not find that anyone's humans rights have been breached because we asked them to do a work placement in return for Jobseeker's Allowance."

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3) 'OUR GENERATION'S TASK'

The issue of in-work poverty isn't just a big issue in the UK - last night, President Obama decided to tackle the issue head-on during his State of the Union speech:

From the Huffington Post:

"President Barack Obama on Tuesday night laid out a vision for a society in which everyone has a fair shot at a decent education, adequate health care and a job that pays a living wage.

"'It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class,' said the president in the first State of the Union address of his second term. 'It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.'

"The president's most notable proposal was to raise the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour."

Will George Osborne follow Obama's lead in the Budget next month? Two stats are always worth remembering: 1) the majority of the children living in poverty in Britain live in working, not workless, households, and 2) the UK's minimum wage is now worth less in real terms than it did in 2004.

4) WATERBOTTLEGATE

Obama may have been giving the SOTU speech, but all eyes were on the Republican 'rebuttal' - my US colleague Jon Ward reports on the speech from 41-year-old Florida senator Marco Rubio, who is one of the favourites for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination:

"In his remarks, Rubio hit two things hard: stereotypes of conservatives, and the president. He came out against the former stronger than the latter, devoting an entire passage to rebutting the charge that Republicans want to protect the rich from higher taxes, and another to making clear his devotion to Medicare, in an attempt to stake out a politically viable position on entitlement reform."

Amusingly, Ward adds:

"The media-savvy Republican got favorable reviews, but his night was almost derailed by a bottle of water. When Rubio came to the 10-minute mark in his 14-minute speech, he paused, looked down and to his left, and then looked back at the camera as he bent and reached for a small Poland Spring bottle. For a few brief, excruciating seconds, Rubio took a sip of the water as he looked directly into the camera, and then put it quickly down and resumed speaking.

"Twitter exploded. Video of the moment was quickly posted, Democratic operatives cackled, and journalists complained about the volume of chatter about Rubio's thirst."

5) LEGISLATING FOR LEVESON

David Cameron's plans for a Royal Charter to regulate the press may be nowhere near as tough as the system recommended by Lord Justice Leveson but, according to a story on the front of today's Independent, a 'compromise' deal is close:

"Parts of David Cameron's blueprint to regulate the press could breach European law, the newspaper industry warned yesterday, as his plan to implement the Leveson Report was attacked from all sides.

"But despite criticism from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, some sources suggested the compromise was still possible with all-party talks due to begin tomorrow."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Off the back of Obama's State of the Union last night, why not re-watch this classic video of the US president slow-jamming the news on Jimmy Fallon's late-night show from April 2012?

6) EYE ON EASTLEIGH

From the Guardian:

"As the author of a seminal account of an activist's life during Labour's 'wilderness years', and later as a writer of jokes for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, John O'Farrell has been cheering up the party's rank-and file for decades as the self-deprecating chronicler of middle class, left-wing angst.

"But after local members in Eastleigh last night selected him to be the party's candidate in the upcoming byelection, the comedy writer was settling down for the challenge of capturing the south-coast seat - although not quite immediately.

"'There is a great deal of hard work ahead. But first I am going to the pub,' he tweeted immediately after news emerged of his official selection over two other Labour members."

O'Farrell won't win in Eastleigh - where the two coalition parties are slugging it out for the top spot - and, thankfully, nor will Ukip's Diane James, who is reported to have said yesterday that all immigration into the UK should be halted in order to prevent Romanians from coming to the country and committing crimes here. Who says Ukip are a bunch of bigots, eh?

7) CLEGG THE CREDIT TAKER

Whatever happens to the Lib Dems in Eastleigh, for now, their leader continues be mauled by the papers - from the Telegraph front page:

Nick Clegg has been ridiculed after he appeared to claim credit for his part in securing a cut in the European Union budget.

Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, last year claimed that Conservatives who wanted a budget cut had 'absolutely no hope'.

"At his weekly Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions session in the Commons yesterday, however, Mr Clegg claimed that he had spent 'months making the case for the tough approach' adopted by David Cameron in Brussels last week.
Tory backbenchers have described Mr Clegg’s comments as 'ludicrous and implausible'.

8) CASH-FOR-ACADEMIES

Ever wondered why so many schools are so keen to become academies? The Independent this morning splashes on news that

"Officials from Michael Gove's department are offering £65,000 'bribes' to convince reluctant headteachers to convert their schools to academies.

"The sweeteners are being offered to schools which drop their opposition to academy status – sparking claims that taxpayers' money is being spent on "buying off" critics of the Education Secretary's pet project."

Follow, as they say, the money...

9) 'GET OFF OUR PLANES'

To those of you who think Islamophobia is a myth, meet New Zealand MP Richard Prosser - from the Huffington Post:

"A New Zealand politician who sparked condemnation for suggesting Muslim men should be banned on Western airlines will not stand down.

"Writing in his column in Investigate Magazine, First Leader Richard Prosser said: 'If you are a young male, aged between say about 19 and about 35, and you're a Muslim, or you look like a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you are not welcome to travel on any of the West's airlines.'

"Labelling Islam a 'stone age religion', and claiming most terrorists are 'angry young Muslim men who hate the West', Prosser added: 'I will not stand by while my daughters' rights and freedoms, and those of other New Zealanders and Westerners, are denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from 'Wogistan'.'"

Charming.

10) 'POLITICALLY CORRECT CENSORSHIP'

From the Telegraph:

"The BBC has been criticised as 'Stalinist' and 'politically correct' for allegedly trying to play down Harold Wilson’s pipe smoking in a five hour television special tomorrow night.

"However, Lord Donoughue, a former right hand man to Mr Wilson in Number 10, claimed that producers had been told to downplay Mr Wilson’s pipe smoking.

"Describing it as 'Stalinist', he said: 'Is the licence payers money being paid for these people. It is censorship – politically correct censorship. How many people do they have monitoring politically correct behaviour?'"

Donoughue adds: “He didn’t smoke it much in private. It was not always lit because he had to put it away in his pocket.

“If he was being interviewed or questioned, the moment he was asked a difficult question he would take out his lighter and light the pipe to give him time to think of an answer.”

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"The position is this. One of the most powerful, talented, intelligent and trusted women in the country wishes you to think that when she took some points for her husband in 2003 she had no real choice in doing so. It is the prosecution's function, if they can, to disprove that before she can be convicted." - Andrew Edis QC, who is prosecuting the Vicky Pryce case at Southwark Crown Court, giving his closing speech yesterday.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 10
Ukip 9

That would give Labour a majority of 116.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@LizMair: .@CNBC asks what Republicans want to hear in #SOTU. My guess: "I'm resigning and handing this job off to a stealthily preserved Reagan."

@EJDionne Poor Marco Rubio: It was the gulp that roared. TV can be a cruel medium #sotu

@ShippersUnbound Don't understand the fuss over food. I love Haggis and I definitely don't want to know what goes into that...

900 WORDS OR MORE

Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian, says: "Michael Gove is not just a bungler, he's a destructive ideologue."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Ed Miliband can draw a line under the Labour Party’s war by opposing plans for secret courts."

Martin Wolf, writing in the FT, makes the "case for helicopter money".

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