POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Ed Miliband, Bank Slayer

17/01/2014 08:35 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Leader of the British opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband speaks to demonstrators at a rally in Hyde Park as they take part in a protest march against government austerity measures through central London, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. Tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the British capital Saturday in a noisy but peaceful protest at a government austerity drive aimed at slashing the nation's debt. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Here are the five things you need to know on Friday 17 January 2013...

1) ED MILIBAND, BANK SLAYER

This morning, Ed Miliband turns bank slayer, with a big, setpiece, notes-free speech on the economy in which he will call for the "big five" banks to give up "significant" numbers of branches and pledge to create at least two "challenger" banks. My colleague Ned Simons and I report:

"It is time for a 'reckoning' with the British financial system Ed Miliband will say on Friday, as he sets out plans to restrict the size of individual banks.

"In a major speech in central London, the Labour leader will seek to capitalise on public anger at the City. 'Under a Labour government, you will no longer be serving the banks. Instead, the banks will be serving you,' he will say.

"In America, by law, they have a test so that no bank can get too big and dominate the market. We will follow the same principle for Britain..."

Should we call him Eddy Roosevelt or Teddy Miliband? After all, the Labour leader is taking inspiration from the US progressive tradition, including Teddy Roosevelt, the populist Republican president who challenged the power of Big Finance at the turn of the 20th Century. A senior Labour source said: "We are channeling [Roosevelt] quite heavily here."

Labour sources believe the speech will show they have a "long-term vision" for the economy whereas the Tories only have a "deficit reduction plan", rather than a long-term plan for economic reform. But will Miliband's proposals help neutralise Tory and media attacks on Labour's (lack of an) economic plan? Will the populist rhetoric help win over undecided voters? After all, the polls show that voters may blame Labour more than the Tories for our current economic predicament, but they blame the bankers more than they do the politicians.

2) NOT SO MINIMUM WAGE

Team Ed won't be pleased to see the chancellor of the exchequer, rather than the leader of the opposition, dominating Friday's newspaper front pages. The Times, the Telegraph and the FT all splash on George Osborne's call for an above-inflation increase in the national minimum wage, from £6.31 to £7 per hour.

Osborne said a recovering economy and jobs market means employers and businesses can afford to implement a minimum wage rise without a rise in unemployment. Such an increase with benefit the pay packets of up to 1.3 million workers. "I think Britain can afford a higher minimum wage," he told the BBC. "I think we have worked hard to get to this point and we can start to to enjoy the fruits of all that hard work."

But was Osborne's intervention more political than economic, as is so often the case with the chancellor's interventions? The Times splash headline is "Osborne's £7 wage play puts Labour on the spot".

The Sun says his "move was timed to eclipse Mr Miliband who will today pledge to smash up the Big Five banks' high street monopoly if Labour wins power".

Well, you've got to hand it to Canny George...

3) MILI VS THE UNIONS

Miliband, according to the Independent, also has plans to cut off the hand that fed him:

"Trade unions would lose their one-third share of the vote when Labour elects its leader under a radical plan being proposed by Ed Miliband. The party's current chief, who relied on strong union support for his wafer-thin victory over his older brother David to win his job in 2010, is ready to abolish the electoral college in which unions, MPs and party members currently have 33 per cent of the voting power.

"Mr Miliband instead wants future party leaders to be chosen in a "one member, one vote" ballot of party members, registered supporters and union members who have "opted in" to support the party financially.

"He hopes the historic change will be approved by a special Labour conference in London on 1 March."

Three questions: 1) How does the Labour leader plan to win over his union allies? The GMB has already cut its annual fees to the party in anger. 2) Does Miliband really think this will satisfy his right-wing critics or put the union issue to bed? And 3) Do voters, in an age of austerity, give a damn about any of this internal party reform stuff?

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of the BBC's Nick Robinson looking red-faced as he is interrupted, live on air, by Queen's 'Fat Bottomed Girls' blaring out from his iPad.

4) WATCH WHAT YOU TEXT

The Guardian splashes on the latest NSA/GCHQ surveillance revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden:

"The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents... The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of 'untargeted and unwarranted' communications belonging to people in the UK... The ways in which the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA Dishfire database also seems likely to raise questions on the scope of its powers. While GCHQ is not allowed to search through the content of messages without a warrant – though the contents are stored rather than deleted or 'minimized' from the database – the agency’s lawyers decided analysts were able to see who UK phone numbers had been texting, and search for them in the database."

Meanwhile, according to the Times, Britain has America's back on all this:

"David Cameron hailed Britain’s “unique intelligence-sharing relationship” with the US amid reports that he was blocking an EU-wide anti-spying drive. President Obama called Mr Cameron before his briefing on reforms to the National Security Agency (NSA) to be announced today."

Let's see how tough those NSA reforms are, eh?

5) DAVE, BORIS AND THE 'LOVE CHILDREN'

From the Times:

"David Cameron poked fun at Boris Johnson, his putative rival for the Conservative Party leadership, last night with a joke about illegitimate children.

"The Prime Minister, who was speaking at the annual Westminster Correspondents dinner, recounted an anecdote about a day spent canvassing with the Mayor of London in Hampstead, North London. He said: "This very attractive middle-aged woman came to the door and said, 'Boris! Lovely to see you. You are the father of one of my children.' " Mr Cameron told how the Mayor's "white hair stood up on end".. until the woman said: 'No, you're the father of one of my children, your daughter — I'm her maths teacher.'"

The PM also revealed his top new year's resolution: "Keeping the bald spot under control."

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 33

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 78.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@GregHands: And nothing from @edballsmp on Twitter all week. No comments on banking. No comments on Minimum Wage. Nothing. Something is up.....

@ChrisBryantMP Yesterday Tories and LDs voted against Labour motion to increase National Minimum Wage. Today Osborne calls for an increase. Labour win.

‏@timfarron Thanks for all the #bbcqt tweets everyone! I've been trying to reply as many as I can!

900 WORDS OR MORE

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Ed Miliband's pitch is radical – but his party is stuck in 1997."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "It may take the EU to save this country from Ed Miliband’s economic agenda."

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Our interest in the Hollande affair is mere prurience. We don’t need new laws, just a new attitude."

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