POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Jeffrey Seals The Deal

24/06/2013 08:27 BST | Updated 24/06/2013 08:29 BST
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 19: Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, addresses the audience of the 'Lord Mayor's Dinner to the Bankers and Merchants of the City of London' at the Mansion House on June 19, 2013 in London, England. Mervyn King will address the Mansion House audience for the 10th and final time as Governor of the Bank of England before he is replaced in the post by former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney on July 1, 2013. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the outgoing Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King is to be made a Life Peer. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The ten things you need to know on Monday 24 June 2013...

1) JEFFREY SEALS THE DEAL

It's the Spending Review on Wednesday and the chancellor has been busy squeezing out - what else? - last-minute cuts from his cabinet colleagues over the weekend. Because, of course, spending cuts have done such a good job in fixing the economy and promoting growth over the past three years... right?

From the Guardian:

"George Osborne agreed the final details of spending cuts worth £11.5bn for 2015-16 on Sunday, ahead of an announcement this week that will also see the Treasury unveiling a multi-billion, six-year infrastructure investment programme.

"Vince Cable, the business secretary, was the last cabinet minister involved in the spending review to settle, although defence, education, local government, health and international aid also kept negotiations with the Treasury going until very recently."

According to the FT, this chancellor has presided over "the sharpest fall in new orders for infrastructure since 1987":

"The dearth of new projects has frustrated business leaders. Steve Holliday, head of the National Grid, Britain's biggest energy supplier, warned last month that the UK risked falling behind in national competitiveness if it did not deliver on infrastructure, a view echoed more recently by the CBI. According to the World Economic Forum, the UK is currently ranked 24th for infrastructure, behind Saudi Arabia and Barbados."

So the new political consensus seems to be: cut current spending (especially welfare) while increasing capital spending (especially big-ticket infrastructure projects such as HS2). Ed Balls is signed up to the coalition's overall current spending plans, according to the Guardian:

"But yesterday Balls went further, saying he expected to make cuts beyond 2015-16.

"'Do I think after 2015-16, the next Labour government will be making very difficult decisions which will involve some cuts? Yes,' the shadow chancellor said.

"Some in Labour are strongly opposed to this. In a letter in today's Guardian, Peter Hain, the former cabinet minister, Neal Lawson, chair of the pressure group Compass, and other signatories say that continuing austerity measures beyond the next election would be 'politically and economically disastrous'."

Indeed they would be. Tragically, however, as Osborne gleefully proclaimed on yesterday's Andrew Marr show, the Austerians have well and truly won the political argument - despite the manifest failure of austerity here at home and across the eurozone. Yet, as the Times leader notes, "it is not only 2015 that will be an austerity election, it is likely that 2020 will be too."

2) GOODBYE UNIVERSAL WELFARE

Calls to target universal benefits - especially universal pensioner benefits - seem to be growing louder and louder. First it was the Lib Dems, then Labour and now - of course - the Tories.

From the Times:

"Wealthy pensioners may lose universal benefits such as winter fuel allowances, free television licences and bus passes, amid a growing political consensus that they are no longer affordable.

"George Osborne announced yesterday that the Conservatives would join the Lib Dems and Labour in reviewing automatic handouts for the elderly, although he said that raising the pension age remained the best way to control the cost of an ageing population."

3) MADIBA'S LAST STAND

From the BBC:

"South Africans are heading to work in a sombre mood as they await news on former President Nelson Mandela.

"The South African presidency announced on Sunday evening that Mr Mandela had become critical, even though doctors were 'doing everything possible'.

"A senior official said South Africans should not hold out 'false hopes'."

4) CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

From the Guardian:

"The intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden will on Monday attempt to complete an audacious escape to the relative safety of South America after his departure from Hong Kong aggravated already fraught diplomatic relations between the United States and China.

"In a move that appeared to bewilder the White House, Snowden was allowed to flee Hong Kong on Sunday morning and head to Moscow on a commercial flight despite a formal request from the US to have the 30-year-old detained and extradited to face espionage charges for a series of leaks about the National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's spy centre, GCHQ.

"In Moscow, Snowden disappeared again, leaving the aircraft without being spotted but pursued by the Ecuadorian ambassador, Patricio Chávez, amid speculation that he will fly to Quito on Monday, possibly via Cuba.

"Snowden has asked for political asylum in Ecuador, the country that has also given shelter to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, at its embassy in London."

5) SAFE IN THEIR HANDS?

I guess it was only a matter of time. Having been at war with the Conservative Party over the top-down reorganisation of the NHS, the BMA is now making suggestions that will go down very well with Tory right-wingers - from the Times:

"Senior doctors will declare today that the NHS can no longer provide everything the public wants and patients may have to accept paying for some services themselves.

"Surgeons, consultants and GPs from across the country will demand that a list of "core" services is drawn up to tell patients what they can expect from the NHS. Top-up charges for treatments and medications outside this list can no longer be ruled out, they will argue.

"The British Medical Association's annual meeting will be urged 'to face the unpalatable truth that free at the point of contact can no longer be sustained'."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Wanna remember the year 1990 in the space of 12 minutes? Watch this brilliant, nostalgic video.

6) GOVE WAITS FOR SIGN-OFF

From the Times:

"David Cameron and Nick Clegg have been sent a rewritten national history curriculum for their approval after the first draft provoked an outcry among historians and teachers.

"The new version is shorter and much less prescriptive than the original, with some of its content made optional for teachers and with a greater emphasis on world history.

"It is unusual for a prime minister to become involved in the content of a national curriculum taught in maintained schools, but the move reflects the debate over history teaching. Elements of the curriculum have also been the subJect of line-by-line negotiation between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the coalition."

7) HERE COME THE HATE CRIMES

Is this a real enough 'Islamophobic incident' for Charles Moore and Andrew Gilligan, I wonder?

From the BBC:

"A suspicious package found near a West Midlands mosque was a small home-made explosive device, police have said.

"About 150 people were evacuated from homes around the mosque in Rutter Street, Walsall, after bomb disposal experts were called to the scene.

"The item was found on Friday evening but police were not called until it was taken inside by a member of the public on Saturday.

"Police said they were treating the incident as a hate crime."

8) I'D LIKE TO SEE A WOMAN PRESIDENT, SAYS HILLARY

But who could she be referring to? Seriously, who??

From the Times:

"Hillary Clinton has declared publicly that she wants to see a woman as president of the United States, in the clearest indication yet that she is preparing to run for the White House in 2016.

"... Speaking to a private event in Toronto, she told an audience of women and girls: 'Hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime. And whether it's next time or the next time after that, it really depends on women stepping up and subjecting themselves to the political process, which is very difficult.'"

9) BETTER LATTE THAN NEVER

Congratulations Margaret Hodge and UKUncut! From the Huffington Post:

"Starbucks says it has paid UK corporation tax for the first time since 2008.

"The coffee giant announced it had paid £5 million and will pay a further £5 million later this year, reports the BBC.

"Starbucks is amongst a number of large multi-national companies that have come under fire in recent months for paying little or no UK tax despite making huge profits in Britain."

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

From the Guardian:

"David Cameron has been accused by Labour of wasting money on a 'vanity photographer' who is taking pictures of him at the taxpayers' expense.

"Downing Street said no extra cost was involved because the official was on secondment from the Ministry of Defence. But Labour accused Cameron of reviving an idea that led to one of his earlier U-turns.

"In 2010 a photographer and a filmmaker who had both worked for the Conservative party were hired by the Cabinet Office on one-year contracts to record the prime minister and other ministers.

"... On Sunday it emerged that an MoD photographer had been working in the Cabinet Office for several months doing the job the original photographer was hired to do."

Who's a pretty boy, then?

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 31

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 92.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@dannyalexander: With all budgets settled, we have delivered the savings we need. On thursday I will set out our infrastructure plans to build the recovery

@JGForsyth Vince Cable accepting an 8% cut to his budget indicates he’s not about to quit the coalition and challenge Nick Clegg

@ggreenwald Maybe along with being angry at Snowden, we should spent a minute talking about deceit of US govt officials & unconstitutional surveillance?

900 WORDS OR MORE

John Harris, writing in the Guardian, says: "Protests around the world are keeping the spirit of Occupy alive."

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "Housing shortages lead to many of our worst social problems. MPs should support Nick Boles, not the Nimbys."

Jeff Randall, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Until the Chancellor tackles the relentless growth of 'social protection’, he will not make a dent in our deficit."

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