POLITICS
19/12/2013 08:34 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 06:38 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Obama's Lessons For Ed

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US President Barack Obama meets with Britain's Labour Party leader Ed Miliband at Buckingham Palace in central London, Tuesday May 24, 2011. Obama is on a two day state visit to Britain. (AP Photo/Stefan Rousseau, Pool)

The five things you need to know on Thursday 19 December 2013...

1) MESSAGE FROM OBAMALAND TO ED

Ed Miliband needs to define himself in the mind of voters before David Cameron and the Tory election machine does it for him, one of the key architects of president Obama's reelection victory has warned. Stephanie Cutter, who served as Obama's deputy campaign manager in 2012, was in Westminster last night. And she had some advice. Recalling the Democrats mauling of Romney's character during the last election she told Labour activists:

"Mitt Romney thought all voters needed to know was his name was not Barack Obama. His campaign focused on making the case against Obama rather than making the case for Mitt Romney. That was a crucial error. By the time he figured that out it was too late. Because while the Romney campaign failed to introduce or define their candidate, we decided to step up and do it for them. We launched a comprehensive campaign push aimed at acquainting voters with the real Mitt Romney. As you might imagine, the portrait we painted wasn't a very flattering one."

Asked by The Huffington Post UK what she thought about the decision of her old boss, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, to work for Cameron, Cutter replied: "that's a decision for Jim."

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan is trying to decipher the phrase 'zero-based review'.

2) STOP VILIFYING ROMANIANS, SAYS AMBASSADOR

The Romanian ambassador is understandably a bit annoyed at all the bad things being said about his countrymen - and the suggestion that they are all about to flock here on January 1. Writing for HuffPost UK, Dr Ion Jinga, insists that it was likely fewer Romanians would decide to move to the UK in 2014 than in previous years. He also points out that Britons can't have it both ways. "There are thousands of Britons who work in Romania. If you demand the right to seek work in someone else's country, they should be able to do the same in yours. That is only fair."

His intervention comes as Tory MPs prepare to debate their plan to stop Romanians and Bulgarians coming to live and work in the UK for a further five years. Conservative Nigel Mills explains the thoughts behind his plan, which takes the form of an amendment to David Cameron's Immigration Bill, on HuffPost UK.

3) ZERO-BASED REVIEW

No, we have no idea what that means either. But after reading the Financial Times' interview with Ed Balls a few times it turns out it's the shadow chancellor's term for finding spending cuts. "No area is exempt - we're going to have to find savings. It's going to be tough but it's really necessary," he said.

The coalition's failure to balance the books by 2015 as had been planned meant any incoming government would inherit a deficit of almost £80 billion, Balls said. "The prudent thing to do is to aim to overachieve - we'd want to get the budget back to surplus," he added.

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4) CAMERON PLEDGES TO NUKE EUROPE

Or something. According to the Daily Telegraph, David Cameron told Tory MPs at the 1922 committee meeting last night that he is prepared to use the Parliament Act to force his EU Referendum Bill through the Lords if necessary. The Westminster nuclear option. The other nuclear option is actually nuking Brussels, but that wasn't in the coalition agreement and the prime minister would never get it past Clegg.

5) HMRC 'LOST ITS NERVE'

Tax authorities have been holding back on using sanctions against multinational companies, while pursuing small businesses and individuals, according to a new parliamentary report. The story makes the front page of The Independent.

HM Revenue and Customs seems to "lose its nerve" when faced with the prospect of taking legal action against global giants, and has fallen short on the unpaid tax it hoped to extract from Swiss bank accounts - collecting just £440 million so far this financial year, rather than the £3.12 billion forecast after a bilateral agreement - said the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Changes in "controlled foreign company" rules and the failure to close a loophole relating to Eurobonds have made it "easier for the companies to avoid tax while ordinary people continue to pay their share," said the committee's chairwoman Margaret Hodge.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@LordAshcroft Was looking up political "cleavages" for my polling (honestly gov) but got distracted by the "images"

900 WORDS OR MORE

Peter Oborne in the daily Telegraph: Syria: how many more times can the Foreign Office get it so wrong?

Martin Kettle in The Guardian: We can't rely on Angela Merkel to sort out Europe's problems

Sue Cameron in the Daily Telegraph: To borrow a phrase from Sir Humphrey Appleby, this Government is a hotbed of cold feet

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