POLITICS

Mehdis Morning Memo: Is Cable The Coalition's Cassandra?

17/09/2013 08:24 BST | Updated 17/09/2013 08:27 BST
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Vince Cable gives a speech after a debate on economy at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow.

The five things you need to know on Tuesday 17 September 2013...

1) IS CABLE THE COALITION'S CASSANDRA?

Vince Cable has become the most senior Lib Dem to hint that the Coalition could collapse before 2015 and also warned he might quit the government if his own "red lines" on policy were crossed.

From the Independent:

"In controversial comments, at The Independent fringe meeting, the Business Secretary put himself at odds with Nick Clegg by saying it was 'certainly possible' for the power-sharing deal to come to an early end.

"Mr Clegg has always made clear that he wants the Coalition to continue 'right up to the wire'. But Mr Cable said of an early split: 'It's certainly possible. We are not at the stage of talking about that process. It is obviously a very sensitive one. It has got to be led by the leader. We have not yet had those conversations.'

"He also suggested he himself might walk out of the Government if his Lib Dem colleagues allowed the Tories to pursue policies that crossed his personal 'red lines'. Asked what issues might force him to quit, Mr Cable said: 'President Obama has illustrated very eloquently in recent weeks the dangers of parading your red lines in public.'"

Monday in Glasgow was Cable Day. The business secretary grabbed headlines by first refusing to speak at the economy debate and then turning up late to vote with the leadership, and then delivered what the Guardian's Michael White calls "a great Tory-bashing rant", slamming the Conservatives' "dog whistle politics" and "hostility to organised labour, people on benefits and immigrant minorities".

From the Huffington Post:

"Just when we all thought the Lib Dems were getting used to their role within the coalition, Business Secretary Vince Cable dropped the U-bomb.

"At the party's annual conference Cable used his speech to rip the Conservative party to shreds and describing them as 'ugly."

Meanwhile, leftie Lib Dem rebels were defeated in their attempts to soften the party's support for the coalition austerity programme and to repeal the 50p top rate tax cut.

Every year we see Lib Dem activists flirt with rebellion; every year, rebellion is averted and Clegg comes away safe and secure.

2) 'A COWARDLY ACT'

Another mass shooting. Twelve dead, eight wounded. Guess where? Yep, the United States, this time at the Washington DC Navy Yard, not far from the White House.

The suspect, identified by the FBI as Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas, and believed to be a former US Navy serviceman, was among the dead.

My HuffPost colleague in Washington DC, Sabrina Siddiqui, reports that White House spokesman Jay Carney

"was asked why the administration hasn't pushed any new legislation to reduce gun violence since the Senate failed to pass a measure expanding background checks in April. 'These are unfolding facts on an unfolding and ongoing situation and investigation with regards to this particular shooting, which is tragic,' Carney said again. 'As the president said, since this is taking place on a military installation, the fact that men and women who understand the risks that they're taking when they work for the military and potentially get assigned overseas in dangerous places certainly did not imagine they were taking those kinds of risks when they showed up for work this morning on a domestic military installation. But it is far too early to say anything about who did this and the broader meaning of it,' he added."

President Obama himself commented on the shooting - "a cowardly act" - while speaking at an event on the economy which wasn't, for some strange, unexplained reason, cancelled or postponed.

On a side note, it's worth reading the Washington Post's eye-opening "Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States."

3) WORST GAS ATTACK IN 25 YEARS

From the Guardian front page:

"The UN has confirmed that the worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years took place in eastern Damascus last month, involving specially designed rockets that spread sarin nerve agent over rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital.

"The report did not assign blame for the attack but the US, Britain and France said the details on the sarin, the rockets used and their trajectories all proved that Bashar al-Assad's regime was responsible.

"However, Russia argued that the western powers had "jumped to conclusions" and said claims of rebel use against their own supporters to provoke foreign intervention "should not be shrugged off"."

The paper adds:

"Presenting the report, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said: 'This is the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988. The international community has pledged to prevent any such horror from recurring, yet it has happened again.'"

Some might argue that the Geneva deal, the Assad's regime acknowledgment of its CW capabilities and agreement to disarm shows that the taboo on the use of such horrific weapons has been enforced and reiterated. Without further violence.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a man screaming like a little child on a fairground ride in the United States.

4) VEILED THREATS

"You must take off your veil," is the headline on the front of the Mail, which reports:

"A judge yesterday ordered a Muslim defendant to take off her full-face veil to give evidence.

"But, in a case that made legal history, he said the woman could retain the veil for all other parts of her trial.

"Judge Peter Murphy said the court should recognise ‘freedom of religious expression’.

"But he believed allowing her to retain the niqab during her evidence, as she wanted, would ‘drive a coach and horses through justice administered in England and Wales for centuries’."

The paper also quotes Jack Straw, who kicked off this whole row back in 2006, calling the judge's move "sensible" and "sensitive".

"A veiled theat to race relations," declares the Independent, which quotes a Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) spokesman saying: "Every time we discuss the niqab, it usually comes with a diet of bigoted commentary about our faith and the place of Islam in Britain. There are few people who wear the niqab, and they should be allowed to wear this veil if they freely decide to do so."

The Sun splashes with: "Unveiled". The paper calls for a ban on the niqab in schools, courts and hospitals and demands employers be given the power to restrict it among employees, too.

Some might think it's strange for politicians and newspapers to be targeting a tiny piece of cloth worn by around 20,000 Muslim women - or 0.03% of the UK population - when there are other bigger issues to deal with, y'know, 1m young people out of work, 100,000 dead in Syria, runaway climate change, etc, etc...

5) BYE BYE BNP?

Whether we like it or not, the people who benefit from a 'national debate' over the face veil tend to be on the far right. But I'm thinking EDL, not BNP. The BNP are soooooo yesterday's news. The HuffPost UK's Tom Moseley reports:

"On this day in 1993, British National Party supporters went on the rampage after the party won its first ever council seat.

"Twenty years on, Nick Griffin is at the helm and the far-right outfit are staring into electoral oblivion.

"After it peaked in 2009, winning seats on councils around the country and bagging two seats in the European Parliament, the BNP gradually lost the ground it gained, losing its final county council seat in last year's local election.

"The party now has just two councillors, and will struggle to hang onto its two seats in the European Parliament in May's Euro elections."

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people..

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"I suspect their core demographic excludes pretty much anybody who wouldn't have qualified to vote before the 1867 Reform Act. I think these prejudices can be explained in part by their age profile - I suspect I would qualify, not on ideology, but on age to be a member of the Young Conservatives." - Vince Cable mocks the Tories at the Lib Dem conference.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 37

Conservatives 34

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 32.

From the Guardian/ICM poll:

Labour 36

Conservatives 32

Ukip 14

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 44.

From the Times/Populus poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 33

Lib Dems 11

Ukip 9

That would give Labour a majority of 86.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@TomHarrisMP The Tories are back to being the "nasty party" again, says Cable. Also, he'll continue to keep them in power. LibDems, eh?

900 WORDS OR MORE

Stephen Glover, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "Mr Cable is the most disloyal and dishonest politician of our times."

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "Why the Lib Dems are doomed to be unpopular – and also powerful."

Hugo Rifkind, writing in the Times, says: "A niqab is a barrier, worn to repel. It is un-British — but so too is a blanket ban on them being worn."

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