Mehdi's Morning Memo: Ed Rejects Austerity

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ED MILIBAND
AP

The ten things you need to know on Friday 19 April 2013...

1) ED REJECTS AUSTERITY

In recent days, Tony Blair and his allies have been sounding the alarm bells about Labour's shift to the left under Ed Miliband - but Miliband and his allies, thankfully, aren't listening. Having been vindicated in their opposition to austerity, the two Eds are now refusing to sign up to George Osborne's post-2015 plans for spending cuts and tax rises.

The Independent's splash is, without doubt, the best political scoop of the day and could be a turning point in the debate over fiscal policy and austerity economics:

"Labour is preparing to fight the 2015 election on a bold but risky pledge to spend more than the Conservatives.

"Ed Miliband and Ed Balls will reject the more cautious approach - adopted by Tony Blair in 1997 - of sticking to the Tory government's public spending limits in favour of a 'new economic settlement' for Britain.

"Some Labour figures believe that repeating Mr Blair's landmark move would help the party regain economic credibility, on which it still trails the Tories. But there is a growing consensus inside the Shadow Cabinet, which includes its Blairites, in favour of reducing the deficit over a longer period than under the Coalition's plans in order to finance 'investment', such as a huge house-building programme."

The paper says support for this approach "will come in a study to be published next week by the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society... Arguing that the cuts may be unnecessary, the study says that, if the economy is growing by about two per cent annually, public spending could rise by one per cent a year and Labour could achieve Mr Osborne's target of seeing debt falling by 2016-17 two years later - or sooner than 2018-19 if taxes were increased."

It's worth pointing out that the 1997 Labour pledge to stick to Kenneth Clarke's Tory spending plans was later followed by Clarke admitting that he himself had never expected to be able to stick to his "eye-wateringly tight" spending limits if the Tories had succeeded in staying in office.

It's also worth noting the Guardian front-page story, about the ongoing row between the IMF and the Treasury:

"The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said on Thursday that the poor performance of the British economy had left her with no alternative but to call on George Osborne to rethink his austerity strategy."

2) SUSPECTS 1 AND 2

Forget the 'man on the roof' and 'the man running away' and all the Reddit crowd-sourcing nonsense... from my HuffPost colleagues in the United States:

"Authorities released photographs of two individuals -- identified as 'Suspect 1' and 'Suspect 2' -- wanted in connection to the pair of deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon finish line Monday.

"The images, revealed from behind two black poster boards, show the two individuals walking through a crowd near Boylston Street moments before the terror attack, which killed three people and wounded at least 180 others.

"'These images should be the only ones that the public should use to assist us,' FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers said in a Thursday press conference, discouraging people from paying attention to unofficial photos published in the mainstream media and on the Internet.

"'The only photos that should be officially relied on are the ones before you,' DesLauriers said."

The FBI says the two men are armed and dangerous - and there have been unconfirmed reports this morning of a shootout with the police.

Meanwhile, the Murdoch-owned New York Post's front-page antics continue to remind us why the US needs its own Leveson inquiry into media ethics - from the Huffington Post:

"The New York Post once again found itself in trouble after it published front-page photos of two men on Thursday who it said were being searched for in connection with the Boston bombings. The problem? They were completely innocent.

"The Post had already been intensely criticized for both saying that many more people had died in the attacks than turned out to be true, and for pointing the finger at a Saudi man who turned out to have nothing to do with them."

3) 'HOLIDAY SNATCHER'

That's the splash headline on the front of the Mirror, which reports:

"Children face more time in the classroom and shorter school holidays under sweeping Tory reforms.

"Education Secretary Michael Gove said yesterday breaks are too long and days too short.

"He added: 'In this global race, we start with a handicap.'

"But teachers claimed it was part of a 'secret agenda' to privatise state education."

The paper's leader says "nothing is immune from Conservative cuts now that holiday snatcher Michael Gove wants to grab weeks off from schoolkids. The Education Secretary's claim that the system is designed for 19th Century agriculture deserves a hollow laugh when this Torydominated government is imposing Victorian conditions at work and in welfare."

The Times reports:

"The Education Secretary described the present school day, which ends at 3pm or 3.30pm, plus long summer holidays and extra half-term breaks, as 'essentially set in the 19th century'.

"He called on schools in England to emulate those in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Vietnam, saying that children there achieved higher standards in maths and science by working harder.

"'In order to reach those levels of achievement, a higher level of effort is expected on behalf of students, parents and teachers,' Mr Gove said."

Despite the anger from teaching unions to this latest proposal from the education secretary, it's worth nothing, as the Times story does, that "Labour also favours a longer school day, saying it would allow children from poor areas to study in safety and would be a better preparation for work".

On a side note, the Telegraph reports that Nick Clegg's son "has won a place at his favoured primary school as 60,000 families missed out on their first choice".

4) EU ELECTIONS 'STITCH UP'?

From the Times splash:

"Ed Miliband is facing fierce internal dissent amid claims that plum seats in the European Parliament are being 'stitched up' for union-backed candidates.

"Rows have broken out across the country within Labour after previously popular candidates were excluded in favour of others supported by the party's biggest financial backers.

"Mr Miliband has been asked to intervene by party members worried that unions have had too much influence in clearing the way for their preferred candidates.

"... The Times investigated the issue after concerns were raised by a senior Labour source. 'Behind the scenes, we are moving back to unions, one union in particular, running candidate selections seemingly with the blessing of the leader's office. This is bad news for Labour,' the source said."

5) ET TU, TONY?

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

From the Daily Mail:

"Tony Blair could get a funeral on the scale of that of Margaret Thatcher, the minister in charge of planning her send-off has suggested.

"Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said he would have no objection to a similar service for the former Labour prime minister.

"Asked about plans for Mr Blair's demise and whether he envisaged a similar funeral to that of Baroness Thatcher, Mr Maude told BBC Radio 5's Pienaar's Politics: 'I certainly wouldn't object to that at all.' A Whitehall source said there had been no detailed discussion about funeral services for any of the surviving former prime ministers - Mr Blair, Sir John Major and Gordon Brown."

I guess the Cameroonian modernizers really do see themselves as the heirs to Blair...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of the New Zealand parliament spontaneously breaking into Maori love song after voting to legalise gay marriage.

6) DAVE OR ED - WHO'S THE HEIR TO THATCHER?

Just days after the funeral of Mrs T, both party leaders are seeking to claim the mantle of 'The Iron Lady'.

From a front-page story in the Telegraph:

"David Cameron is being urged by Cabinet ministers to move on from modernisation of the Conservative Party and emulate Baroness Thatcher by offering voters 'red meat' on welfare and immigration.

"The Prime Minister today launches his party's campaign for next month's local elections in England following the death of its most successful leader.

"Mr Cameron sought to depict himself this week as Lady Thatcher's political heir, arguing that his policies were consistent with her approach.

"The campaign will focus on cost–of–living issues, highlighting moves including a freeze on council tax in many areas."

Meanwhile, the Mail reports:

"For a man who seeks to claim the statesman-like mantle of Margaret Thatcher, Ed Miliband has an odd way of going about it.

"The Labour leader triggered comparisons with the much-mocked soapbox of the Iron Lady's hapless successor John Major yesterday as he stood awkwardly on a pallet, microphone in hand, to address voters outside a shopping centre.

"Despite cutting a rather ridiculous figure campaigning in the South Shields by-election - the seat left vacant by his brother David's move to New York - Mr Miliband is clearly determined to acquire some of Lady Thatcher's gravitas.

"In an audacious speech today, he will suggest he has the same strength of conviction and determination to change Britain as Lady Thatcher did in 1979.

'"Back in the 1970s it was clear the country needed a new way of doing things - a new settlement - and so too today,' he will say. 'The old way of running our economy just doesn't work any more.' In a separate interview he praises Lady Thatcher's 'utter consistency of ideas', which he suggests he shares."

The Mail adds:

"Meanwhile an Ipsos-Mori poll suggests voters also believe Mr Miliband has a long way to go before he is seen as a potential prime minister. Just 24% believe he is ready to be Prime Minister, with 66 per cent saying he is not ready."

To be fair, the 24% figure is an improvement from 2011, when the pollster last asked this question and only 17% of voters said they thought the Labour leader was ready for Downing Street. Nonetheless, it's way, way behind where Tony Blair and David Cameron were at this stage in their respective periods in opposition.

7) FOR EVER AND EVER AND EVER

The home secretary Theresa May came under fire from Tory and Labour MPs on the home affairs select committee yesterday, over her ongoing battle to have Abu Qatada removed from the UK.

From the BBC:

"Home Secretary Theresa May has said she is 'deeply frustrated' at continued legal obstacles to the deportation of radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada.

"... Mrs May suggested the European Court of Human Rights had "moved the goalposts" in the long-running case.

"But Tory MP Mark Reckless accused her of a 'craven surrender' to the Court."

The report adds:

"Labour's Keith Vaz, who chairs the committee, compared the legal battle to a five-set tennis match at Wimbledon - 'May versus Qatada' - which 'goes on for ever and ever' and said the government's lawyers had been 'constantly outwitted' by those representing the cleric."

8) 'TAINTING THEIR SPORT'

A year on, little has changed in dictatorial Bahrain where history seems to be repeating itself - from the FT:

"Protests surged across Bahrain yesterday as opposition radicals called for the cancellation of this weekend's Formula 1 Grand Prix because of repression in the strategic archipelago.

"On the eve of today's first practice session, the smell of burning rubber rose from barricades of tyres set alight by young protesters trying to block roads.

"The radical February 14 youth coalition warned that its 'volcanic flames' campaign would target Manama, the capital, and the Grand Prix track."

The paper adds:

"For the government, the race is a symbol of Bahrain's attempts at normalisation after the Saudibacked bloody crackdown on dissent in March 2011.

"It has stepped up security and pro-government parliamentarians have been calling for an 'iron fist' to be used to prevent disruption.

"... Human Rights Watch said abuses against protesters had been increasing.

"'Those who care about Formula 1 should care that human suffering and repression is tainting their sport,' said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director."

Why on earth does the British government continue to support and arm the unelected and repressive regime in Manama?

9) RICH RICCI RETIRES

Say it ain't so! The man who, in the words of today's Mail, became "a caricature of the brash, overpaid casino banker" and who has, without doubt the best name in banking, is quitting.

From the Guardian front page:

"The colourful and controversial head of Barclays' investment bank, Rich Ricci, stands to walk away with outstanding bonuses potentially worth millions of pounds after his retirement from the scandal-hit bank was announced on Thursday.

"The release of any bonuses from previous years would add to the more than £70m in shares that have been handed to the American-born banker since 2010. The 49-year-old, who owns a string of racehorses including one named Fatcatinthehat, has amassed a fortune since joining the bank nearly 20 years ago."

The paper quotes business secretary Vince Cable as saying "the sheer scale of his earnings sits uncomfortably with what many small businesses are going through, having been badly let down by banks such as Barclays, who mis-sold financial products, causing enormous damage that is still being felt."

So what are you going to do about it Vince?

10) HURRAH! THE LEFT WON THE 20TH CENTURY

I'm pleased to report that New Statesman deputy editor Helen Lewis, Daily Mail columnist Simon Heffer and I succeeded in persuading a 300-strong audience at King's College last night that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the left did win the 20th century.

The debate was part of the Staggers' centenary celebrations, and saw Lewis, Heffer and I go up against the Times' Tim Montgomerie, the Institute for Economic Affairs' Ruth Porter and the Independent's Owen Jones.

It's the first - and, hopefully, last - time that I've been on the other side of the argument as Owen... and on the same side as 'The Heff'!

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"We can either start working as hard as the Chinese, or we'll all soon be working for the Chinese." - an unnamed Whitehall source, commenting on Michael Gove's education speech and quoted in today's Guardian.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40
Conservatives 33
Ukip 11
Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 86.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@johnprescott So Michael Gove slams teachers for having a long summer holiday when his is six days longer #seemeafterclass

@MarkReckless Home Secretary has just told me that, despite being the most senior government minister not on Twitter, she will not be joining.

@JFG_Elliott Still laughing after seeing Daily Mail columnist Simon Heffer earlier tonight claiming Thatcher wasn't actually right-wing at #NS100

900 WORDS OR MORE

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "One Nation is just a slogan. If Labour looks after the everyday issues everyone will know what it stands for."

David Priestland, writing in the Guardian, says: "Michael Gove's disdain for experts is typical of the laissez-faire ideologues."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, asks: "Will Michael Gove’s schools revolution be just another false start?"

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