POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Labour Left Slam 'Dreadful' Benefit Shift

06/06/2013 08:48 BST
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The ten things you need to know on Thursday 6 June 2013...

1) LEFT TURN ON MILIBAND OVER BENEFITS

Ed Miliband will pledge to cap the overall welfare bill today following news that Labour would also not reverse the coalition's child benefit cuts for high earners and strip wealthier pensioners of winter fuel payments. The move has not gone down well with the left of the party.

A serving Labour frontbencher told HuffPost UK that the party high command's decision to reverse its position on child benefits for high-earners could be seen as a "slippery slope towards a state that caters for the poor only".

Another disgruntled Labour frontbencher on the left of the parliamentary party - also speaking off the record - referred to the move away from universalism as "dreadful".

2) CLEGG KILLS CHILDCARE REFORM

David Cameron had a lot of fun mocking Labour's u-turn on benefits yesterday. But now he has one of his own. Nick Clegg has blocked Tory plans to allow nursery staff and childminders to look after more youngsters. Loosening the rules was unlikely to cut the cost of childcare and could end up actually costing parents more, the Liberal Democrat leader said.The announcement comes after a coalition stand-off over the key plank of the government's flagship childcare reform.

And the deputy prime minister's decision appears to be degenerating into a major coalition spat amid reports the announcement caught Downing Street off guard. One No.10 source told The Guardian: "It is a bit premature to brief before the final package has been agreed."

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan may or may not be attending the Bilderberg group meeting in Watford.

3) SYRIA SPLIT

The cabinet is deeply split over whether or not to arm the Syrian rebels, The Independent reports. According to the paper at least five Cabinet ministers are understood to have raised “ serious reservations” about any significant move by the Government to increase Britain’s involvement in the conflict.

On Wednesday MPs tabled a motion demanding parliament be given the right to vote on any decision to send arms to the rebels. Tory Stewart Jackson told HuffPost UK that it was "not acceptable" for the government to begin shipping weapons to the region without MPs having a say.

4) RACIAL PROFILING ... DOES NOT WORK

Racial profiling of stop-and-search suspects makes absolutely no difference to crime figures, a new report has warned. Forces in the UK who disproportionately stopped more black and Asian suspects did not have lower crime figures, but some communities are still being unfairly targeted, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found.

'It is only through the scrutiny of the EHRC and pressure from communities that the waste of resources, discriminatory behaviour and ineffective policing that is current stop and search policy has been exposed," Dr Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, told HuffPost UK.

5) TRIPPED UP ON TAX

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Labour Party has helped its biggest donor avoid tax worth up to £1.5m. John Mills told the paper he had made the donation in shares rather than cash in order to be "tax efficient". If true the revelation will be embarrassing for Ed Miliband, who has recently criticised Google and other companies for tax avoidance.

6) THEY'RE WATCHING YOU

The Guardian reports: "The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April. The Obama administration is collecting the communication records of millions of US citizens indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."

The data Verizon is required to provide includes the numbers of both sides of a call along with location data, call duration and the time of the call but the contents of the conversation are not covered, according to the paper.

7) MP SEX CLAIM REJECTED

A Conservative MP has spoken of his family's relief after their lesbian housekeeper had her case for sexual harassment and unfair dismissal unanimously thrown out.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax wept as the decision of an employment tribunal was reached yesterday and said afterwards that the claims had been "extremely stressful" for his family. Employment judge Roger Peters told the employment tribunal in Southampton, Hampshire, that the events described by Anne Lyndoe-Tavistock "did not happen".

8) HOUSE OF LORDS REFORM: WHAT'S NEXT?

When this session was first announced it seemed it would go unnoticed by most, but in the wake of the lobbying scandals a few more people may be watching. Lord Steel of Aikwood will be giving evidence to the political and constitutional reform committee this morning on how to reform the House of Lords. The peer, who has been promoting his Bill that would allow Lords to retire and for misbehaving peers to be kicked out, is up at 10am. On Tuesday Nick Clegg said he would move to fold some of those measures into a future recall of MPS bill - dropping his past opposition to incremental Lords reform.

9) 'ANTIQUE VIEWS?'

A peer who voted against the government's same-sex marriage Bill in the House of Lords last night insisted that she was not homophobic and praised gay people for being "very good at antiques".

Baroness Knight, who as a minister in the 1980s introduced the Section 28 law that prohibited the "promotion" of homosexuality", caused a stir during the debate when she said gay people were "delightful, artistic and loving people" but should not be allowed to get married.

She told BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday: "We've all got friends who are homosexuals. They are often extremely, very, very good at artistic things, very good at things like antiques."

10) BACK TO BAGRAM

The government is to restart the transfer of Afghan detainees captured by British forces into the Afghan judicial system, the Ministry of Defence said.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond suspended transfers in November amid claims that detainees were being abused while in Afghan custody. But Hammond said he is now "satisfied that it is safe" for detainees to be transferred to the Afghan National Detention Facility in Parwan, a move which will begin later this month.

The centre, at the US military airfield in Bagram, is operated and controlled by the Afghan National Army, supported by US troops.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@reporterboy You are the key decision makers of global giants, both politically and commercially and you gather to discuss the future.....in Watford !!??

@patrickwintour Re Mills and Labour~ seems odd donors must pay so much tax on gifts to cash strapped party which then apply for state funding. Explanation ?

@jon_trickett The greenest govt ever? Kill badgers and stop wind farms!

900 WORDS OR MORE

David Aaronovitch in The Times: Sometimes it’s right to tell voters they’re wrong

Sue Cameron in The Daily Telegraph: Wash the dirty Whitehall linen in private, minister

Rafael Behr in the New Statesman: Cameron has already picked his message for the next election – and “cleaning up politics” isn’t it.

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