Mehdi's Morning Memo: Farage In The Firing Line

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NIGEL FARAGE
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The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 1 May 2013...

1) FARAGE IN THE FIRING LINE

"The unacceptable face of Ukip?" That's the headline on the front of the Independent, above a picture of a chuckling Nigel Farage. The paper has interviewed Marta Andraesen, the former Ukip MEP who defected to the Conservatives three months ago, and who now accuses her former party of telling "lies" and stirring up fears about immigration:

"Ms Andreasen told The Independent: 'Even if they say they have changed the constitution to have less BNP [members], they actually are taking the ground of the BNP and they have many members who are coming from the BNP and the National Front.'

"... Mr Farage admitted that the party faced 'one or two teething problems' in selecting its representatives and admitted that it 'does not look very pretty' to have a candidate pictured making the Nazi salute. He said: 'We don’t have the resources to trawl through absolutely everybody’s social media sites and that has led to one or two embarrassments.'

"But Ms Andreasen, a former chief accountant for the European Commission, said it was Mr Farage’s jealousy of potential competitors inside the 'one-man band' party that had prevented candidates from having their records checked.

"She said Mr Farage changed the party’s constitution last year 'giving him full power on everything, including the establishment of strategy, policies and selection processes for candidates for elections'."

Over to you, Nigel...

2) THE TORY/UKIP LOVE-IN

Andraesen should perhaps have a private word with some of her new Tory colleagues - they quite like Ukip and its hardline, ultra-conservative agenda. Consider former Conservative Party chairman and arch-Thatcherite Norman Tebbit's blogpost in the Telegraph. Tebbit predicts that the Tories will suffer a "drubbing" in the local elections on Thursday, and adds:

"Of course it may well be that many former Conservative voters are so fed up with the Cameron Coalition that they will turn to Ukip as the party which comes closest to a traditional Conservative agenda, and a reasoned position on the European issue. One can hardly blame them for that."

Meanwhile, the Times reports on its front page:

"Most fathers claim a God-given right to embarrass their daughters. Few manage it quite so publicly as the father of the Tory MP Priti Patel.

"Nigel Farage yesterday announced that Sushil Patel was standing for UKIP in tomorrow’s county council elections in a move that will prove highly uncomfortable for both his daughter and her party."

Within 90 minutes of the announcement, however, it was being reported that Patel Snr said he'd changed his mind and wouldn't be continuing as a Ukip candidate (though, technically, it is too late to withdraw from the race). Had Priti nobbled her dad?

However, as the Huffington Post reports:

"Ukip released a statement insisting that Mr Patel remained its candidate... It quoted the MP's father as saying: 'I am proud of being a Ukip candidate and very proud of the achievements of my daughter who represents the people of Witham in an exemplary fashion. My views are my own and I am astonished that there has been quite so much interest in my candidacy.'"

Last night, Priti Patel told the Telegraph she hadn't demanded her dad stand down from Ukip: “No matter what, whatever the outcome of this, he is still my Dad and I still love him."

Good to know...

3) 'PRIVATISATION BY STEALTH'

Another reminder of how radical and right-wing this coalition government is - from the Independent's front page:

"Ministers are preparing to spin off 'dozens' of state-owned services into independent companies in what could be one of the largest privatisation programmes since the 1980s.

"Under plans being rolled out by the Cabinet Office, millions of pounds' worth of state-owned services will be spun off into independent companies - jointly owned by private-sector investors and their employees - within the next two years. Eventually as many as one in six civil servants - or 75,000 staff - could be transferred into the private sector with the Government maintaining a minority stake and offering long-term contracts to the new companies to encourage investment."

Do you remember this proposal being in either the Tory or Lib Dem manifesto? No? Me neither.

"The move has been condemned by public sector unions which fear it will lead to job cuts and erosion of services as the private outsourcing companies that are expected to take stakes in the new ventures look to cut costs.

"Dave Prentis, the general secretary of the public sector union Unison, said the plan amounted to 'privatisation by stealth'."

4) MILI'S MISJUDGMENT

I guess he now agrees with the rest of us that his World At One interview on Radio 4 on Monday was a bit of a car-crash...

From the Guardian:

"Ed Miliband took the unusual step yesterday of admitting he had made a misjudgment in an interview and should have accepted that his plans for growth would require extra borrowing, at least in the short term.

"On Monday Miliband refused eight times to admit that his plan for a VAT cut to kickstart the economy would mean extra borrowing. But on ITV's Daybreak yesterday the Labour leader conceded he had made a misjudgment: 'That happens - you do some interviews well and some not so well,' he said.

"'I was asked a question about Labour's plans to cut VAT. I am clear about this - a temporary cut in VAT, as we are proposing, would lead to a temporary rise in borrowing.'"

5) MOD GOES TO WAR WITH DFID

First they came for the health budget, then they came for the aid budget - from the Guardian's splash:

"The Ministry of Defence has stepped up its campaign to draw upon millions of pounds from Britain's aid budget by suggesting the Department for International Development (DfID) pays for flights on military aircraft, some navy patrols and body armour.

"... The ideas form part of an aggressive attempt by the MoD to stake a claim to money from the protected aid budget in next month's comprehensive spending review – efforts that were encouraged by the prime minister, David Cameron, when he suggested there was potential overlap between the two departments."

Meanwhile, the Times splashes on South African "fury" at the UK over aid:

"Britain was plunged into a diplomatic row with South Africa yesterday after pulling the plug on aid to the country.

"Pretoria’s Department of International Relations accused ministers of acting without warning and said that the decision would damage long-term relations.

"The Government’s announcement to end the £19 million a year spent in overseas aid was 'tantamount to redefining our relationship', the department said."

I think I'm now starting to understand why Justine Greening was so reluctant to go from Transport to International Development, after Andrew Lansley quit the cabinet.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this rather bizarre yet amusing video of what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would look and act like if they were scientifically accurate.

6) REMEMBER THE GREENS?

The right-wing newspapers, for obvious reasons, are pretty excited about the rise and rise of Ukip. They aren't so keen to give much coverage to the other minor party - the Greens - which, according to the Guardian, is also "hoping to capitalise on disaffection with the main three political parties, much as Ukip is" in tomorrow's county council elections.

The paper reports:

"The Green party will field more candidates than ever in Thursday's local elections, with more than 900 people standing – ensuring that nearly all of the county council constituencies voting have a Green candidate on their ballots."

Will we discover Green candidates giving Nazi salutes on Facebook, or blaming the Jews for the Holocaust or making disparaging comments about black people and Muslims? I suspect not.

The Greens' agenda is summed up in the Guardian article standfirst: "Yes, we're about fracking and roads. But we're about the living wage too".

7) CAN'T THEY BOTH LOSE?

From the Independent:

"A murderous plot by radical Islamists to launch a gun and bomb attack on hundreds of people attending a rightwing English Defence League rally failed after they turned up too late.

"The plot was uncovered by luck after an online insurance form was incorrectly filled out and resulted in one of the bombers' cars being impounded during a motorway police check as they returned home after the aborted operation."

The paper adds:

"Poor planning - and an early finish for the EDL rally - averted the Dewsbury attack using a nail-filled homemade firework bomb that experts fear could have led to a race war between Islamist radicals and the fragmented extreme right-wing movement."

The violent Islamists versus the skinheads of the EDL? I'm reminded of Henry Kissinger's view of the Iran-Iraq conflict: "It's a pity they can't both lose."

8) DEAR BANK OF ENGLAND, HELP!

From the FT's front page:

"George Osborne yesterday urged the Bank of England not to undermine the recovery..."

Hello kettle! This is pot! You're black!

"... through an overzealous focus on banking stability, in a new attempt to put growth at the heart of the mandate of incoming governor Mark Carney. The chancellor told the BoE's Financial Policy Committee to give 'due weight to the impact of its actions on the near-term economic recovery' when carrying out its primary job of maintaining financial stability.

"Mr Osborne noted the 'short term trade-offs' with which the FPC would have to grapple: between strengthening the banking system and making sure the banks are able to increase lending."

9) IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED...

From the Guardian:

"Barack Obama vowed to take action to close the controversial prison camp at Guantánamo Bay on Tuesday, declaring that he did not want any of its hunger-striking inmates to die of starvation.

"At a press conference in Washington, Obama said it was not sustainable to keep the Guantánamo open, warning its continued existence was a 'recruitment tool' for extremists. The president promised to take the issue back to Congress, which blocked his earlier attempts to fulfill a 2008 campaign promise to close the camp.

"... Obama said he did not want the protest to end in deaths, something many lawyers for those detained have warned is an increasing likelihood. 'I don't want these individuals to die,' Obama said."

Let's see if, second time round, the president can pull this off...

Meanwhile, on two side notes:

1) The BBC reports: "Three British soldiers have died in Afghanistan after their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Helmand, the Ministry of Defence said... The number of UK service personnel to have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001 is now 444."

2) It's 10 years to the day since George W. Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to declare 'Mission Accomplished' in Iraq - perhaps the greatest act of political hubris in living memory.

10) 'I HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR CHRIS HUHNE'

From the Huffington Post UK:

"Nick Clegg has not contacted Chris Huhne in jail but retains 'a lot of respect' for his party colleague and hopes to meet with him when he gets out from behind bars, he said.

"... Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4's The World at One that it was not good for the party to have someone 'as significant in the Liberal Democrat world' as his former leadership rival behind bars.

"Asked he had been in touch, the Deputy Prime Minister said: 'Not while he's been in prison, no. But I very much hope I will see him at some point in the future because whatever Chris has done, and he's been found guilty and he has served his time, he is someone I have known all my political life and someone I have a lot of respect for.'"

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39
Conservatives 30
Ukip 14
Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 96.

Meanwhile, ComRes have done a poll in those areas with county council elections on Thursday:

Conservatives 31
Labour 24
Ukip 22
Lib Dems 12

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@oflynnexpress Hague displaying, far too late, a new Tory strategy towards UKIP. Trying to say they are irrelevant and pushing council tax message instead.

@Dorianlynskey I seem to hear Nigel Farage's voice on a daily basis. He's the Emeli Sande of golf-club xenophobia. #r4today

@Mike_Fabricant Bloody MPs double-jobbing! Makes yer sick. The new King of the Netherlands looks suspiciously like Transport Minister, Simon Burns MP

900 WORDS OR MORE

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Labour is betting everything on its new brand of pothole politics."

James Ball, writing in the Guardian, says: "Ukip's manifesto offers the world. Let's take a closer look."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "I hate Abu Qatada too – but the law’s the law."

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