POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: George Osborne's 'Magnificent Seven'

28/05/2013 08:30 BST | Updated 28/05/2013 08:33 BST
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Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne awaits the arrival of Indian Finance Minister Shri Chidambaram for a bilateral meeting in central London on May 16, 2013. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

The five things you need to know on Tuesday 28 May 2013...

1) OSBORNE'S 'MAGNIFICENT SEVEN'

Seven government departments including justice, energy and communities have agreed to cut their budgets by up to 10% as apart of the impending spending review, George Osborne has announced.

The chancellor is looking to save £11.5bn overall in the review the that covers spending limits for 2015/16. However the full details of the review will not be made public until the chancellor announces them to parliament.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Osborne also appeared to confirm there would not be further cuts to benefits by saying his "central assumption" was cuts would fall on Whitehall departments. "We have already made substantial cuts in welfare, not just for current welfare budget but for future welfare budgets," he said.

Osborne also rejected the suggestion that while the "magnificent seven" departments had come to an agreement, it was confusingly the most austerity friendly cabinet ministers, Owen Paterson and Philip Hammond, who were still refusing to make cuts. "All people who sit around the cabinet table, including the colleagues you've mentioned, and including the Lib Dems, we all accept we have got to go on reducing the deficit," he the BBC's Evan Davis.

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan is looking for a chillaxing holiday in Ibiza.

2) SYRIA ARMS EMBARGO LIFTED

William Hague said the "right decision" had been reached after European Union foreign ministers agreed to end the embargo on supplying arms to opposition forces in Syria. The foreign secretary, who had led efforts for the restrictions on weapons to be relaxed, said "no immediate decision" would be made on sending arms to rebels fighting Bashar Assad's regime.

The Guardian reports the talks in Brussels were deeply acrimonious as the majority of EU states wanted to keep the ban in place - but were forced into lifting it by Britain and France. The paper says "The long day of negotiations between the EU's 27 foreign ministers saw Britain and France opposing plans to shelve a decision on arming the opposition until August, while Austria and the Czech Republic spearheaded the opposition to the Anglo-French push, with the Czechs supporting the Israeli line against sending arms to Syria and the Austrians alarmed at the impact on their UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel."

Meanwhile US senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) slipped into Syria to met with rebel leaders in on Monday, The making the senator the highest ranking US official to visit the country since conflict broke out over two years ago.

3) PRIVATE COURTS

Courts in England and Wales are facing wholesale privatisation under revolutionary plans that would end the system that has existed since Magna Carta, The Times reports: "The idea would establish the courts service as a commercial enterprise, paying its way and freed from Treasury control, with court buildings and thousands of staff put in the hands of private companies. It would save the Ministry of Justice £1 billion a year. Funding for the courts would be generated by bigger fees from wealthy litigants and private sector investment, with hedge funds encouraged to invest by an attractive rate of return."

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4) SNOOPERS CHARTER REVIVED?

The cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, is said to be working on a plan to revive the Communications Data Bill that was cut out of the Queen's Speech. According to The Daily Telegraph Sir Jeremy is exploring which of its provisions could be be introduced under existing legislation - avoiding a Commons vote that would be opposed by the Lib Dems.

5) IRAQ ATTACKS

We often forget about this, but. BAGHDAD — A coordinated wave of car bombings tore through mostly Shiite areas of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 66 people and maiming nearly 200 as insurgents step up the bloodshed roiling Iraq. More than 450 people have been killed across Iraq in May. Most of the killings came over the past two weeks in the most sustained wave of violence since US troops left in December 2011.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@JBeattieMirror Interview on Today with Malcolm Rifkind is so establishment it could have come from the 1950s, just before satire was invented

@faisalislam Did I just hear the Chancellor talking about Eric Pickles "playing hard-to-get"? I think he meant hardball. I think.

@isaby How many days of cold, wet weather is the standard penance for having enjoyed a sunny Bank Holiday weekend??

900 WORDS OR MORE

Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph: Chillax, people, and let the poor Prime Minister have a holiday.

Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times: Knee-jerkers are liberals in terror debate

Rachel Sylvester in The Times: Was Woolwich a crime or an act of terror?

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