POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron's EU Bill 'Not Good Enough'

14/05/2013 08:00 BST | Updated 14/05/2013 08:01 BST
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U.S. President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, May 13, 2013. President Barack Obama said his administration made no attempt to cover up or downplay the involvement of terrorists in last year's deadly attack on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and said the congressional investigation has turned into a 'political circus.' Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 14 May 2013...

1) HERE'S AN EU BILL WE MADE EARLIER, WHO WANTS IT

In his latest attempt (of many) to quell backbench Tory unrest, David Cameron will rush out a draft Bill today that if passed would guarantee an in/out EU referendum by the end of 2017. The Bill isn't an official government proposal as the Lib Dems would not allow it. Instead, the Conservative Party will offer it up for a willing backbench Tory MP to adopt as a Private Members Bill - the ballot for which takes place on Thursday.

The prime minister, who is in the United States, will hope the Bill will persuade Tory MPs to drop their support for an amendment to the Queen's Speech that condemns the government's legislative programme for failing to address the EU issue.

However the move does not seem to have immediately had the desired affect. John Baron, the Tory MP who is behind an amendment to the Queen's Speech, has said a Private Members Bill backed by Cameron is "not good enough" as it would be unlikely to become law.

Writing on The Huffington Post UK yesterday before this latest development, Conservative Bernard Jenkin said Downing Street's reaction to Tory MPs desire for referendum legislation had so far been "confused and unprecedented" and criticized No.10 for letting the Lib Dems have too much influence. "The tail is wagging the dog" he said. But at the moment the tail doing the dog wagging looks more like John Baron than Nick Clegg.

And for a second there this morning's headline was going to be 'World's Most Powerful Man Backs David Cameron's EU Plan'..

This morning's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan's brain melted trying to understand Downing Street's EU strategy.

2) MAJOR PROBLEM

If this whole 'Tories split on Europe' thing seems a bit 1990s then you aren't the only one. Sheila Gunn, John Major's former press secretary, told HuffPost UK yesterday that it was all depressing familiar to her too. Gunn savaged the new crop of Tory MPs, saying they were disloyal and not willing to knuckle down for the good of the party. Speaking to Tom Moseley she added a warning: "You could also say now that the Conservative Party is handing the election to the Labour Party."

3) FARAGE FLIES HIGHER

Why all this excruciating European Union excitement? A Guardian/ICM poll published last night showed Ukip had doubled its poll rating from 9% to 18% in one month. Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems have all seen their ratings drop 4 points to 34%, 28% and 11%. According to The Guardian for all three established parties to be falling substantially at the same time is unprecedented in the 29-year history of the polling series.

4) REBEL, REBEL

Conveniently today also sees the chaps from Nottingham University publish a new report that details the levels of backbench opposition on the coalition side, and identifies the most rebellious MPs. Professor Philip Cowley told HuffPost UK's Jess Elgot yesterday that so far "even the most rebellious Conservative MP only voted against the party in 10% of the votes". Sounds like a challenge to us. First MP to reach 20% gets a free thing we found in the bottom of one of our draws that we didn't want.

Apologies for the Missing Morning Memo yesterday. It melted trying to understand No.10's EU strategy.

5) GREAT PINK SHARK

As if Conservative backbenchers weren't worked up enough as it is - their other (least) favourite issue is back on the agenda today. Culture secretary Maria Miller and work and pensions minister Steve Webb will be giving evidence to the joint committee on human rights on gay marriage. Nadine Dorries, who was welcomed back to the party with a champagne reception in parliament last night, summarized the view of many Tory MPs simply: "Gay marriage comes back to Parliament in 10 days. If Cameron wants to lose Conservative party fifty seats, he must keep on pushing through."

And as referendums are all the rage these days it seems, Conservative David Burrowes wants gay marriage put to a public vote. Writing on his blog the Enfield Southgate MP says the return to the Commons of the same-sex marriage Bill is like "Jaws" - a sort of great pink shark coming to eat the more important items on the government's boat.

6) ASSOCIATED MESS

As the -probably somewhat irritated- AP in Washington reports: The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

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7) FUTURE LEADERS

A Margaret Thatcher "future leaders" Scholarship Trust worth £100million is to be created at Oxford in order to allow people who have succeeded "against the odds" a chance to study at the university. The Daily Telegraph reports the programme George HW Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Tony Blair are among the patrons.

8) CAN WE AFFORD ALL THIS STUFF?

The Ministry of Defence's future equipment plans for the armed forces may still be "unaffordable" despite ministers' claims to have finally brought spending in the department under control, MPs warned today.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the plans depended upon the Treasury honouring a commitment to an annual 1% real terms increase in the equipment budget over the five years from 2015-16.

"If this is now not achieved in the current fiscal circumstances then the current plan may well be unaffordable," it said.

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: "The Ministry of Defence has made a good start in trying to get to grips with its budget but its deep-seated problems cannot be solved overnight, and we do not yet have confidence that its equipment plan is affordable.

9) LORD AHMED QUITS LABOUR

Lord Ahmed has resigned from the Labour Party days before he was due to face a hearing over allegations that he made anti-Semitic comments in a TV interview. In his resignation letter, obtained by City AM, Lord Ahmed said he continues to reject the allegations but believes a decision to exclude him from the party had already taken on the basis of "incredible and untested evidence"

In a recent interview with The Huffington Post UK Lord Ahmed apologized and said the comments he was accused of making were "completely wrong" and must have been the product of a "twisted mind".

In his resignation letter Lord Ahemed adds: "If at any time I may have said anything inadvertently I wanted to apologise for that. Needless to say that I have many Jewish friends and I felt it was important and necessary to do this."

10) MAYOR IZZARD?

Eddie Izzard has said he is prepared to take the flak for wanting to pursue a career in politics. The 51-year-old is seeking the Labour nomination for Mayor of London in 2019 and if he does not get the endorsement he hopes to stand as an MP.

He told the Radio Times: "People say, 'Well, you're a bit woolly' and 'You're really not informed'; 'You're not this' and 'You're not that'. But I realise those attacks are going to happen and you have to push through to get to a better place."

Izzard, who previously campaigned for Ken Livingstone to be mayor, criticised current London Mayor Boris Johnson, saying: "Boris is really all about Boris."

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@DouglasCarswell BREAKING: Tories uniting behind EU referendum Bill throws pundits seeking "Tory splits" angle to story into confusion

@chrisshipitv Been away from Twitter for 10 minutes. Is the Tory policy on #EUref still the same?

900 WORDS OR MORE

Benedict Brogan in the Daily Telegraph: "The Tory party's gone crazy over Europe, and it's Cameron's fault."

Rachel Sylvester in The Times: "The Tories are being sucked into the whirlpool of Europe, but Labour's division on the economy runs just as deep."

Paul Goodman on Conservative Home: "There's a case for saying that Gove, with his brains, energy and fearlessness, is now the real Tory leader."