Mehdi's Morning Memo: Dog Bites Man, Tory Home Secretary Attacks Judges

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The five things you need to know on Sunday 17 February 2013...

1) DOG BITES MAN, TORY HOME SECRETARY ATTACKS JUDGES

Eighteen months after the home secretary, Theresa May, falsely claimed that an illegal immigrant was allowed to stay in the UK because of his pet cat, she's picked up the 'human rights help foreign criminals' baton once again - with a coruscating attack on the judiciary in an article for the Mail on Sunday.

The paper itself reports, on its front page:

"Innocent people will be subjected to rape and violent attacks by foreign thugs because judges have sabotaged a bid by Parliament to deport them, Theresa May warned last night.

"In an unprecedented public attack, the Home Secretary accused judges of tearing up the British constitution by flouting a decision by MPs to stop foreign criminals using the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to avoid being thrown out.

"Using highly emotive language, Mrs May claimed there would be more muggings on Britain’s streets because judges let foreign law-breakers stay here. And she vowed to crush the judges’ revolt by rushing through tough new laws.

"Her onslaught follows a long-running row over foreign criminals and immigration cheats who use the ECHR’s ‘right to a family life’ provision to avoid being booted out."

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show this morning, however, human-rights lawyer and Labour peer Helena Kennedy said it was "absolutely imperative judges are not under the thumb of Home Secretaries." Kennedy dismissed May's article as "a populous bit of politicking", pointing out that the number of contentious cases referred to by the home secretary was "minuscule".

Note: There's only five things, not ten things, you need to know this Sunday morning as I am rushing out of the door to do a debate on the (lack of) big ideas in British politics, on the Sky News Murnaghan show at 11:40am, with 'Red Tory' philosopher Philip Blond and 'Blue Labour' thinker Maurice Glasman.

2) HIDE YOUR RINGS!

There's plenty of tax stories in the Sunday papers this morning, off the back of Ed Miliband's surprise 10p/mansion tax announcement on Thursday.

It looks like the Lib Dems are keen to try and wrestle back the wealth tax agenda from the two Eds - from the Mail on Sunday:

"Families will be forced to pay tax on jewellery and other heirlooms under controversial new plans drawn up by the Liberal Democrats.

"Under the scheme, tax inspectors would get unprecedented new powers to go into homes and value rings, necklaces, paintings, furniture and other family treasures.

"Householders would be forced to pay a new ‘wealth’ levy on the assets – with the threat of fines for those who refused to let snoops value their possessions."

That'll go down well with Tory backbenchers already annoyed by various Lib Dem policy measures and proposals.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times report on the same story reveals that the Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable is "said to be privately delighted that Labour has come up with the tax policy as it will put pressure on the Conservatives to give in to Lib Dem demands to adopt it. George Osborne, the chancellor, is said to have been sympathetic although Cameron vetoed it".

3) 'NARROWLY AND EXCLUSIVELY FOCUSED'

Once again, the Observer lays into Michael Gove on its front page:

"Education secretary Michael Gove has been savaged by learned societies, academics and even one of his own advisers for devising a new national history curriculum that is narrowly and exclusively focused on Britain.

"In a letter in the Observer signed by the presidents of the Royal Historical Society, the Historical Association, the higher education group History UK and senior members of the British Academy, Gove is condemned for drawing up the curriculum without substantive consultation with teachers and academics.

"... Stephen Mastin, head of history at a school in Cambridge, who worked alongside historian Simon Schama as an adviser to Gove, said the curriculum bore 'no resemblance' to the drafts he worked on as late as last month... Mastin, who stood for the Tories at the last general election, said: 'Between January and the publication of this document – which no one involved in the consultation process had seen – someone has typed it up and I have no idea who that is. It would be scary if we become the only nation in the western world to not teach anything beyond our shores.'"

The paper's political editor Toby Helm adds:

"Michael Gove's Department for Education has taken steps to stop the Twitter feed @toryeducation – to which his own advisers have contributed – from issuing any more abuse against political opponents, critics and journalists.

"Senior government sources said the department had acted to ensure those contributing to the feed will now put out information in a neutral way and free of its previously abusive tone."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this funny if slightly terrifying video of goats shouting like human beings.

4) AUSTERITY WATCH, PART 223

There's another schools story on the front of the Independent on Sunday - this time related to George Osborne, not Michael Gove:

"George Osborne is secretly breaking his flagship pledge to protect spending on schools, according to the Government's own analysis, revealed in a document leaked to The Independent on Sunday.

"A confidential paper drawn up by civil servants assessing the Department for Education's finances reveals that the Chancellor's promise in 2010 to increase the front-line schools budget in real terms for four years 'is not, in fact, what is happening'.

"The document says: 'Schools are subject to a real-terms cut in their funding because the rate of inflation is currently higher than forecast at the time of the Spending Review [in November 2010].'"

(On a side note, the chancellor will be pleased, however, with the splash headline on the front of the Observer:
"Osborne in pledge to help world's poor fight tax abuse".)

5) I TOLD YOU SO

It's whistleblower time! The Sunday Times reports:

"Ministers were warned more than 18 months ago that illegal horsemeat was getting into the human food chain.

"John Young, a former manager with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), says he alerted the government to a potential scandal of illicit horsemeat with drug residues in human food but was ignored."

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph splashes on news that "British consumers face paying the price for the horse meat scandal": "Mark Price, the chief executive of Waitrose, says that in return for families knowing food is safe and genuine, it cannot be seen as a “cheap commodity” any longer."

The paper adds: "A European Union directive in 2006 ordered 'light touch' regulation, which led to the FSA cutting the number of meat inspectors."

Whistleblowers ignored. Light tough regulation. Loss of public trust. The horsemeat crisis is starting to sound a lot like the financial crisis - well, without the global recession and trillion-pound bailout.

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"William is very gifted, which gives us another interesting challenge in finding the right sort of education for him - impossible in the state system." - the Tory candidate in the Eastleigh by-election, Maria Hutchings, provoked, in the words of the Observer, "a storm of protest as political opponents and state-educated celebrities, said she had insulted state schools, including two local ones with glowing Ofsted reports".

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 12
Ukip 9

That would give Labour a majority of 114.

From the Independent on Sunday/Sunday Mirror/ComRes Observer fortnightly poll:

Labour 36
Conservatives 31
Ukip 14
Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 58.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@paulwaugh Paterson 'completely' refutes claims that he was "asleep at the wheel" re horsemeat. But leaves open possibility Spelman was taking 40 winks

@jameskirkup Owen Paterson tells #murnaghan: "It is absolutely illegal to present a horse for slaughter that has taken drugs." Do horses *take* drugs?

@StewartWood Theresa May declares war on judges to deport foreign criminals, Cameron says we're a "soft touch" for foreigners... Lynton Crosby's arrived.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "Ed Miliband's 10p tax pledge is smart politics but poor policy."

John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "Ed Miliband, the candidate from the planet Zog"

Rafael Behr, writing in the Sunday Times, says: "Gordon Brown is dead. Long live Gordon Brown."

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